5 ways artificial intelligence (AI) is shaping your Christmas shopping
  • 02 Dec 2023
  • 12 Minutes to read
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5 ways artificial intelligence (AI) is shaping your Christmas shopping

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Article summary

Thank you to Kem-Laurin Lubin, PH.D - C for sharing her insight, knowledge and expertise with us.

You can read this article on Medium as well.


Empowering your shopping journey

“Christmas is not just about the presents under the tree, but the presence of loved ones around it. It’s a season of giving, not just gifts, but giving time and love to those who matter most” Anonymous

A Tech-Driven Holiday Season

As we deck the halls and jingle our bells for the festive season, there’s an unseen guest joining our celebrations: Artificial Intelligence (AI). This technological is silently reshaping our Yuletide experiences, especially in the realm of shopping. Gone are the days of wandering aimlessly through crowded malls for Christmas gifts; though for some, this is the fun part.

AI is revolutionizing this age-old practice, turning it into a personalized and efficient journey. Imagine walking into a store, virtual or physical, and being greeted by a system that knows your preferences, suggests perfect gifts for your loved ones, and even predicts what you might need for that last-minute holiday party. This is not a scene from a sci-fi movie; it’s the present reality, a wonderland where AI is the Santa Claus of shopping!

In this blog, I’ll unwrap the various gifts that AI brings to the holiday shopping table and dive into the world of AI-driven recommendations, a game-changer in how we find the perfect gifts.

Imagine a system that understands your taste better than you do, suggesting gifts that are hits rather than misses. Then, we’ll explore the virtual fitting room of the future with virtual try-on technologies, a space I personally use for colour match for makeup. These innovations allow you to see how clothes and accessories look on you without ever leaving your home. Finally, we’ll explore how AI streamlines the behind-the-scenes magic of inventory management, ensuring that stores are well-stocked with the holiday cheer we all seek. Read on as we explore these fascinating developments that are making our festive season smarter, smoother, efficient and more joyful!

Now, before I delve deeper into this topic, let me clarify something: I am generally not a proponent of invasive technology, and this includes certain applications of AI.

There’s something about technology encroaching on our personal space that often feels unsettling. However, let’s acknowledge the unique whirlwind that is the Christmas season. It’s a time when even the most organized among us can feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tasks, especially when it comes to selecting personal gifts. If you choose to lean on technology to assist in making those crucial purchasing decisions, then it’s vital to understand the mechanics behind it.

How does AI discern your preferences? What data is it using, and what are the implications of its use? These are important considerations, especially for those of us who value privacy and minimal digital intrusion.

So, while I maintain my reservations about certain tech advancements, I can’t deny the allure and practicality of AI in simplifying our festive shopping chaos, as long as it’s used wisely, responsibly and its transparent to us as to what it is doing.

1. Personalized recommendations: AI’s gift to shoppers?

Let’s talk about the magic of AI in shopping, particularly when it comes to finding those ideal Christmas gifts. Imagine AI as your personal Santa’s helper, one that’s been quietly noting down your likes, dislikes, and even those fleeting ‘maybe’ moments. This smart tech dives into your browsing habits, peeks at your purchase history, and gets a sense of your preferences.

It’s like having a genie that understands your taste better than you do!

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This clever algorithm then conjures up a list of product recommendations that feel tailor-made for you.

The result?

Sometimes scary but it is a shopping experience so personalized, it’s like walking into a store where everything on display is just what you were looking for. No more endless scrolling or battling through crowded malls; AI narrows down the choices, making your quest for the perfect Christmas presents a breeze!

Now, let’s step into the real world where AI is not just a concept but a game-changer for e-commerce platforms. Take, for instance, big names like Amazon and eBay. They’ve been using AI to create shopping experiences that feel almost clairvoyant. These commerce platforms analyze your interactions and use that data to suggest products that are just the right fit, often leading you to wonder,

‘How did they know I wanted this?’

This isn’t just about impressing customers; it’s a solid business strategy too.

By offering such personalized experiences, these e-commerce giants see a significant uptick in customer satisfaction and, of course, sales — a trend that’s especially pronounced during the holiday rush.

It’s a win-win: customers find gift buying less of a chore, and companies enjoy the merry ringing of their virtual cash registers.

