Shopify, like countless other Big Tech brands, is leaning into generative AI.
At its bi-annual Editions conference, the ecommerce company announced an expanded set of features under Shopify Magic, Shopify’s catchall brand for generative AI.
As of today, Shopify Magic can provide answers to merchants’ customers tailored to their conversation histories and store policies, and generate blog post, product descriptions and marketing email content. And, via a new chatbot-like AI tool called Sidekick, Shopify can understand and interpret questions or prompts related to business decision making.
“We believe it’s our responsibility to keep the businesses we power on the cutting edge of technology,” Miqdad Jaffer, Shopify’s head of product for AI, told TechCrunch in an email interview. “There’s still so much untapped potential for AI and entrepreneurs, and we’re deeply committed to making the power of AI accessible to businesses of all sizes.”
Jaffer explained that the new Shopify Magic capabilities are powered by a combination of proprietary Shopify data, including merchant business data, paired with available large language models (LLMs) like OpenAI’s ChatGPT — architected in a way that data and conversations aren’t shared with third parties.
Leveraging that data and those models, Shopify Magic can now generate blog posts for events like holidays, business milestones and campaign ideas, offering merchants the ability to customize the tone of voice and translate content into different languages. In addition — as alluded to — Magic can now create content for customer emails from prompts just a few words in length, automatically writing weekly newsletters, announcements and more.
Given the tendency of LLMs to write content that isn’t true, or even biased and toxic content, Shopify merchants are given the chance to review copy from Magic before it goes live, Jaffer stressed. And as an added safety measure, Shopify’s AI features are never allowed to write or make changes to any Shopify production systems, he added.
Perhaps the highlight of Shopify’s announcements today is Sidekick, a conversational AI assistant that’s trained to “know and understand all of Shopify,” as Jaffer puts it.
Sidekick can understand questions along the lines of “How do I set up a discount for a holiday sale?” and “Help me segment my customers so I can better engage them in my marketing,” while performing tasks like summarizing information across sales documents and performing basic product research. Moreover, Sidekick can be instructed to accomplish specific to-do items such as creating reports showing a merchant’s best-selling products or walking a merchant through an email campaign orchestration tutorial.
Sidekick also has the power to modify Shopify merchant shop designs. Among other things, it can add product collections to a home page, or suggest themes and copy for a hero banner.
In a demo video tweeted by Shopify co-founder and CEO Tobi Lütke a few weeks ago, Sidekick is shown answering a series of questions from a snowsports supply merchant. Asked why sales dipped from March to July, Sidekick responds that it was probably due to minimal snow, serving a chart showing sales volumes month-by-month. Then, asked by the merchant to “put everything on sale,” Sidekick suggests a 10% automatic discount on all products in the merchant’s store.
From all appearances, Sidekick is basically like an ecommerce-tuned version of ChatGPT — and Jaffer said that’s the point.
“We believe that there isn’t any corner of the internet that will benefit more from AI than the pursuit of people building and growing their own businesses,” Jaffer said. “Features [like Sidekick] are constantly evolving to tailor to and act on the needs of our merchants.”