HOLIDAY SHOPPING with chatbots. This gift giving season is the first to be powered by artificial intelligence.

To help with my holiday shopping this year, I recently turned to a new personal assistant online : 

'' I'm looking for a Christmas present for my mother, who spends long hours working,'' I typed. '' Is there something she can use in her office every day? ''

'' Of course! '' came the instant reply. '' Does your mother have any specific preferences or needs for her office? For example, does she need organization tools, desk accessories, or something to help her relax during breaks?''

So began my conversation with Shop A.I., a new chatbot from Shopify, an e-commerce marketplace. Over 10 minutes, Shop A.I. and I engaged in a question-and-answer session.

I told the chatbot my budget and more about my mother, such as her need to alleviate back pain. Shop A.I. also asked me about my mother's preferred design and color for an office chair.

More people may eventually replicate this kind of shopping experience. A year after  ChatGPT debuted, retailers around the world have started rolling out chatbots that are powered by generative artificial intelligence.

That makes this holiday season the first when many A.I. chatbots can help shoppers brainstorm and find presents for their friends and loved ones.

In addition to Shopify, chatbots have come out over the past 12 months from Instacart, the delivery company; Mercari, a resale platform; Carrefour, a retailer; and Kering, which owns Gucci and Balenciaga, Walmart, Mastercard and Signet Jewelers are also testing chatbots, which may become publicly available as soon as next year.

'' In a way, it's recreating an in-store environment, but online,'' said Carl Rivera, a vice president at Shopify who oversees its Shop app, which hosts Shop A.I. 

He said the chatbot broke down people's questions into key terms and searched products from Shopify's millions of sellers. It then recommends products based on reviews and a shopper's purchase history.

Retailers have long used chatbots, but previous versions lacked conversational power and typically answered just a few preset questions, such as the status of an order.

The newest chatbots, by contrast, can process prompts and generate tailored answers, both of which create a more  ''personalised and authentic interaction,'' said Jen Jones, the chief marketing officer of the platform Commerce tools.

Nicola Conway, a lawyer in London, tried Kering's luxury personal shopper, Madeline, In August to search for a pink bridesmaid dress for a spring wedding.

Madeline was ''intuitive and novel'' she said, but it gave only one recommendation, an Alexander McQueen corset dress. Ms. Conway did not end up buying it

Kering did not respond to requests for comment.

Maggie Weber, a shopping influencer who uses the social media handle @refashionedhippie, said she tried Mercari's chatbot, Merchat A.I., in May. She asked the chatbot to show her baseball cards, but she was instead offered baseballs, hats and jerseys.

'' Merchat is still in its infancy,'' Ms. Weber, 34, said. She added that she worried that if she gave the chatbot too much information, it would start directing personalized ads to her.

A Mercari spokeswoman said Merchat used that history only to recommend products and did not use personally identifiable information. 

She added that the search bar could be faster for customers who want a specific item, while the chatbot helped those who want ''inspiration for gifts.''

The Essay Publishing, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Yiwen Lu.


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