  1. Trying before buying: Virtual try-ons and AR experiences

This is AI doing what it does best — making life a little easier and a lot more enjoyable, especially during the festive season.

2. Dynamic pricing and promotions

In the context of AI’s role in shopping, it’s important to understand how these technologies work together to enhance the shopping experience. AI algorithms are employed to analyze a vast array of data, including current market trends, consumer purchasing habits, and the intricate balance of supply and demand. By processing this information in real-time, AI can dynamically adjust the prices of products. This means that the price of an item can change frequently, based on the algorithm’s assessment of how likely a consumer is to purchase it at a given price.

For instance, if you’ve been looking at a particular item but haven’t made a purchase, the AI might offer a personalized discount to encourage you to complete the transaction.

Creepy at times but this system not only benefits consumers by offering more competitive prices and tailored promotions, but it also helps retailers optimize their sales strategies.

The end result is a more efficient, personalized, and cost-effective shopping experience, especially during high-demand periods like Christmas.

3. Trying before buying: Virtual try-ons and AR experiences

Imagine trying on a Christmas sweater or seeing how a new sofa would look in your living room without ever leaving your cozy nook.

Welcome to the world of AR (Augmented Reality) and virtual try-on technologies!

These innovative tools are reshaping the online shopping landscape. With just a few clicks, AR lets you overlay a digital image of a product onto your real-world environment. Whether it’s clothes, furniture, or even makeup, you get to see how everything looks on you or in your space, making online shopping a more immersive and realistic experience.

It’s like having a fitting room or a showroom at your fingertips.

This technology not only adds a dash of fun to your shopping spree but also helps in making more informed decisions, reducing the guesswork and the dreaded post-purchase disappointment. So, when you’re hunting for those perfect Christmas gifts, AR and virtual try-ons offer a glimpse into the future of shopping — a future where what you see online is what you get in reality.

Several forward-thinking retailers are already on board the AR train, transforming Christmas shopping into an interactive adventure. For instance, IKEA’s AR app lets you place furniture in your room, giving you a real sense of how it fits and looks in your space. Then there’s Sephora’s Virtual Artist, where you can try on makeup shades virtually, making it easier to choose the perfect holiday look.

Fashion retailers aren’t far behind, with companies like ASOS and Zara offering virtual fitting rooms, allowing you to see how clothes look on models of various sizes.

These AR experiences are more than just fun; they’re practical, offering a glimpse of the product in your life before you buy it. This holiday season, AR and virtual try-ons are not just adding sparkle to the shopping experience but are also helping shoppers make choices that they’re more likely to be happy with. It’s like having a personal elf that ensures your Christmas shopping is as joyous as the season itself

4. AI Backstage: Efficient inventory management:

Stepping behind the counter, let’s see how AI plays Santa’s little helper for retailers, especially during the Christmas frenzy. One of AI’s most critical roles in retail is in inventory management. It’s like having a crystal ball that helps retailers predict the future. Using predictive analytics, AI sifts through mountains of data — past sales, current trends, even the weather — to forecast what products will be in high demand. This isn’t just guesswork; it’s smart, data-driven forecasting.

By accurately anticipating customer demand, retailers can ensure their shelves and warehouses are stocked just right for the Christmas rush.

No more ‘out of stock’ signs on your favorite items or piles of unsold products gathering dust in the back. AI helps maintain that delicate balance, ensuring that everything from the hottest toys to the trendiest fashion items is available for eager shoppers.”

AI-driven inventory management is a game-changer in striking the perfect balance between overstocking and understocking. For businesses, this translates to significant cost savings. Overstocking ties up capital in unsold products, while understocking means missed sales opportunities — both scenarios retailers want to avoid.

AI algorithms optimize inventory levels, meaning stores order just enough to meet demand without going overboard. For consumers, this means a more reliable shopping experience. You’re less likely to face the disappointment of finding that perfect Christmas gift out of stock. And for the environment, it’s a win too, as better inventory management leads to less waste. In essence, AI in inventory management is the unsung hero of the holiday season, working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure everyone — retailers and shoppers alike — has a merry and bright Christmas shopping experience.”

