Merchant Innovation

The AI Shopping Assistant For More Than Retail

It can seem like every startup and its venture capitalist mother has an artificial intelligence shopping assistant these days, but somehow the product hasn’t made as big a splash as expected with consumers. Perhaps — startup Mezi is banking on — shoppers need AI assistants not to find the perfect pair of shoes but instead to cut out the busywork from their lives.

According to TechCrunch, Mezi released just such a product today — an AI shopping assistant that uses an SMS-like interface to help customers get what they want, whatever that may be. Using an algorithm called Smart Assist, Mezi parses users’ plaintext into critical bits of information, which are then passed onto human operators that complete the requests. Although Swapnil Shinde, founder of Mezi, told TechCrunch that the ratio between manpower and computer analysis sits around 80–20 at the moment, he hopes to swap those numbers and have Mezi run primarily off AI architecture for the benefit of employees and users alike.

“We’re almost to the point where requirements are very clear so our experts don’t waste time clarifying each request and can come up with recommendations instead,” Shinde told TechCrunch. “We want to reduce the pain point where experts have to do stuff that is repetitive across different questions. That’s one of our differentiating factors.”

Instead of operating as a catch-all AI assistant, Shinde explained that Mezi is intended as a tool customers should turn to for excessively onerous tasks, like searching for out-of-stock items or booking complicated travel plans. As such, Mezi plans on keeping away from partnerships with other brands, as that may limit the AI’s ability to search for the most applicable deals instead of the best promoted ones. However, Shinde did say that Mezi will work with affiliates to offer discounts and deals on certain item categories, though they won’t be limited to specific brands.

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