Exploring the State of GenAI and Commerce
By Lisa Rothman
Generative AI (GenAI) is one of the hottest buzzwords in the business world, encompassing everything from internal operations to end-user experiences. But how much does the buzz around AI impact the commerce industry? That’s the question that Bloomreach, Stripe, Shopware, and Future Commerce sought to answer in their latest report: The State of GenAI x Commerce.
The report is the result of responses from over 300 e-commerce professionals with expertise in a variety of e-commerce roles. It examines present AI usage as well as the benefits, challenges, and long-term prospects of AI.
Read on to get a summary of the insights from the report and what AI means for the future of commerce.
People Are Embracing AI Tools
It’s clear that e-commerce experts are eager to embrace AI, with the majority (78%) saying they’re paying attention to the emerging technology. On the other hand, only a minority (36%) believe they have an expert or advanced understanding of the technology. While this indicates a clear gap in knowledge, the good news is that the e-commerce industry is more interested in how they might employ AI than concerned about any potential issues it may create.
Overall, the outlook for AI adoption is promising, especially with 55% of those surveyed saying they feel that GenAI products have become more accessible in the last year.
AI Is Becoming Omnipresent
The second key discovery was that GenAI is being used in some capacity by the wider e-commerce sector — 91% of survey respondents said they've used GenAI products to help with their work duties. And to nobody’s surprise, the tool that most people are turning to is ChatGPT. After all, ChatGPT helped propel the conversation around AI into the general public, and is still considered synonymous with generative AI.
Encouragingly, 97% of ChatCPT users consider their experience to have met or exceeded expectations. However, it’s still often employees who bear the brunt of responsibility for implementing AI. While just one-third of employees have clear instructions for using AI at work, two-thirds have sought permission to use AI for ordinary activities. Fortunately, this experimentation is driving investment, with 65% of survey respondents expecting their GenAI budgets to increase over the next six months.
Productivity Is the Priority
While AI has many uses, commerce companies currently see utility as the top benefit. Using AI to improve internal operations takes precedence over end-user and customer experiences, and most e-commerce professionals list boosting operational efficiency and eliminating busywork as the top benefits. In fact, three out of five surveyed professionals saw a measurable gain in productivity by adopting AI technologies.
AI is being used mainly to assist with content generation (and boost productivity in the process) to great effect, with 80% of those who use GenAI to write written documentation being pleased with the results. The focus on content generation is partly due to the tools currently available — seven of the top ten most common applications of GenAI products are for written content and marketing assets.
But looking ahead, AI adoption will likely move beyond content generation and into AI-powered consumer experiences, with three-quarters of respondents expected to integrate these experiences within six months. What’s more, many e-commerce professionals anticipate a four- or five-fold rise in end-user touchpoints, like chatbots, images, and conversational interfaces. Ultimately, 64% of leaders believe AI will improve consumer experiences and help them gain a competitive advantage.
Overall Optimism Around AI
The report found that people are generally optimistic about AI experimentation. The rapid rise of GenAI encourages organizational reorganization and realignment, and three-quarters of businesses have deliberately hired staff to ensure the integration and implementation of AI. Overall, 56% of respondents feel that AI motivates their staff, while only 44% worry about team morale eroding.
To address AI concerns, professional development will likely help, with 55% of organizations actively educating staff on AI competency. For many users, the capabilities of the training data and results represent a bigger barrier to entry than the people actually using and consuming the output.
As one respondent put it, "With time, there will be more information for AI to pull from, which will make the outcomes more robust and analyses more thought-provoking...but for the near future, we will always need humans to decipher and refine what AI can generate." This means that AI is being seen as an opportunity instead of a threat by most e-commerce staff.
The Realities of AI Today
While acknowledging AI's current significance in business, it is also important to anticipate AI's future. It should be noted that staff members are less fearful of AI than e-commerce professionals might imagine. Nonetheless, employees are reluctant to identify themselves as specialists. Clear messages, relevant case studies, and opportunities for practical training are all vital to ensure there’s a smooth transition to AI tools.
It’s also safe to assume that your team uses AI. This is most likely to be a mix of company-provided platform-native solutions and open-access technologies. The e-commerce industry should create systems that foster and reward transparency. Furthermore, in circumstances where people are held accountable for accurate and on-brand outcomes, there’s more comfort with placing AI content and experiences directly in front of end users. That means that now’s the time to set ground rules and mechanisms to maximize productivity while limiting risk.
It’s clear that one of the most significant workplace innovations right now is the use of GenAI tools. People are eager to learn something new together and collaboratively; for some, AI may even open new employment opportunities. Looking towards the future, it’s vital to invest in purpose-built solutions that optimize your people's potential. Be sure to read the full report for more insights, and learn more about what Bloomreach is doing with AI innovation.