5. AI-powered customer support: 24/7 assistance

As we navigate the often hectic world of Christmas shopping, AI emerges as a beacon of support in the form of chatbots and virtual assistants. These AI-powered helpers are more than just automated responders; they’re like having a personal shopping assistant available 24/7. Imagine you’re browsing online for Christmas gifts, and you have a question about a product. Instead of waiting for a human representative, an AI chatbot pops up, ready to offer instant assistance. These tools are equipped to handle a wide range of questions, from tracking orders to providing product information, making your shopping experience smoother and far less stressful.

They’re especially handy when you’re juggling a million things during the festive season and need quick answers.

It’s like having a little helper elf who’s always there to ensure your Christmas shopping is as joyful and hassle-free as possible.

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The benefits of AI-powered customer support are manifold, particularly during the Christmas rush. One of the most significant advantages is the drastic reduction in wait times. No more being put on hold or waiting in long queues; AI delivers instant responses, keeping the frustration at bay. Moreover, these AI tools often provide personalized assistance by recalling your previous interactions and preferences, making the support experience feel more tailored and attentive.

This personalized touch not only enhances your shopping experience but also fosters a sense of connection and loyalty to the brand, however mechanical it truly is.

In a season where every moment is precious, AI-powered support ensures that your time spent shopping is efficient, enjoyable, and filled with the festive spirit. Ultimately, these technological advancements are reshaping customer service into a more responsive, efficient, and satisfying journey, making merry the hearts of shoppers and retailers alike during the holiday season.

The future of Christmas shopping with AI

AI, like a modern-day Santa’s workshop, is transforming the holiday shopping experience for both consumers and retailers. From personalized recommendations that act like your personal shopper, to AR and virtual try-ons that bring the fitting room to your living room, AI is making gift-hunting a more delightful and efficient endeavor. For retailers, AI is the unsung hero in inventory management, ensuring the holiday season is well-stocked and merry.

And let’s not forget AI-powered customer support, with chatbots and virtual assistants ready to assist at a moment’s notice, making the season’s shopping less stressful and more enjoyable. It’s clear that AI isn’t just a futuristic concept; it’s a present-day companion that’s reshaping our festive traditions for the better.

Looking ahead, the future of Christmas shopping with AI holds even more promise. Imagine AI evolving to offer hyper-personalized shopping experiences, where gift suggestions are based not just on past purchases, but also on predictive emotional analysis.

Or consider AI-driven sustainability models, where your shopping choices are guided not only by preferences but also by environmental impact assessments — this is something I can stand behind.

We might even see the rise of fully automated stores, making last-minute Christmas shopping a breeze with AI-driven logistics. As technology continues to advance, these innovations could redefine the essence of festive shopping, making it more personalized, efficient, and eco-friendly. So, as we approach future Christmas seasons, let’s keep our eyes open for these technological wonders. The fusion of AI and the festive spirit promises to make each Christmas not just merrier, but also more magical and meaningful.

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*About me: Hello, my name is Kem-Laurin, and I am one half of the co-founding team of Human Tech Futures. I am currently pursuing a doctoral degree at the University of Waterloo. My research inquires into identity construction through contemporary case studies (judicial) that demonstrate how citizens’ data is collected and utilized. Whether data is illicitly harvested or willingly shared, the resultant algorithmic constructions wield immense power over users whose identities are quantified through information. My research objectives are to (1) develop a critical understanding that will then allow me to (2) produce concrete heuristic principles for use in AI powered design systems (as informed by my professional experience in systems design).

Professionally I practice as a Principal HCD Strategist and Design Thinking Coach. Prior, I led both small and large Design and Research teams at Blackberry Autodesk and also worked at Siemens in both Munich, German, Princeton, USA. In my spare time, I build layered gardens with a tropical vibe while my 135 pound GSD looks on. Today I feel blessed to have traveled to over 25 countries before the world transformed to what it is today; I was able to experience a good breadth of human experiences. Periodically, I give back as an active mentor to my students, and many burgeoning critically thinking HCD Researchers who seek to make the world a better place.

I am also the author of the highly cited 2012 text, User Experience in the Age of Sustainability : A Practitioners' Blueprint. — a noted text in grad design programs, worldwide.

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