New Research Reveals the Potential of Commerce in the Age of Generative AI

A recently published report by Mastercard Signals, a series of insight reports from the global technology payment company Mastercard, suggests that artificial intelligence has the power to strengthen consumer engagement, create more efficiency within business operations, support software and more over the next five to seven years.

The recent and widespread democratization of artificial intelligence will transform various sectors including large enterprises, small businesses (SMBs), banking, retail and travel. Furthermore, data-driven industries that control sensitive and critical data will find specialized solutions through generative AI.

AI technology could transform commerce, the report suggests.

In the near future, stand-alone generative AI tools will be used as super tools for customer application and operations efficiency. Operational efficiency tools include knowledge distribution, HR and training, cybersecurity, legal and code writing. Customer application tools include marketing, customer interfaces and service delivery.

The demand by consumers and businesses looking for security, personalization, convenience and automation solutions is predicted to be the major focus areas for generative AI users. Furthermore, the authors of the report note, generative AI will be a useful tool for retail and e-commerce companies to optimize their supply chains, bolster marketing efforts through hyper-personalization and accelerate speed-to-market for new products and services.

Looking ahead, Mastercard Signals is anticipating a rise in AI-to-AI commerce. An AI assistant will interact with other AI services to tailor purchases, schedule deliveries and coordinate payments.

Key players that have emerged as innovators within the AI space include OpenAI, Microsoft, Google and Meta. According to the report, $190 billion was invested into AI by global corporations in 2022 and 140,000 AI-related patents were filed in 2021.

Ken Moore, chief innovation officer and head of Foundry at Mastercard, spoke with WWD to decode the latest developments in generative AI and how retailers and SMBs can utilize the technology to make strategic business decisions.

Fifty percent of companies reported using AI for at least one business application in 2022, as compared to 17 percent in 2017.

Moore predicts in the immediate future (within the next two to three years), there will be a rise in AI-powered shoppers. They will “provide better search and discovery, generate cost-saving analyses, predict purchases, evaluate fit for accuracy and optimize delivery at scale and speed.”

Moreover, Moore notes that this democratization and common usage of generative AI “can transform shopping interactions by making them more intelligent and personalized, which could drive stronger rates of user adoption and loyalty for brands.”

In particular, SMBs will benefit from the technology. AI will be able to provide expertise that largely would be an unaffordable expense — Moore believes that SMBs should expect more opportunities as the retail sector increasingly digitizes. “Generative AI can be leveraged as a ‘digital CMO’, capable of producing images and text to power marketing campaigns and personalize ads based on individual customer data points,” said Moore.

But with all these advancements, experts say generative AI technology has not had proper oversight or the necessary laws and regulations. Challenges have yet to be resolved over data security, transparency and data privacy. “It’s early days for these technologies and we need to navigate challenges, such as the potential misuse of data or false information that are known as hallucinations,” said Moore.

Despite AI technology not being new, generative AI itself is still in its early days. The Mastercard Signals report notes plainly that while the technology is a powerful tool, it still requires human oversight. The safe usage and avoiding mishandling of AI are all dependent upon the overall community’s reaction and taking steps to address its risks and challenges.

“We’ve seen this pattern play out with other emerging technologies and know the critical importance of balancing opportunity with responsible use,” said Moore. “To ensure we move forward in a responsible way, we have dedicated teams from across the company with the right skills and controls to guide our company’s approach. The team members deploying industry-leading expertise include AI engineers, developers, data scientists, designers, researchers and technologists. Mastercard also maintains a robust AI governance program grounded in our data responsibility principles.”

But unlike other emerging technologies that have received early hype, Moore notes that generative AI will be here to stay. Generative AI already has clear use studies, created robust solutions and continues to develop quickly — putting the technology in a position to be a long-lasting part of our future, Moore noted.

Despite these concerns, Moore is hopeful for the opportunities generative AI can bring to the commerce sector. Transforming the customer experience, facilitating personalized interactions and redefining commerce-related industries are just some of what the future holds.

“Mastercard believes that AI in general is a tool that has the transformational potential to touch every aspect of commerce,” said Moore. “It’s an exciting time and we are committed to driving forward responsibly and with guidelines in place, ensuring that our products and services continue to enhance lives, enable businesses and benefit society.”

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