Byte-Sized AI is a bi-weekly column that covers all things artificial intelligence—from startup funding, to newly inked partnerships, to just-launched, AI-powered capabilities from major retailers, software providers and supply chain players.
Walmart enables generative AI search tool
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Traditional search requires a user to enter a specific product or brand, but Walmart’s new feature allows users to ask questions, like, “Help me plan a disco-themed birthday party,” “Show me what to wear to a wedding,” or “What do I need to host a Super Bowl party at my apartment?”
Per a blog post from the company, the search can also take into account location, search history and other context about each user to provide personalized results for customers using the feature. The company said it expects in-app shoppers to have a more efficient, convenient experience due to the new technology.
“Whether shoppers want faster delivery or to find what they’re looking for more quickly, we believe [generative] AI can help Walmart customers spend more time doing the things they enjoy and less time scrolling, tapping and searching,” the superstore wrote in a blog post.
The company launched its new search function using its proprietary data paired with LLMs and technology from Microsoft. It has plans to extend the generative AI-enabled search to Android and its website later in the year.
Etsy launches gen AI-backed Gift Mode
Etsy wants to be the destination for gift giving.
The platform, which allows artisans and creators to sell goods to end consumers, launched its AI-powered Gift Mode Wednesday. The new feature uses the technology to build customized gift idea lists for consumers, based upon who they say they want to purchase for and that recipient’s interests.
For instance, a user could say they want to purchase a gift for their partner for Valentine’s Day, then indicate that their partner likes sports, great food and music. Based on that information, Gift Mode shows the user a few different gift lists.
For those inputs, Gift Mode populates lists like, “The Concertgoer,” “The Basketball Fan” and more. Each one features items specific to the hobby or attribute that the list was based upon. “The Basketball Fan” list offers a selection of basketball planters, T-shirts and keychains for example.
Users can also select from related lists. Those who don’t want to take a moment to enter information about their recipient can browse recipient persona lists, with options like “The Disco Fan,” “The Expecting Mom,” “The Chicago Local,” “The K-Pop Stan” and more.
Josh Silverstein, the company’s CEO, said in a blog post that Gift Mode has more than 200 personas to choose from.
For the company, employing AI for customer experience was a natural step toward stronger market share for those purchasing gifts, Silverstein said.
An Etsy spokesperson told Sourcing Journal that Etsy used OpenAI’s GPT-4 model, combined with Etsy’s machine learning training and inference stack, to build the feature. The model gives preference to Etsy listings that are sold by customers who offer great customer service and are predicted to be high quality based on existing information.
Skechers inks inventory management partnership with o9 Solutions
The footwear purveyor will use the technology provider’s AI-powered Digital Brain platform, which uses real-time data from inside and outside the enterprise to predict demand and supply, in turn allowing retailers and brands to make stronger decisions for management and business decisions, per the company’s site.
According to a release from o9 Solutions, Skechers’ primary use case for the Digital Brain platform will be managing inventory flow to domestic stores.
Chakri Gottemukkala, co-founder and CEO of o9 Solutions, said the partnership should provide Skechers with strong results.
“Skechers is an iconic brand that has seen incredible growth over the past 30 years, and we’re confident that the o9 Digital Brain platform will enhance and accelerate Skechers’ planning processes and capabilities across its North America retail business,” said Chakri Gottemukkala, co-Founder and CEO of o9 Solutions. “We’re very excited to collaborate with Skechers on its planning transformation and continued growth journey in 2024 and beyond.”
Constructor unveils plug-and-play shopping assistant
Third-party provider Constructor, which counts companies like Bonobos, Life is Good and Target Australia among its customers, announced the launch of its AI Shopping Assistant (ASA), which will allow its clients to offer consumers a chatbot-esque product discovery tool on their sites.
The San Francisco-based company said the use cases for ASA will impact several sectors of the retail industry, including fashion and apparel. For instance, a consumer could ask ASA a question like, “I’m going to a formal wedding in the Caribbean in August. What can I wear in the summer heat?” The tool will return several options.
Constructor noted in a release that the recommendations will be highly personalized to the consumer—in the case of the example above, ASA could suggest apparel items in the searcher’s size, preferred styles or color preferences.
Prior to ASA’s launch, Constructor offered other product discovery tools, like product finder quizzes. Eli Finkelshteyn, CEO of Constructor, said the new tool’s use of generative AI takes the consumer experience one step further.
