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Google’s new generative AI feature is set to impact eCommerce businesses

Although some brands have been using AI for some time, for most customers it’s a pretty new experience. Thisneeds focus.

Google is dabbling with letting developers, hospitals, car makers and others use its Cloud computing platform to tap into generative artificial intelligence capabilities like those causing a buzz in ChatGPT
Google is dabbling with letting developers, hospitals, car makers and others use its Cloud computing platform to tap into generative artificial intelligence capabilities like those causing a buzz in ChatGPT - Copyright AFP Sam Yeh
Google is dabbling with letting developers, hospitals, car makers and others use its Cloud computing platform to tap into generative artificial intelligence capabilities like those causing a buzz in ChatGPT - Copyright AFP Sam Yeh

During June 2023, Google launched a new generative AI feature. This is a ‘virtual try-on tool’ where users can experience an in-person shopping experience, whilst online. This new feature is the start of a range of updates to the search engine’s Google Shopping tab.

Google has used models ranging from sizes XXS-4XL and with various different skin tones, body shapes, ethnicities and hair types. The feature also lets the would-be shopper fine-tune the product they ae looking for, whether that be a cheaper version of a top they like or the same style of dress but in a different pattern.

The so-called virtual try-on is powered by a new diffusion-based model Google developed internally and aims to ‘improve our lives in ways big and small, including making everyday activities like shopping just a bit more helpful (and fun).’

The digital-led addition means that U.S. shoppers are able to see items on a range of different models from various different brands such as, Anthropologie, Everlane, H&M and LOFT, this feature is set to change the online shopping experience. Other countries will have the same functionality soon.

There will be an impact eCommerce, according to Chris Raven, CEO at business growth agency Heur and CEO and founder of online fashion destination SilkFred, Emma Watkinson.

Watkinson explains how she is using AI to benefit her business: “At SilkFred we’re always trying to make the online shopping experience easier for our customers. Earlier this year we launched live shopping experiences where users could see pieces on one of our models and buy the pieces in real time.”

She adds: “We are also set to launch an AI tool which will help users with customer support and finding their perfect outfit. I don’t believe that AI is a passing fad and in order to grow with the current climate, brands must lean into these new technologies and use them to their advantage.”

Raven considers the positives and negatives of AI for eCommerce, stating: “Although virtual try-on platforms aren’t a new phenomenon, Amazon and Adobe have been working on these technologies for a while, Google’s new feature signals the start of their efforts into making generative AI boost their stature in the eCommerce sphere.”

According to Raven:

Positives of AI for eCommerce

Less returns: Raven says: “In the last year we’ve seen conversations around the negative impact of returns on the climate arise. Virtual try-on tools will help with the amount of returns as users will get a better sense of fit and colour. Not only will this help brands cut costs and free up time, it will also be positive for the fashion industry’s negative impact on the climate.”

Visibility “For any of our problems or queries, we will use Google. Many brands spend an enormous amount of time trying to boost their Google ranking (?) with PR and marketing. However, more specific searches will help users find items from your brand without visiting more known sites before yours”, observes Raven.

Customer satisfaction. Here Raven notes: “Online brands are often criticised for the lack of diversity with their model choices and the unseen manipulation of clothes in these photoshoots. Not only does this lead to unsatisfied customers who will often leave bad reviews which will impact sales, consumers will often choose to go to a proper store for peace of mind and stay away from online brands. The diverse range of models Google has used will attract new customers who have previously been wary of online shopping.”

Greater focus on product: With this, Raven finds: “Many eCommerce brands can get away with having savvy marketing, an easy-to-use website and beautiful visuals to boost sales. However, brands who have a higher quality of product will benefit from virtual try-on AI platforms as customers will be able to instantly see the difference between similar items.”

Negatives of AI for eCommerce

User experience: With the first downside, Ravne thinks: “Although some brands have been using AI for some time, for most customers it’s a pretty new experience. Many people will be deterred by new technology which could potentially see a brand lose customers.”

Loss of physical stores: With this, Raven thinks: “As the world relies more on technology and AI advances, there will be less demand for brick and mortar stores. If your brand relies heavily on foot traffic and the in-person customer experience, sales may suffer due advancing AI technologies.”

More competition: Raven’s final point is: “While having lots of items in one place is an advantage for the consumer, smaller and more niche brands may lose loyal customers who can easily discover cheaper and more accessible alternatives. Brands should consider adopting AI models into their strategies in order to keep up with their close competitors.”

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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