It’s like deciding between eating in a restaurant and making your own dinner
Finding the right tools for artificial intelligence (AI) in ecommerce is a bit like choosing between eating at a restaurant or cooking your meals at home. Two new ecommerce AI tools — Shopware AI Copilot and Shopify Sidekick — illustrate this contrast.
Shopware AI Copilot, which is built into the latest commercial releases of the Shopware ecommerce platform, uses artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) to deliver specific benefits. It’s a done-for-you model that works like a bistro or fine-dining restaurant: You select an entrée, side dish, drink, and dessert from a menu, and experts do the rest.
Shopify Sidekick, an AI tool built into the company’s popular ecommerce software platform, is more like a grocery store or farmer’s market: You choose from a vast selection of products and rely on your culinary skills to cook up a satisfying meal.
With all the hype about AI/ML and its ability to revolutionize commerce, it’s tough to make up your mind about the right way to go with AI. Since we all have to eat, the restaurant-vs.-grocery-store analogy provides a familiar decision-making framework.
In this article:
- What the latest wave of AI innovation means to ecommerce
- At the grocery store with Shopify Sidekick
- At the restaurant with Shopware AI Copilot
- Finding the right flavor of AI for your ecommerce site
- Frequently asked questions about Shopify Sidekick and Shopware AI Copilot
The basics: Generative AI, large language models, and their importance to ecommerce
Before we dig too deep into the “Shopware or Shopify?” question, let’s review the basics of artificial intelligence in ecommerce.
In tech circles, the talk of 2023 has been generative AI, which uses massive data sets and sophisticated learning algorithms to generate content. Generative AI can produce pictures, graphics, videos, and text with surprising (and often unnerving) results.
One variant of generative AI uses large language models (LLMs) to produce written text. An online service called ChatGPT connects LLMs to an interface that allows users to ask questions. ChatGPT automatically provides written answers based on the LLM’s prediction of what a human writer would type in the same situation. For instance, if you enter “Explain LLMs in 30 words or less” in ChatGPT, you might get a reply like this:
“Language Model (LLMs) like GPT-3 process text to generate human-like content. They learn patterns from data to respond, translate, create, and assist in various language-related tasks.”
If you’re thinking, “great, I’ll use an LLM to write all my website copy and product descriptions without having to pay a copywriter,” you’re starting to see the potential of generative AI and LLMs. The trouble with LLM-based text is it can only summarize existing written works. It can’t create anything new or original because it lacks human imagination. You can’t expect a bot to cook up Nike’s “Just Do It” or Apple’s “Think Different.”
However, there are creative ways to apply LLMs and generative AI to help your ecommerce site get better business results. The key is knowing how to “prompt” an LLM to give you a bunch of potential options that whet your creative appetite.
Mastering the nuances of prompting and matching the results to your business could require hours of experimentation (or hiring expensive experts to do it for you). Many merchants, especially those in the small to midsize range, don’t have a lot of hours and cash to spare.
If this describes your business, then you should think about the difference between dining out and cooking your own meals.
Shopify Sidekick: Why it’s like visiting the grocer and cooking at home
Think about the last time you were in a grocery store. Wouldn’t it have been handy to have a friend with you who could pick up a few things in the bread aisle and the frozen foods while you’re at the beef counter? That could get both of you out of the store a lot quicker. If your shopping buddy was a character in a big-budget movie, you’d think of him as a sidekick, like Batman’s Robin or Han Solo’s Chewbacca. The hero can’t do everything, after all.
Shopify proposes that your ecommerce shop needs an automated sidekick — a bot that takes on certain jobs and lets you stay focused on the stuff that really matters.
At the time of this writing, Shopify Sidekick had not been released to the public, though some select merchants had access to a preview version of it. So, we’re not going to talk about the specific features of Sidekick. Instead, we’ll extrapolate a few straightforward conclusions from the promises in Shopify Sidekick’s product announcements. Sidekick is marketed as a chat-based interface that lets users ask questions, much like the ChatGPT model. Sidekick’s replies point users toward useful business results in at least three areas: information, automation, and content.
