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The Benefits and Risks of Generative AI in Ecommerce

September 18th, 2023 | 7 min. read

The Benefits and Risks of Generative AI in Ecommerce Blog Feature

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AI is all the rage and its popularity does not look to be slowing down any time soon. In nearly every industry, AI-based tools are promising massive benefits, especially when it comes to design projects. Solutions like ChatGPT and image generators allow teams to create, essentially, anything they can imagine, simply by entering a prompt. With that power at their fingertips, those who truly understand how to harness AI strategically—not as a curiosity or a top-down replacement—can find new ways to catch the eye of potential customers from across a crowded playing field.


For ecommerce businesses, this potential is especially appealing. In addition to crafting innovative and personalized experiences, organizations like yours are constantly looking to build exciting, unforgettable visuals that all but sear their brand into the brains of those browsing their site. It can’t be understated how effective a strong hero image can be in building a persona that distinguishes you from your competition, or how long of a way good design can go for a page’s impact. A picture’s worth a thousand words, after all!


In this blog, we’ll explore how the use of generative AI can not only empower your designers to create memorable visuals at a higher rate than ever before, but empower other teams to build better shopping experiences overall.


Increase efficiency through better delegation


As any designer can attest, building an identity for a brand is time consuming. Not only are designers tasked with taking the lead on the full creative vision for a distinct, professional, and unforgettable brand persona, but also the arduous work of creating a plethora of different versions (formats, sizes, etc.) of the design elements to be used for different places, pages, or messaging. Luckily, generative AI solutions can help with the latter by giving designers the ability to hand off the repetitive work to AI so they can focus their efforts on tasks requiring their creative leadership.


That’s why, when evangelists promote the integration of AI into workflows, efficiency is chief among the benefits they cite. Armed with these tools, it’s easier than ever to prioritize tasks to make the most of your time and manpower, rather than sinking hours into a job that could be more easily delegated to generative solutions.


Take those design projects: with the help of AI, your designers need only provide a prompt for the visual they’re looking to generate. From that prompt, generative AI can create the relevant asset, and drastically cut down on the time spent on design minutiae. As a result, it’s much easier to execute larger campaigns requiring multiple pieces of similar collateral across various channels or platforms. All the designer needs to do is tweak that initial prompt where necessary. The same principle applies for other personnel, as well—be they designers, marketers, or a combination of staff working on more multi-faceted projects.


By delegating the more time-consuming tasks to AI solutions, teams can spend more time on the overarching creative vision and strategic initiatives—the things that ultimately move the needle of your business the most.


Promote innovation through iteration and testing


In a previous blog, we emphasized how valuable multivariate and A/B testing can be for digital experience optimization. Marketers invested in deep personalization are especially big proponents of such experimentation strategies.


Unfortunately, these tests take time and it’s not uncommon for ecommerce teams to have to forego comparing different versions of an asset or experience for the sake of productivity—especially when the differences are just cosmetic. As a result, they miss out on a valuable chance to see exactly what customers respond to, perfect a given experience, and even reproduce those results across other channels based on the testing data.


With generative AI, relevant teams no longer have to choose between thoroughly testing a range of items and completing a project on time. You’re now able to expand where, when, how, and on what elements you’re experimenting because creating and iterating the required variants can be completed in moments. Without eating into productivity, consistent testing and optimization can be a part of everyday workflow, across teams, without anxieties about running down the clock.


Create premium content—without paying premium prices


You want to make sure every single one of your products catches a customer’s eye, and there’s no better way to do that than with a high-quality photoshoot. Wouldn’t that new bathing suit you’re advertising look much better if your shoppers saw it on the beach?


Unfortunately, production of images like that—from location scouting to post-production—can be extremely expensive. This goes for any eye-popping photo spread, whether it’s marketing haute couture or a new line of furniture.


With AI, however, more retailers are realizing they can create premium product visuals without having to pay exorbitant prices. This trend has become especially popular in the fashion industry with the introduction of AI models, but it can apply to any sector of ecommerce. With the help of generative solutions, you can showcase your latest catalog wherever you want, without ever leaving the office. As a result, smaller retailers have the opportunity to create the sort of advertising content that was previously reserved for only the heaviest of hitters.


Just imagine what you can show your customers when the limit is your imagination rather than your budget.


What are the risks of generative AI?


As with any emerging technology, AI’s rise has been accompanied by some concerns about its impact and implications that are well worth addressing. In fact, in order to make the most of generative AI solutions, it’s essential to understand the risks the tools may present and how to avoid them.


First and foremost, an AI tool is not a replacement for the skill of your design teams. Whenever you hear cautionary stories about AI image generators, concern over whether the images feel like they are created with AI—and thus, impersonal—is a common theme. And it’s an important concern. Your design team needs to put just as much thought into a prompt as they would any image they’re creating on their own. And they remain a gatekeeper, approving content and ensuring anything inauthentic never makes it out into the world.


Similarly, AI skeptics have suggested that, because generative AI has to pull from pre-existing materials in order to create images and text, the risk of copyright infringement increases when businesses rely on it for their content. As of right now, it’s unclear the extent to which copyright law and generative AI will clash, but—currently—it appears that the brunt of any conflict would be borne by the creator of the tool, rather than the users. In fact, Microsoft has vowed to defend its customers from any copyright infringement lawsuits stemming from the usage of its Copilot solution. Ultimately, when vetting an AI tool, it’ll be extremely important for teams to look into whether the tool is able to limit the assets it uses to only those you have provided or approved.


Finally, those who are wary of AI tools have asked important questions about its ability to protect any personal data that it collects, analyzes, and leverages—such as in the creation of customized marketing assets. Again, a great deal of the burden here falls to the developers of these tools. It is their responsibility to ensure their solutions meet all relevant compliance regulations to ensure that, should they experience a data breach, essential PII does not end up in the wrong hands. It’s also important, however, for the companies who use this technology to ensure that their own data protection protocols are all they can be. The simple reality is that we are now living in the era of Big Data, and, as a result, many of the solutions we take advantage of make use of sensitive data, whether or not they’re AI-based. So far, it does not seem as though generative AI tools are somehow more vulnerable to breaches. If handled responsibly, existing data protection strategies should suffice.


At the end of the day, the best support against these risks remains considered and responsible usage.


Get more out of your time and effort with generative AI


Ecommerce is a dynamic and fast-moving industry, propelled by customers who expect more and more from the businesses they engage with. Because of this, ecommerce organizations need to be able to create assets and experiences quickly to keep their brand out in front of the competition. Thanks to generative AI they can do so without overextending their teams or sacrificing quality.


With the help of AI solutions, designers and developers can be more agile and productive while still crafting visuals that speak to the unique value of your brand. By harnessing the creative and strategic prowess of your teams, these tools augment their ability to catch the customer’s eye and guide them at every step of their journey. 


You know what your team is capable of—you’ve seen what they can create. Ensure they can continue to do so on the latest frontier in ecommerce with generative AI. You’re not replacing what makes your business great, you’re just making it even better.