AI Shopping Journeys: Finding the Right Balance
When you browse an online store, chances are you've encountered a persistent chat bot lurking in the bottom right corner, eagerly offering its assistance to help you track your order, locate specific items, or handle other mundane tasks. Now, imagine a scenario where this chat bot steps out of its digital boundaries and guides you physically through a brick-and-mortar store. On the surface, this concept seems promising, but like many AI-driven tasks, finding the right balance between the capabilities of artificial intelligence and the indispensable human touch can present a formidable challenge.
The recent integration of Klarna and Mercari with ChatGPT represents just a glimpse of the vast potential lying beneath the surface. With an AI assistant at your disposal, you can quickly comb decentralized marketplaces and find what you’re looking for with incredible specificity. “Find red sneakers with a black tongue under $100 in size 13.” However, as impressive as this may be, there is a crucial aspect missing—the personal touch, the context that makes it truly tailored to your unique, personal style and preferences.
Is that shopping, though? Shopping, like search, is not just about reaching your final destination, but also embarking on a journey. Just like the thrill of searching for information, shopping is an experience filled with surprises and delights. While shortcuts can be helpful in certain situations, like finding an affordable and reliable smoke detector for under $30, they can be somewhat disheartening when it comes to special occasions, such as searching for jewelry to commemorate a 10th anniversary with a price tag of at least $300. It feels more transactional, lacking the thoughtful, earned spontaneity of discovery.
Deal-hunting nostalgia aside, this has real implications for brands. If discovery becomes driven by queries directed at intelligent bots, then how does the role of paid media and brand messaging transform and adapt? Over the course of the last decade, we witnessed the evolution of product search starting on Google and gradually migrating to Amazon. Most recently, TikTok has emerged as a product search engine. This leaves us wondering: what steps can brands take to prepare for the next AI-powered shopping migration?
Invest in SEO
If bots begin to take a significant amount of shopping journey starts, brands need to ensure they are part of search results, easily discoverable and ubiquitous in crawlable content. With Bing’s and Google’s chatbots gaining access to the internet and the latter revealing a new generative search experience, SEO will continue to be essential, even if organic links are pushed down the page or simply cited in a bot’s answers. The approach may differ depending on platforms and AI, but it’s important to start investing and building a strategy now as building authority and presence require time.
Create AI Plugins
With ChatGPT plugins, brands can ensure that ChatGPT has the best and up-to-date data from their stores and websites. Travel sites like Kayak are helping users book trips with real-time flight data. Instacart is making it possible to shop directly from a recipe. Building a plugin may not be right for every brand, but if there is a practical use case, getting out in front of this will be beneficial.
Stay Up to Date and Adopt the Tech
It’s crucial for all marketers to stay up to date with developments and actually using the tools themselves. Brand marketers need to understand what these evolving experiences look like, what ad products are being developed and becoming available, and what underlying data sources are behind them (web content, product feeds, etc.). This channel may change the fundamental way users interact with a brand. It’s far too risky for any brand to leave that to chance.
Andrew Sandoval is Vice President of Biddable Media at Croud.
Andrew Sandoval is the vice president of biddable media at Croud. He will be tasked with leading search, social and programmatic across the Americas as Croud reaches a pivotal time of expansion. Sandoval brings with him over 12 years of experience in digital media. He cut his teeth in digital at Performics, rising through the ranks while working on large search and social accounts, including Nestlé and American Express. Most recently in his role at Media Kitchen as Director, Biddable Media, he helped evolve the paid search practice into a cross-channel biddable team while growing the agency significantly.