How retailers are using generative AI right now

Major retailers tap gen AI for customer service, smart search, and content creation.
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Amelia Kinsinger

· 4 min read

When it comes to artificial intelligence, it’s hard sometimes to separate hype from reality. While there are plenty of industry leaders who believe the tech is going to be a game changer, there are others who urge caution, like Amazon Web Services CEO Adam Selipsky, who recently warned an audience of tech workers that the hype could lead to a new dotcom bubble.

It helps that the conversation isn’t strictly speculative anymore. A number of companies are rolling out AI-powered tech applications right now—and that’s no less true for retailers. The industry has been quick to adapt generative AI in particular, which is the use of algorithms to create content ranging from a customer service interaction to a product description.

To help bring some of this buzz down to earth, Retail Brew put together this rundown of the ways major retailers are putting generative AI, or GenAI as it’s known, into practice in real time.

Customer service

This is one of the buzzier use cases of GenAI, given its potential to innovate crucial interactions with customers. McKinsey & Co. said in a report that GenAI has “the potential to revolutionize the entire customer operations function, improving the customer experience and agent productivity through digital self-service and enhancing and augmenting agent skills.”

One recent example: Meta partnered with international advertising agency Denstu to help businesses better respond to customers. Using GenAI, the platform aims to help businesses increase and improve one-on-one interactions via Meta’s messenger apps, in which around 50 million messages currently go unanswered per year.

Smart search

Another application is smarter search functions. Walmart, for example, is using GenAI to make it easier for shoppers to search for products thematically or based on use cases, such as a football watch party. Walmart’s goal is to “help Walmart customers spend more time doing the things they enjoy and less time scrolling, tapping, and searching.”

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Amazon, meanwhile, just launched a pilot version of a new shopping assistant called Rufus. The tech uses GenAI to scour Amazon’s product catalog and deliver personalized answers and recommendations. The company is also notably using GenAI to scan thousands of product reviews and generate insights for customers based on the results, and its Fit Review Highlight features uses the tech to provide personalized size guidance for apparel.

Content creation

As those who have experimented with AI-powered image and tech generators know, GenAI is also capable of straight-up content creation. For retailers, this means some types of creative work are being outsourced to software.

One example of this is eBay’s new AI-powered “magical listing tool,” which draws information from images provided by sellers to generate listing information on products. The company uses the example of a trading card as the type of product that the tool could quickly glean information from, providing more information for the buyer and saving time for the seller.

Companies are using similar applications for administrative purposes as well, and Walmart is in the middle of rolling out GenAI capabilities to its entire corporate staff. Donna Morris, EVP and chief people officer of Walmart, told Retail Brew that GenAI is helping employees do tasks such as write job and product descriptions and handle basic calculations, with the goal of giving workers more time to focus on more complicated tasks and creative problem-solving.

“Often many of us are burdened with a lot of tasks that get in the way from doing next-level work,” she said.

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.