The last two years saw the fashion and retail worlds overrun with speculation about the imminence of the metaverse and web3, much of it hyperbolic. At Shoptalk 2023, executives treated the latest tech craze — AI and large language models, particularly OpenAI’s ChatGPT — with a comparatively reserved sense of tempered expectations.
Simeon Siegel, managing director at BMO Capital Markets, said he sees a lot of potential in the idea of integrating AI content generation into a business model, but that it will heavily depend on what kinds of use cases brands can come up with.
“Is it a buzzword or will it become something real?” Siegel said. “Will it get any real use beyond my kids using it to cheat on their homework? As we saw with the iPhone [and accompanying mobile apps], there’s a layer of innovation that needs to come alongside tech like this. We need to make it enterprise-friendly, for one thing. And the ultimate question is: Will it allow for anything that’s disruptively better than what’s already possible for the consumer?”
The last point was what many people used to criticize web3 applications like the metaverse. Sure, it’s interesting, but is guiding an avatar through a virtual store actually adding anything that just shopping from a normal e-commerce store can’t do? AI, on the other hand, does offer several immediately apparent use cases. At Verishop, for instance, the company is testing ChatGPT’s ability to put product recommendations into personalized content themed around things like swimsuits for summer. Products are framed with unique text — as an article laying out 10 recommended pieces for summer, for example — rather than just slotted into a recommendations carousel.
That ability to quickly personalize content was one of the major attractive elements of this technology at Shoptalk.
“We’ve got a close eye on some of the applications of the OpenAI architecture,” said Amish Tolia, co-founder and co-CEO of the retail company Leap. “We’re looking at how we can use it to create both efficiency and closer relationships with customers.”
Samir Desai, evp and chief digital and technology officer at Abercrombie & Fitch, said he’s taking a similar goals-oriented approach to A. However, neither Tolia nor Desai noted specific AI use cases, with both saying they’re still in the early test phases. Rather than taking the tool and trying to find a way to fit it into Abercrombie’s operations, he’s looking at the company’s goals, like increasing its top-of-funnel customer acquisition, and seeing if AI can help achieve them.
“The result is what you’re going after, not the tactic,” Desai said. “When a new tool comes out like ChatGPT, great, maybe you can use that toward your goals. But whether it’s ChatGPT or other technology, we care about the results.”