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The Impact of AI Search

November 8, 2023
The impact of AI-powered search

Generative AI is changing how we search, shop, and work

Search has become so integral to our lives that it has effectively replaced people, books, and maps for finding things, places, and advice. The most common answer to any inquiry is: “Google it”. And now, this trusted assistant has undergone a major transformation: search is now powered by generative AI. 

This development is so new that many internet users are not aware of it yet, and even technology experts are not clear on what the eventual impact of generative AI-powered search will have on customer behavior, website traffic, digital marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO). However, some global enterprises have started implementing generative AI search tools into their operations with positive results. 

What Generative AI Is, Really

Generative AI systems like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard rely on large language models (LLMs). LLMs are a type of neural network trained on large volumes of data. Generative AI models look for patterns and structures in the data to create fresh content. The term “generative AI” refers to the ability of the algorithms to, not only learn from data, but also generate original data. We have seen generative AI rapidly moving from producing articles and blogs to generating images, videos, audio, and even code. In January 2023, while speaking to Yahoo Finance, AI thought leader, Nina Schick, said that 90% of online content will be generated by AI by 2025. Her prediction has since been widely quoted on the internet, and is still TBD.

What Is AI-Powered Search?

Generative AI search uses a combination of machine learning models and other AI technologies to produce accurate content in response to a query. AI-powered search eliminates the need to comb through the reams of suggestions that pop up on your screen. This technology delivers more comprehensive results, such as AI-generated content in addition to website links. 

AI Search Vs. Traditional Search – How It Works and What It Delivers

Traditional search engines use complex algorithms to crawl and index websites using keywords and other SEO factors like the number and quality of backlinks, site speed, and so forth. The search engine compares the keywords to its indexed pages and produces a list based on the matching keywords plus a plethora of ranking factors. Search results are a direct result of the search terms used. This approach does not necessarily produce the best results. For example, if a user’s query doesn’t contain a specific keyword, the search may return an unusable result. Also, keyword-stuffed content can deliver useless results.

Generative search engines don’t focus on keywords. AI search uses natural language processing (NLP) to understand user intent and create context for queries. These systems aim to understand why the query is being made in order to give relevant answers that make sense. This approach results in the chat-like nature of the service, enabling humans to “chat with” search engines.

ai-powered search

Can You Trust AI-Powered Search?

Generative AI has a reputation for coming up with falsehoods. The introduction of the ChatGPT-powered Bing search engine underscored this dilemma when it produced nonsensical and incorrect answers to user questions. MIT experts warn that the technology is not ready to be used for search on a big scale. LLMs specialize in predicting the next word but don’t understand what words mean or why they follow each other in certain ways. For this reason, it’s not prudent to use them for search, which must provide factually correct answers. Both Microsoft and Google are taking steps to produce more accurate AI-generated search results by linking the results to sources. You can click on the source link and verify whether the source is trustworthy and authoritative. So the answer to the question is: don’t trust the results at face value. Verify the quality of the sources the AI used. 

The Impact of Generative AI Search Online 

It is still early days, and we will only see the full effect of generative AI search in the coming months and quarters. Here are some consequences we might see in the near future: 

  • Organic Traffic Decline
    Most experts predict that organic traffic to websites will decline as a result of AI search. They reason that the AI-generated answers will be comprehensive enough for most queries, so internet users won’t need to visit one or more websites for additional information. For answers to simple informational queries the number 1 spot will no longer be an important goal.
  • Enhanced Product Discovery 
    AI search can make product discovery easier for shoppers. Because AI-empowered search engines understand user intent, they can deliver relevant results fast, right on the results pages. When a user clicks on one of the product blocks that open up in the generative results, a list of online stores appears that sell the product or similar products.
  • More Time Spent On Results Pages and Less Time on Webpages
    No one knows how generative AI-based search will pan out, but most experts postulate that internet users will get what they need from their search on results pages, so they won’t need to continue to a website. It is predicted that users will spend more time engaging generative AI in their search rather than reading information on a webpage.
  • Marketers Can No Longer Rely On Website Traffic to Drive Leads
    If users shift their behavior to spend more time searching with generative AI, website traffic may decline and, with it, leads and conversions. Marketers may have to develop strategies to make AI chat integral to their marketing campaigns. This step will enable immediate and personalized service to customers.
the impact of AI-powered search