ℹ️ Information: Shopify uses the example of a snowboard company owner wanting to know why sales have slowed this winter. Sidekick’s AI algorithms can analyze all the data in the company’s Shopify database and correlate it with external factors like weather data or snow-sports industry trends. Sidekick’s replies could help the company’s owners find ways to overcome the sales slowdown.
🤖 Automation: Sidekick promises to simplify complex workflows and take time-consuming tasks off a merchant’s to-do list. For instance, if our snowboard company wants to swap out this year’s boards in the springtime and add next year’s models to their ecommerce site, Sidekick could do the job automatically. That’s a huge time-saver.
📝 Content. The snowboard company could use Sidekick’s chat interface to request blog posts, website copy, email messages or social media updates. The bot-written content is prone to inaccuracies and isn’t personalized to the company, so it’s not suitable for publication. But Sidekick could provide a decent first draft, accelerating the path to publication.
Now, let’s get back to our supermarket-vs.-restaurant analogy. A grocery store might have tens of thousands of products on its shelves. The store’s merchandisers know what you might want, but the choices are up to you. Similarly, Sidekick can access the business information in your Shopify database — plus massive volumes of external data.
Sidekick can analyze your data, but it doesn’t really know your business. Thus, it’s up to you to invest your time figuring out what will satisfy your business cravings. Moreover, in the same way that you would create a shopping list based on the meals you want to make next week, you have to map out areas where you think Sidekick can drive the most performance.
When you get your groceries home, you face the complications of cooking meals. If your child falls and skins her knee around dinnertime, your entrée can burn while you’re applying the bandage. Then, you’ll end up eating at a restaurant anyway.
When Sidekick becomes available to the market, it’ll be part of Shopify Magic, a suite of AI-related tools that can work across the company’s software platform. This adds even more options to your potential Shopify ecosystem — and many more variables to work out. If you have the staff, resources, time, and patience to sift through almost limitless possibilities on your own, then Sidekick could be a sound AI solution for your business.
But if you prefer a menu of specific choices that can provide faster, simpler automation results, then Shopware’s AI Copilot might be the solution you’re looking for.
Shopware AI Copilot: Why it’s like eating in a restaurant
You understand the rationale for choosing food carefully, creating a shopping list, and preparing meals yourself. But all that effort takes time and attention away from other priorities. So, you let the restaurant’s management worry about getting you fed.
That’s the foundation of the business case for Shopware AI Copilot, a well-defined suite of specific automation solutions. Compatible with Shopware version 188.8.131.52 and higher, AI Copilot is included in all commercial Shopware plans.
Why call it AI Copilot? Consider the example of a commercial airliner. The pilot commands the aircraft, making the most important executive decisions. The pilot can do everything the copilot can do, but flying an airliner is not a one-person job. So, the pilot delegates specific flight tasks to the copilot while remaining in charge of getting the plane safely to its destination. Thus, you’re always in charge with AI Copilot, but you can assign it specific tasks that can help your business, particularly in sales and marketing.
Shopware AI Copilot has nine tools in three categories:
AI-generated text. While a bot can’t match the skill of a gifted copywriter, it can tell your marketing team where to start when producing blog posts, social media updates, product descriptions, and other marketing collateral. AI Copilot builds automatic text generation into its Shopping Experiences tool, which also can check grammar and translate text into multiple languages.
AI image keyword assistant. Thanks to image-recognition AI, this tool can add keywords to the objects in pictures. Let’s say you’re selling auto parts online, you have a large database of car-parts pictures, and you need a photo for a blog post about choosing winter vs. summer tires. AI image keyword assistant could scan your database and show only the pictures with tires in them, speeding your publication process. The tool also creates ALT image tags, which help boost on-page search engine optimization (SEO).
Custom checkout message. AI Copilot can put a custom message on buyers’ pages during checkout. You can tweak the messaging to match the person and the goods they’re buying, making everything feel more personalized. And you can tell the bot exactly how many words you want, and what kind of tone you prefer. Messages can be tested multiple times to see which ones are most effective.
