Artificial intelligence continues to expand: Shopify has a new AI chatbot assistant to aid merchants with questions.
The tool, called “Sidekick,” can complete tasks for merchants to save them time, as well as answer questions about details like sales trends within a store. With it, Shopify joins other business software companies that have recently rolled out an AI assistant, from Zoom and its new Intelligent Director tool to Dropbox, which recently announced a pivot to AI tools.
The Shopify AI feature is “coming soon,” according to the announcement, although no more specific timeline has been revealed.
How Shopify's Sidekick Tool Works
The Sidekick tool will live in a sidebar to the right of the traditional Shopify dashboard. Merchants using the Shopify website builder can open it up and type directly into a chat box in order to hold a conversation with the bot.
The company's CEO, Tobi Lutke, broke the news with a Twitter video:
I've got something very exciting to announce:
Entrepreneurs are heroes, and every hero needs a Sidekick ✨ pic.twitter.com/6u3HAPH92b
— tobi lutke (@tobi) July 12, 2023
Examples of how Sidekick can help include explaining sales trends, thanks to Sidekick's access to your website's data, as well as answering frequently asked questions with information from Shopify's online knowledge base. It can also help edit your website theme.
The Rise of AI as Tech Buzzword
The tech world cycles through popular trends on a frequent basis, and the AI revolution is definitely the trend of the year (so far). ChatGPT has earned the most headlines, with Google's Bard and other options also in the running: The winner could deeply impact dozens of industries.
Plenty of other companies have launched or revamped their own AI tools in recent months, capitalizing on the buzzy AI trend. Salesforce is one big example: The CRM platform's AI tool Einstein has been around for years, but a new “Einstein GPT” version was announced in March of this year.
But the concept of an “artificial intelligence” can refer to plenty of wildly different technologies, from chatbots to simple automations that have existed for decades. It's a big bucket, which could be interpreted to mean that the term in general is more useful as a branding exercise than as a claim of a quantifiable benefit.
Are AI Assistants Worth the Hype?
Tech trends don't always last. The Metaverse is already facing PR struggles despite being years away from launching. NFTs don't seem likely to come out of their downward spiral — interestingly, Shopify is among the companies that launched NFTs around this time last year.
Ultimately, Shopify's new AI tool will have to be judged on its own capabilities. There's no reason to assume it won't be useful, though: Time-saving tools are always helpful, particularly for the often-overwhelmed small business managers who operate the ecommerce websites that Shopify powers so well.