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Demoing a recent retail ChatGPT plugin and learning from the company how consumer-facing AI projects come about - and how well they work.

Companies across industries are rolling out AI customer support. But, what does that process look like? Online jewelry retailer James Allen is experimenting with a ChatGPT plugin for a new AI customer service assistant and Chief Marketing Officer Shannon Delany-Ron let us in on the process to see what it looks like when a company first dips its toes into a new technology.

Let's Build an AI Assistant

Right now, there are two main reasons that a company might start exploring AI: because it's the shiny new thing, and because they believe that it can help them offer products and services to potential clients and customers. These aren't mutually exclusive reasons. For most companies exploring AI, the motives are a combination of both.

"We are always looking for ways to advance our shopping experience and to incorporate the most cutting-edge technology into what we do. We are the first jewelry retailer to offer a ChatGPT plugin that incorporates AI into the shopping experience," Delany-Ron told THE DECODER. "The goal is to empower our customers to make the most educated and informed buying decision."

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According to Delany-Ron, a team of three developers worked for three weeks to develop and optimize the plugin, with much of that time being ensuring that everything was within OpenAI's guidelines for development.

A Step From the Current Systems?

As of this writing, the ChatGPT plugin has been available to the public for just over a month and it's still not the standard search system in part because visitors need to have a ChatGPT account to use the plugin. So, what are the default alternatives? I went hunting for a turquoise engagement ring - ideally like the one that I used to propose to my real-life wife.

Navigating the James Allen jewelry inventory through online menus.
The current James Allen website navigation tools are comprehensive. Is AI better? Image: Jon Jaehnig | THE DECODER

Navigating the site using just menus, most searches involve nine different search parameters including the type of diamond or gemstone, the material of the band, and cost ranges. Perfectly acceptable products can slip through the cracks if all the parameters aren't just so. While I thought that setting all the fields was fun, it wasn't the most convenient way to find what I was looking for.

The James Allen search feature.
The James Allen website already supports search and live customer support. Image: Jon Jaehnig | THE DECODER

Just searching for basic terms generated more results - including more of the kind of thing that I was looking for - but didn't let me easily search for items within a price range, for example.

What about actually chatting with an expert? It works - the human experts are friendly and knowledgeable if they can take a bit longer to respond. They're good at troubleshooting the site but I have a feeling that the chatbot might be better at helping me find something that fills my strange request.

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Testing the Plugin

Responses from the James Allen Chat GPT Plugin.
The James Allen ChatGPT Plugin produces great responses that might not always exist. Image: Jon Jaehnig for MIXED

The ChatGPT plugin asks for a few basic aspects of what you're looking for - the type of jewelry, budget, and preferred metal type. In this way, it's more comprehensive than the basic search but easier to use than the page menus.

"As the plugin has only been available to consumers for about a month, we haven’t seen its full potential yet. We have seen customers using it to help inform their shopping experiences, and we look forward to watching how the searches develop," said Delany-Ron. "Incorporating technology, including our ChatGPT plugin, is something we always look to do as a brand and will continue to find new innovations in the future."

The plugin is faster than the conventional chat. And it turns up a lot of great results. But, at the moment, there's a catch.

Requires Paid Subscription to ChatGPT

Beginning a conversation with the James Allen ChatGPT plugin.
Curious users can chat with the James Allen plugin, but it requires a paid account to work properly. Image: Jon Jaehnig | THE DECODER

To just chat with the plugin, you need a ChatGPT account. With a basic account, the plugin is conversational and can be a source of inspiration but isn't the ideal salesperson - it imagines products that sound nice but don't exist. It even provides links, but they don't go to real sites.

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At this stage of the technology, this can be seen as a soft roll-out as not everyone out there has (or is necessarily interested in) a ChatGPT subscription. The interesting thing will be to see what happens as we see more early adopters like James Allen integrate plugins like this. Will ChatGPT's free model become more robust, or will more people see a subscription as being worth their money?

The Pursuit of Progress

James Allen has proven itself an innovator with this activation. The activation itself is only accessible to fellow innovators. It will be interesting to see what the future of AI-assisted luxury retail brings.

It's possible that the still-expensive chat technology will become cheaper, allowing companies like James Allen to offer high-quality support chatbots right on the website, using AI to personalize and scale their service.

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Summary
  • James Allen, an online jewelry retailer, is testing a ChatGPT plugin for an AI customer service assistant to improve the shopping experience and help customers make informed buying decisions.
  • The ChatGPT plugin, built by a team of three developers in three weeks, has been available to the public for just over a month.
  • The plugin offers a more comprehensive search experience than basic search and is easier to use than website menus, but currently requires a paid subscription to ChatGPT to function properly.
Jon Jaehnig is a freelance journalist focusing on emerging technologies.
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Join the DECODER community on Discord, Reddit or Twitter - we can't wait to meet you.