AI export assistant. If you want to export specific data into a CSV file, AI Export Assistant makes it a lot easier. You can do things like putting recent sales figures in a CSV for import into a spreadsheet, database or analytics application. The AI creates a database query — typically a complex, time-intensive process — that searches for specific information and then flows the findings into a CSV file. This provides a secure export because the AI does not touch any store data. Instead, it accesses data via the database query.
AI-based customer classification. Let’s say 500 people bought the same product on your ecommerce site last week. These people may share traits, habits or other characteristics, like purchase size or coupon usage, that are buried in your store database. Customer classification AI helps you sift out these hidden insights and apply labels to similar customer groupings. You can automatically send customers targeted discounts, for instance, saving the effort of segmenting your offers manually.
AI-generated product properties. AI Copilot can read a product description and create lists of variables like color, length, height, weight, and so on. It then saves this list, so you can see if product updates change the properties. Traditionally, you’d do all this manually, an extremely time-consuming task. Automation flags these variables in seconds, enabling you to rapidly create sophisticated sorting functions for the shoppers on your commerce site.
AI-generated product description. You haven't a product description yet? AI Copilot can write it for you. Create an informative, well-ranking, and audience-tailored product description based on the keywords that are important to you. Choose your keywords carefully or adjust the product description afterward to increase its uniqueness.
AI-generated product review summary. If your products have dozens or hundreds of reviews, then you need a tool to summarize the main points, so your customers don’t have to comb through all that feedback. AI Copilot automatically generates these summaries and posts them to your product pages.
AI-based translation for reviews. Perhaps your product pages come in multiple languages. But what about customer reviews? AI Copilot generates these translations, helping you avoid missing sales because customers can’t read product reviews.
Finding the ideal flavor of AI gives your commerce site a stronger future
As a buyer of meals, you can easily eat at a restaurant three days a week and get your food from the grocery store the rest of the time. Selecting an AI solution for your ecommerce business is not so simple.
Generally, AI tools are baked into software platforms. To get the tool that best fits your business needs and customer demands, you’ll most likely have to embrace one of these platforms.
Shopware and Shopify, two mature, successful enterprises with large, loyal customer bases, embrace the platform model. To figure out which one is best for your enterprise, you’ll need to take a deep dive into their entire platform suite and conduct a thorough analysis of your current technology stack.
Your main goal should be keeping your eyes on what’s coming. The optimum artificial intelligence commerce solution must be able to keep pace with your business goals through all the ups and downs of retailing and the inevitable evolution of new technologies.
Choosing an AI solution will not be as easy as deciding what’s for dinner. But it could be critical to the care and feeding of your business for years to come.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I care about artificial intelligence in ecommerce? Is this just another shiny object technology vendors think I need?
➡️ Generative AI and large learning models (LLMs) hold immense potential because they can find useful patterns buried in immense volumes of data in sources like photographs, videos, and written text. Moreover, they can correlate this data with other information from across society and create content you can use to fire up the creativity of your staff. And you can customize your delivery of products and services while laser-targeting your go-to-market campaigns. If your competitors adopt these AI tools, you’ll have little choice but to join them.
What’s the difference between Shopware AI Copilot and Shopify Sidekick?
➡️ Each tool has similar goals: automating time-consuming processes to make ecommerce businesses more efficient and customer targeting more effective. The primary difference is that Shopware AI Copilot has nine distinct tools that provide immediate benefits. Shopify Sidekick is more open-ended, requiring much more complex decision-making to figure out where it will deliver the most value to a merchant.
What’s the best artificial intelligence solution for ecommerce?
➡️ The best AI solution is the one that dovetails with your specific business needs, customer demands, and technology stack. Shopware and Shopify provide two excellent examples of emerging AI capabilities in commerce, but, ultimately, you must find the ideal fit for your unique circumstances.
About the author: Moritz Naczenski
As a longtime Shopware employee, Moritz has experience in all kinds of areas of our business. As former person responsible for community management and service, he has learned to respond to the challenges and wishes of our customers. This perspective makes him the perfect fit for our product leadership team: As Director Product, Moritz is responsible for the product strategy, roadmap, and innovation at Shopware. Together with his team, he ensures that our products are tackling market & customer needs while incorporating feedback from our various target groups.