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Shopify beefs up AI offerings with new products meant to boost merchants' sales

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Shopify Inc. is boosting the amount of artificial intelligence embedded in its platforms.

The Ottawa-based e-commerce giant revealed a succession of AI-related products Monday during its semi-annual showcase event called Shopify Editions, which spans more than 150 new offerings this round.

Among the buzziest are a new AI tool that will suggest personalized responses merchants can use to reply to customer emails.

AI will also crop up when merchants are looking to categorize their products, suggesting attributes like colour, size, material and style information that businesses can use to increase the discoverability of merchandise and encourage sales.

The new features Shopify is launching come as a race to adopt AI ripples across the globe, pushing an growing number of firms to determine how the technology could be used to turbocharge productivity and efficiency.

The company's offerings build on last summer's event which introduced the world to Sidekick, a chatbot its merchant customers can use to ask questions about business operations such as why sales slowed or what they can do to drive traffic in key months.

While thousands of merchants have early access to Sidekick, it has not fully launched. Shopify says it will keep adding users this year.

The new services are meant to make the company's platform "more powerful," said Harley Finkelstein, Shopify's president, in a statement.

"We're confident these updates will continue to make it easier for our merchants to do what they do best and focus on scaling their businesses," he said.

Away from AI, the company will give Canadian merchants access to a program which allows them to set more precise budgets for social media campaigns and only charges them if new customers make purchases.

Merchants using Shopify's point-of-sale technology will also get the option to generate digital receipts for customers with one touch.

The point-of-sale app will also notify businesses processing a return if the item being brought back is outside of the company's return policy, taking uncertainty out of the hands of retail employees.

The product announcements are timed to a developer's conference Shopify will host at the Enercare Centre in Toronto on Tuesday.

They also come weeks after chief executive Tobi Lutke announced on X, formerly known as Twitter, that his company reached more than $1 trillion in cumulative gross merchandise value -- a measure of goods sold through its platform -- on June 11. Ninety per cent of that value came in the last five years, he said.

Shopify has had a meteoric rise since it was founded in 2006 and routinely goes head-to-head with global goliaths including Amazon.com Inc.

Amid the rivalry, Shopify ramped up its own logistics and fulfilment network but last year, sold the business to Flexport and said it would be refocusing the company away from "side quests" which had diverted attention away from some of its key goals.

As it recalibrated, the business laid off 20 per cent of staff in May 2023 and 10 per cent in 2022.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 24, 2024.

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