The Evolving Role of Marketers and Merchandisers in the Age of AI

Ian Donnelly
Ian Donnelly
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It’s hard to know exactly what the future will bring when it comes to AI, but everyone recognizes the game-changing nature of artificial intelligence in the world today. You don’t have to look far to find its influence — it’s a topic that’s filling our news feeds, changing the way we live our lives and affecting the nature of our jobs. 

But it’s important to remember that AI isn’t a completely new phenomenon. Bloomreach has built and trained AI for ecommerce since our founding back in 2009, producing 20+ AI-related patents and weaving artificial intelligence into all our products. We’ve been involved in the earliest ideas and the latest innovations, and while companies like OpenAI and ChatGPT have brought AI to the forefront in recent years, that doesn’t mean that the role of the marketer and merchandiser is going to disappear. 

With the right mindset and outlook on the future, merchandisers and marketers can ride the growing wave of AI and position themselves to thrive in the emerging landscape.

What the History of Disruptive Tech Can Tell Us About AI 

Machine learning, LLMs, generative AI — all these groundbreaking models have fundamentally changed the way the world interacts with artificial intelligence, and all this innovation has caused plenty of disruption.

But innovation and disruption has been the standard operating procedure of the internet since the web really took shape back in 1996. It’s how tools like Google emerged, along with eBay and Amazon. Using the internet as a foundation, these world-class applications revolutionized our lives, and now we don’t question them as mainstays of our everyday experience.

It’s the same scenario for AI. Companies like OpenAI, NVIDIA, and Google are releasing foundational models for innovative new applications to build on. These companies are laying the highways for AI, and there’s inevitably going to be some disruptive businesses that emerge and open the door for new possibilities.

The problem is, it’s hard to imagine what all these new possibilities could look like today. We can barely predict what new AI breakthrough will happen next and what it will mean for our current job roles. 

But again, this is history repeating itself — the jobs we do today, whether it’s in social media management, paid search marketing, or ecommerce merchandising, were not roles or fields that existed in 1996. These roles evolved as innovative technologies emerged, and keeping this evolution in mind is the best way for marketers and merchandisers to navigate any changes to come.

Because we can see a new path that AI is currently pioneering for ecommerce, and it’s set to be as groundbreaking as the dawn of the internet. It will change the way people shop, the way businesses operate, and the way marketers and merchandisers use AI to achieve their goals.

The Evolution of AI and What It Means for Marketers and Merchandisers

Right now, AI plays the role of a copilot for marketers and merchandisers. The technology acts as a smart assistant, answering questions, interpreting data, and handling supportive tasks. 

But AI is on-pace to become the pilot in the near future, taking on more and more aspects of everyday work. It will build scenarios, segments, and campaigns. It will automate product discovery by ranking and personalizing search results. Soon there will be little that marketers and merchandisers won’t be able to accomplish by prompting AI and that ability brings fundamental changes to these roles.

Instead of the pilot, marketers and merchandisers will take on the role of air traffic controller, managing and overseeing AI to make sure these tools accomplish the task at hand. 

Humans playing the role of air traffic controller is essential for AI to step into the piloting position. One can’t happen without the other. Prompting and providing important context, determining strategies, overseeing and fixing mistakes that are bound to happen — these are all essential duties of the marketer and merchandiser, and AI will rely on them to make sure that the job gets done correctly.

That’s because on its own, AI can’t determine why a campaign is being run. It can’t lay out your marketing roadmap or your merchandising strategy. It can’t properly build the campaigns you need without being fed it the right training data, the right guardrails, or a fine-tuned understanding of your brand voice. 

This is the future that Bloomreach is working toward, where marketing teams focus on the whywhat, and how while AI takes care of the rest. And we’re building this future not simply because it’s possible — this level of AI-powered marketing and merchandising is quickly becoming necessary as AI changes the way that your customers shop.

AI Is Ushering in a New Era of Conversational Commerce

AI has fundamentally changed the expectations of everyday ecommerce shoppers. With the explosion of interactive AI tools like ChatGPT, people now expect an elevated experience when they turn to technology to get answers or solve problems. They want more than a search bar — they want an interface that listens to their needs, takes context into account, and helps them find solutions, not just products.

But this isn’t the online shopping experience that most brands offer. Today’s online stores are built for the searcher, not the seeker. They can help a shopper that knows exactly what they’re looking for, but helping someone solve a problem is outside the scope of many businesses’ shopping experiences.

To succeed in the future that AI is shaping, businesses need to cater to the seeker, not just the searcher. Essentially, brands need to translate the in-store experience of talking to a product expert into an online experience, which has been difficult to achieve until now. 

But with the power of AI, this type of conversational commerce is possible. 

AI enables interactive conversations that provide personalized experiences for each customer, taking their wants and needs into account as well as the stage they’re at in their buying process. It can create a shopping journey that’s woven together with images and video, spans multiple channels, and offers rich, meaningful content. 

It might sound futuristic, but AI-powered conversational commerce is already here. Bloomreach Clarity, our revolutionary conversational shopping AI, is built for this new world of ecommerce. Trained on real-time customer data, your product catalogs, and our 14+ years of data on how customers shop and search, Clarity offers every customer the most personalized and relevant experience whenever they interact with your brand.

This is the modern customer experience that’s possible when AI becomes the pilot. And as tools like Clarity become standard for ecommerce and customer experiences evolve, marketers and merchandisers will be needed to oversee and facilitate this new reality of conversational campaigns. 

While AI will power these interactions, the whywhat, and how will still be the responsibility of the marketers and merchandisers. Making sure all these interactions are beneficial, on brand, and seamlessly taking place across your website, SMS messages, emails, and more will be up to the people behind the AI tools.

Marketers and Merchandisers Will Help Write the Next Chapter in Ecommerce

This is all just one aspect of how conversational commerce will revolutionize the customer experience. There are undoubtedly countless other innovations we can’t predict on the horizon, which will open up new jobs that build and expand on the roles of marketers and merchandisers as we know them. 

Just like the unpredictable emergence of the social media manager and the ecommerce merchandiser, there will be jobs that evolve to meet the challenges and opportunities that new breakthroughs create.

For now, marketers and merchandisers can rest assured that their expertise is a fundamental piece of the ecommerce puzzle. With some insight into what’s possible, it’s easy to see the evolving nature of AI as an opportunity that is worth embracing.

Interested in learning more about the future of AI? Learn more about how to use AI to make online shopping personal with Bloomreach

And be sure to watch Raj De Datta’s full talk on the topic here:

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Ian Donnelly

Content Marketing Manager at Bloomreach

Ian has years of copywriting and digital marketing experience that he brings to his role as Content Marketing Manager at Bloomreach. With a keen eye for fresh angles and new perspectives, he aims to highlight the endless possibilities available to savvy businesses with cutting-edge digital commerce. Read more from Ian here.

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