“ASA makes suggestions based on detailed requests from a shopper—like a trusted, in-store associate would—while also instantly factoring in everything it knows about the shopper at hand. ASA underscores our commitment to applying generative AI to drive tangible value: enabling shoppers to better find what they need and be confident in their purchases, while helping ecommerce companies keep shoppers on their sites and boost their likelihood to purchase and their loyalty,” he said.
Tools like these could help retailers address two areas they say could be crucial to their continued success: a stronger customer experience and more refined personalization for each consumer.
Ask-AI grabs Series A, launches AI sidekick
Ask-AI announced Jan. 10 that it had raised $11 million in Series A funding.
True to its name, Leaders Fund led the round, with additional participation from the startup’s seed investors, like Vertex Ventures, GTMFund and State of Mind Ventures. Per a release, the 40-person company plans to use the funding to double its headcount over the next 12 months.
Alongside the funding announcement, the startup shared that it had launched a new generative AI-powered “sidekick” for its clients, like Coralogix, Monday.com, Yotpo and other third-party providers who service big-name retailers and brands.
Ask-AI connects to enterprise work systems like Jira, Slack, Teams and more. It uses the integrations to gain enterprise knowledge, which it can then share with an employee as they work.
The “always-on” sidekick function appears as a sidebar, and gives context and extra information to employees as they work. In a release, the company notes that if an employee were to be looking at a customer ticket, the technology could show details of the customer’s historical interactions, insights about whether there is a churn risk and more.
When the feature shares information with an employee, it also shows a confidence score rating, which is based on the quality of the available data, and links a citation that the user can click into to verify its validity and use to gain further data.
Alon Talmor, founder and CEO of Ask-AI said the company created the sidekick feature in response to market demand for efficiency-boosting AI tools.
“Executive teams are excited about the promise of AI, and want to take advantage of the technology to make their employees more productive and their customers more satisfied,” Talmor said in a release. “But they quickly realize that building AI into their workforce systems is more difficult than expected. What they really want is an out-of-the-box application that doesn’t rely on employees asking the right questions. It should tell employees what they need to know—answers, insights and actions—before they know what they need.”
ITS Logistics invests technology infrastructure, launches AI for container tracking
ITS Logistics has joined the slew of logistics companies using AI to track containers and predict risks. Its new tool, which it calls ContainerAI, has been integrated into the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Freight Logistics Optimization Works (FLOW), an information exchange platform used by those involved in supply chains.
Paul Brashier, vice president of drayage and intermodal for the company, said the new feature, which is free for current ITS Logistics customers but can also be purchased as a one-off service, will provide digital visibility to key players in the supply chain.
“ContainerAI equips our team and our customers with the foresight to improve efficiency, reduce costs and avoid demurrage, detention and accessorial fees,” Brashier explained in a release from the company.
The 25-year-old logistics company spent four years testing ContainerAI, which will provide clarity into ocean voyages, port changes, container dwell time, ground logistics and rail transport.
The Reno, Nev.-based company also announced it will be investing $30 million in making its technology capabilities more robust to serve customers. Per the release, it will add technology-focused team members to its Reno office, build a new office focused on technology in Chennai, India, and open a new technology innovation center in Silicon Valley.
Brashier noted that the new investments, combined with the logistical expertise ITS already has, will help the company compete with other companies popping up in the logistics space.
“While most platforms in this space were brought to market by tech-first companies without a lot of operational experience, our platform was built from the ground up based on our decades of logistical service,” he said.
Woww AI allows customers to use AI-generated models for product photos
Japan-based Woww AI announced this month that it had launched a new feature, called MagicModel. The capability enables clients to capture several images of a garment on their smartphone, which the technology then processes and places on a hyper realistic digital model.
Clients don’t receive the results instantly, which allows them to specify their preferences and requirements for the final images. Per Woww AI, its customers can request certain poses, backgrounds, racial representation and facial expressions.
According to recent data from Carl Marks Advisors, 61 percent of fashion and apparel retailers said they plan to deploy artificial intelligence for marketing in 2024. Some companies, like WHP Global, have already begun using AI for product photos.
Per a release, the startup anticipates customers will use the technology for product photos, advertisement testing and more.
Though the technology automates the process of taking product photos—which at the moment requires creative talent, like models and photographers—Woww AI said it has not completely removed humans from the equation.
The company noted in a release that professional photographers vet each image before sharing it with the client. That could help mitigate issues with AI hallucinations, which sometimes result in AI-generated images of humans having extra fingers or other non-lifelike characteristics. Per the company, clients receive their photos in “as short a time frame as one week.”