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Google Aims to ‘Supercharge’ Shopping with Generative AI-Enhanced Search

Google is doubling down on its generative AI initiatives.
(Source: Google)

As the CEO of ChatGPT developer OpenAI prepares to testify before the U.S. Senate next week about potential regulation surrounding generative AI, Google leaned into the tech at its annual I/O conference for developers, announcing plans to use generative AI to enhance a number of its core experiences, including search.

Other announcements included plans to open up its ChatGPT competitor Bard to the world (no more waitlist), more immersive Maps experiences and new capabilities for Google Cloud customers in image generation and speech-to-text applications.

Generative AI in Search

Shopping will be one of the key test cases for Google’s new Search Generative Experience (SGE), which uses generative AI to make more complex search tasks “simpler and smarter.”

For shopping, SGE aims to do more of the work for consumers by summarizing insights from the commerce ecosystem to offer up more accurate and relevant information. Users will get a snapshot of noteworthy factors to consider and products that fit the bill as well as product descriptions that include relevant, up-to-date reviews, ratings, prices and product images. SGE will then offer up “suggested next questions” to help shoppers continue their exploration.

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Example of how Google Search Generative Experience will work.
(Source: Google)

“With new breakthroughs in generative AI, we’re again reimagining what a search engine can do,” said Elizabeth Reid, VP and General Manager of Search at Google in a blog post detailing the new offering. “With this powerful new technology, we can unlock entirely new types of questions you never thought search could answer and transform the way information is organized to help you sort through and make sense of what’s out there.”

SGE is built on Google’s existing AI-powered Shopping Graph, which includes 35 billion product listings, 1.8 billion of which are refreshed every hour. Advertising will of course be a part of the mix as well, with Search Ads appearing in dedicated slots within SGE results.

“By tapping into Google’s Shopping Graph, SGE offers an experience that’s both helpful and shoppable,” said Lilian Rincon, Senior Director of Consumer Shopping Product at Google in comments shared with Retail TouchPoints. “SGE can help transform online shopping — especially in instances when there are complex factors to consider.”

SGE will be introduced as an experiment in the coming weeks as part of the new Search Labs program, which invites users to sign up to get early access to test new Google Search innovations. This is one of several testing Labs that Google has unveiled, with others allowing eager users to test out experience in Google Workspaces as well as several other projects.

“There are known limitations with generative AI and LLMs [large-language models], and Search, even today, will not always get it right,” said Reid. “We’re taking a responsible and deliberate approach to bringing new generative AI capabilities to search. We’ve trained these models to uphold search’s high bar for quality, and we will continue to make improvements over time. They rely on our hallmark systems that we’ve fine-tuned for decades, and we’ve also applied additional guardrails, like limiting the types of queries where these capabilities will appear.”

Generative AI for Image Creation, Multi-Lingual Chat

Google Cloud also unveiled a number of enterprise-focused products and services designed to help businesses explore and employ generative AI technology.

“Ultimately, companies are still primarily defined by their core offerings — whether that’s a financial institution providing a bank account, a retailer creating this season’s new hot outfit, or a hospital offering life-saving surgery,” said Carrie Tharp, VP, Strategic Industries at Google Cloud in a blog post. “Core differentiators will remain the same, but successful businesses in the future will be those that can apply AI practically to tackle some of their most common, time-intensive, real-world problems.” 

Two of the most interesting new offerings for retailers include:

Example of Imagen, Google Cloud's new text-to-image functionality.
Example of Imagen, Google Cloud’s new text-to-image functionality. (Source: Google)
  • Imagen, a text-to-image foundation model on Vertex AI, which allows organizations to generate and customize studio-grade images at scale for everything from promotional material to concept designs. For example, a consumer goods brand could generate packaging designs and ad images based on text prompts on seasonal trends, while a fashion designer could generate custom images for marketing to resonate with an individual’s style preferences and shifting consumer tastes. Importantly, any image created on Vertex AI remains the customer’s data and can be used by the organization as they see fit.
  • Chirp, a foundational model for speech-to-text on Vertex AI designed to help businesses engage customers in their native languages and accents. Trained on millions of hours of audio, Chirp is a new version of Google’s existing speech model, which supports more than 100 languages. A retailer could, for example, leverage Chirp to enable an automated customer service agent to better understand a diversity of accents and provide broader voice assistance as they expand commerce to new geographies. 

Imagen is now available through Google Cloud’s trusted tester program, while Chirp is available to preview in Vertex AI for anyone with a Google Cloud account.

“Google Cloud’s latest generative AI announcements will help open new avenues for shoppers to connect with a retailer’s most important asset, their brand,” said Amy Eschliman, Managing Director of Retail Solutions at Google Cloud in comments shared with Retail TouchPoints. “We see all sorts of ways retailers can use our new generative AI offerings, from the ability to create product concept images from a simple text prompt to building more conversational chatbots that help customers easily find the products they want and get helpful customer service.”

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