Best and worst case scenario: How retailers can use ChatGPT
As the retail industry in Australia continues to evolve, the integration of advanced technology, such as ChatGPT, could revolutionise the way customers and retailers interact with each other.
As you may guess (like every other story on the topic) this first sentence was mostly written by ChatGPT – a language generation model that can generate human-like text based on a given prompt. The chat-box can be used for a wide variety of tasks, including: translation, text summarisation, completion and generation, answering questions, and sentiment analysis (source: ChatGPT).
Artificial intelligence (AI) systems are used by retailers – mostly for high complexity projects, according to 2019 research. But futurist and author Gihan Perera tells Inside Retail that practically everybody will be using ChatGPT in the next 12 months, especially as it is integrated into standard office software, such as Microsoft Word.
Perera says that a significant number of businesses and retailers will use ChatGPT to assist with language-related tasks, such as social media posts, headlines, product descriptions and promotional video scripts for Instagram stories, TikTok, YouTube and so on.
He believes that some, mostly large-sized businesses will integrate programs like ChatGPT into their own digital suite – for instance, to bolster the chatbox function – while a smaller fraction will investigate other forms of AI, after experimenting with ChatGPT.
“The biggest impact of ChatGPT for business leaders is that it will open their eyes to what’s possible with AI,” Perera said.
“Until now, having detailed, high-level, ‘intelligent’ two-ways conversations seemed like a uniquely human skill, but now a computer can do it. It’s far from perfect, but it’s dazzling to see it right in front of your eyes.”
According to Perera, ChatGPT, in and of itself, won’t transform the retail industry. But, it may act as a precursor to AI technology that will be transformative in the future. He points to early search engines like AltaVista which enabled users to instantly search on the web. Then Google came along and transformed search.
And while ChatGPT has limitations – for instance, it may include erroneous data, it doesn’t have access to private data, and it can’t predict the future – he says that it can help with practically every business function, if the user thinks of it as an assistant that can do fast Google searches.
“If you want to give your customer service staff 10 ways to deal with angry customers who bought a faulty or damaged product, you could ask an assistant to search Google, find lots of ideas, and write a list for you to add to the customer service staff script manual. That might take a couple of hours, but ChatGPT can do it in seconds,” he said.
“It’s most useful for functions that involve language because it can generate content immediately. But even for other functions, it can be indirectly useful.”
“Improved my productivity immensely”
Founder of reusable lid company Lydy, Lauren Yehezkel discovered ChatGPT on TikTok and has been using it since late December 2022. She is using the technology to juggle multiple tasks – such as basic web design, SEO updates, suggestions for Lydy’s website and to create outlines for a book and newsletter.
She has also used it to provide guidance and improve messaging amid periods of creative fatigue, adding that the tool has enabled her to launch programs “faster than ever before, without the writer’s block.”
Yehezkel explained that it’s somewhat like having a virtual assistant, and that it’s a handy way to relieve the stress of mundane tasks, such as setting up dialogue for store staff, or creating manuals for training.
“When it comes to coding, I am not a web developer, so I have used it to create basic code such as a scrolling banner. If I am unsure where to place the code or what the terms are, ChatGPT will explain it to me,” she told Inside Retail.
“Social media content can [also] be time consuming, [but] I have used the AI to come up with a month of content. It still requires me to create the images, but it takes the stress out of coming up with the ideas.”
Yehezkel is saving money by not having to outsource tasks, but as the business becomes more profitable, she hopes to hire staff or an agency to take over. This, she said, is because working in a team environment is more rewarding and impactful than getting information directly from an AI system.
“ChatGPT isn’t perfect, and you still need to understand it and know how to work it to your advantage,” she said.
“[But] it has improved my productivity immensely.”
Freeing people up
Yehezkel said that site crashes are a potential issue in relying on ChatGPT, and that retailers should be aware of potential risks before implementing AI systems into their processes. However, she said the technology has the potential to support business growth and increase productivity.
Meanwhile, Perera believes that there are risks of staff redundancies – if organisations don’t use ChatGPT.
“ChatGPT makes [certain] tasks much faster, and that has an immediate productivity gain. But you still need human oversight to review, edit, and sometimes even correct its answers. It doesn’t make those people redundant; it frees them up for higher-level work,” he said.
“It’s available to everybody, so if a business doesn’t use it (while their competitors do), they will fall behind. And that could lead to redundancies – not because ChatGPT has taken somebody’s job, but because the business isn’t viable anymore.”
Perera suggests that retailers should see ChatGPT as a first step in their AI journey.
“The best case scenario is that every business leader in the industry tries ChatGPT, adopts it at the level most appropriate to them and it spurs them to investigate and adopt AI more broadly in their business. This not only helps business productivity and performance. It also frees up people to do more interesting and engaging work,” he said.
“The worst case scenario is for one or two large players in the industry to use their deep pockets to muscle out everybody else and completely dominate the use of ChatGPT (or AI more generally).”
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