Could AI Make Retail Salespeople Obsolete? How Amazon’s New Tool May Change How You Shop

Amazon recently rolled out a new artificial intelligence tool that can answer shoppers’ questions about products, marking the latest move by the e-commerce giant to integrate generative AI into its platform.

But while the feature aims to enhance customers’ shopping experience, some wonder if it could ultimately replace human roles – specifically, retail salespeople.

The new tool, confirmed by an Amazon spokesperson, prompts mobile app users to ask questions about a particular product listing.

How Amazon's New Tool May Change How You Shop

Within seconds, it generates a response by summarizing key information collected from reviews and product details.

For example, shoppers can ask about sizing, materials, fit, or functionality, and the AI will scan existing data to provide an answer.

This could allow customers to quickly get common questions addressed without having to pore through paragraphs of reviews or product descriptions.

However, it also handles creative prompts: when asked to describe a women’s vest in the style of Yoda or compose a haiku about a product, the tool obliges with humorously accurate results.

The conversational capability gives the feature a human-like feel – but that’s precisely what worries some industry experts. With the tool’s ability to respond conversationally on a vast range of product topics, will retail sales associates soon become obsolete?

While Amazon insists this is just a supplemental tool for shoppers, it’s easy to see how this could reduce reliance on human salespeople,” says retail analyst Nathan Richardson. “If the AI provides fast, tailored guidance for customers’ product questions, they’ll be less inclined to track down an in-store employee for help.”

For shoppers increasingly accustomed to self-service, that may be a welcome change. But it could significantly disrupt the retail workforce.

Salesperson positions are already dwindling industry-wide, with many blaming online shopping convenience. Adding AI guidance to the mix accelerates the shift away from human interaction.

“I could see stores having a dedicated ‘AI kiosk’ instead of a customer service desk in the next couple years,” Richardson speculates. “That would cut labor costs while improving the self-service experience that consumers expect now.”

Advocates argue AI can enhance customers’ shopping journey without fully replacing human roles, however. “Thoughtful integration of AI as a supplement to sales associates’ expertise builds the best model,” says retail futurist Carmen Broussard. “There are valuable elements that AI simply can’t replicate, like emotional intelligence and relationship-building.”

Still, the bigger questions remain: where do we draw the line between AI augmentation versus automation? And how can workers upskill to stay relevant as AI takes on a growing range of tasks?

“As generative AI explodes, every industry needs to reevaluate workforce strategy,” Broussard advises. “Make sure employees have opportunities to expand their strengths – the uniquely human abilities that AI can’t match.”

For now, Amazon maintains its AI will simply give shoppers more autonomy. But make no mistake: generative technology will fundamentally alter retail. This latest feature provides a glimpse of how even sales roles could transform sooner than we think.

About the author

Meet Alauddin Aladin, an AI enthusiast with over 4 years of experience in the world of AI Prompt Engineering. He embarked on his AI journey in 2019, starting with the impressive GPT-2 model. Since December 2022, he has dedicated himself full-time to researching and unraveling the possibilities of AI Prompt, particularly the groundbreaking GPT models.

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