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Will artificial intelligence help us shop?

Maia, a new chatbot to guide customers to desired products

Will artificial intelligence help us shop? Maia, a new chatbot to guide customers to desired products

That Gen Z loves second-hand is nothing new. The younger shoppers, who turn to secondhand as much for environmental reasons as for the 'taste of the hunt' and affordability, are reshaping the online shopping landscape by obsessively browsing on Depop, Dress, and Vinted, leaving traditional e-commerce to the left. As Vogue Business reports, a new tool will make shopping on these platforms much easier: Maia, a new chatbot that guides customers to the products they want and encourages the discovery of new brands, developed by Sociate, an artificial intelligence startup founded in 2020. Launched on Hewi, a second-hand shopping website, Maia is based on the concept of multimodal AI, meaning that unlike ChatGPT, which uses a predefined language model, Sociate's technology is able to understand images and the context in which they are placed. But will Maia succeed in winning the trust of consumers?

Many resale sites already use AI technology to create resale value ratings (like Rebag's Claire AI Rating Index), to increase efficiency on the backend (Thredup uses to process incoming products) and to help sellers create product descriptions (Shopify has just announced the integration of ChatGPT for this purpose). Maia, on the other hand, is designed to help consumers buy more effectively by replacing interaction with sellers. According to Sociate, Maia's success is measured by three metrics: engagement (the ability to keep customers on the site and researching), discoverability (the rate of products viewed), and finally conversion (the purchases made). The goal is to increase engagement by 20%, discoverability by 30%, and conversion by 10%, and generally simplify the shopping experience for the user. A customer of Yasmin Topia, co-founder, and CEO of Sociate recounts asking Maia for Andy Warhol-inspired dresses: «There was a soup can dress in Hewi's inventory - she recalls with amusement - I would never have found it otherwise.»

According to Jess Hendrix in Vogue Business, head of the retail experience at Razorfish and president and CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi X, linking AI to customers' emotions could radically change the retail landscape. But the technology remains a hard sell: Chatbots are generally not a pleasant experience for consumers, who are still skeptical of the most innovative tools. So much so that half of the consumers surveyed by Forrester last year said they were 'often frustrated' by using chatbots. But once the initial skepticism is overcome, the potential of AI in online shopping is limitless.