The Benefits of AI-Powered Search Engines for Business

AI-powered search solutions enhance internal search because they can index unstructured data from disparate sources across the enterprise so employees can search for information in a single location. The analysis of this data, which includes data that originates from text, images, and videos was previously challenging to analyze effectively.

For employees, AI search provides a single interface to search instead of multiple content repositories. With instant access to data throughout the enterprise, AI search eases business processes and increases profits because work can be done in a shorter time. AI search can also find anomalies in data stemming from fraud or other irregularities, which is not always easy for humans to spot. Here are a few more benefits for businesses integrating AI-powered search for business processes and ecommerce:

  1. Companies can leverage generative AI search to summarize all relevant information in blogs, articles, reports, how-to guides, and so forth to educate customers about the products they’re considering while on their site. This content can then be indexed and served up off-site in AI searches, increasing education and possibly sales.
  2. Customized customer service. Interactive chatbots embedded in AI search engines can understand user intent and provide answers contextually. Through engaging in a conversation, users receive personalized assistance with their queries.  An enhanced experience can increase NPS scores and decrease escalations.
  3. AI-powered search can use information based on queries received from customers to generate targeted emails, reports, website content, and marketing materials, significantly boosting productivity. 
  4. Data-driven marketing campaigns. With access to multiple data sources within the company, AI can provide valuable customer insights, and spot trends in customer behavior and demands, enabling the system to predict future preferences and behavior. Companies can use this information to fine-tune their marketing campaigns, leading to higher order averages, fewer abandoned carts, and increased sales.
  5. Enables a B2C buying journey in a B2B environment. Innovation often starts in the B2C space, but B2B customers are now more than ever demanding seamless, intuitive B2B buying experiences.

Data Sources for AI-Generated Search

When a company leverages AI-generated search, the technology is used across the data ecosystem, including CRM, PIM, DAM, and other systems. This step enables companies to make the best use of their data, delivering personalized services and customer experiences based on actual data.  

Leveraging CRM Data

Data living in the CRM system is a goldmine that AI search can analyze at speed to deliver all the information needed about customer behavior and preferences in order to create targeted marketing initiatives. AI search can leverage the same data to make personalized product or content recommendations for site visitors, potentially generating leads or converting customers. 

Leveraging Digital Asset Management Systems (DAMs)

Companies that make use of DAM as a centralized repository for digital assets, can leverage AI-generated search to retrieve suitable images, videos, and other assets to assist with the creation of content for marketing purposes. Using generative AI search with DAM will make assets easy and quick to find and retrieve.

Leveraging PIM Data 

Product Information Optimization (PIM) data can be further enhanced with AI-generated search, which can identify incomplete product descriptions and complete them so they are optimized. AI can also generate consistent and accurate product data throughout all channels, link similar products together, suggest upgrades, or supporting products and bundles.

TMG Partners with Client to Leverage AI Search Solution 

TMG recently partnered with a residential and commercial property client to help expand its search capability. The client realized its website needed enhanced search capabilities in order to improve customer experience and gather better business data. The expert team at TMC assisted the client with implementing Coveo. Coveo is a market-leading AI-powered solution that improves customer experience with recommendations and personalization while providing actionable business intelligence to support business decisions.

TMG and Coveo have brought the client: 

  • Advanced AI-powered search capability
  • Improved data collection and analysis
  • Improved customer search experience
  • Targeted marketing functionality for e-commerce campaigns
  • Easy Coveo API management

Ultimately, introducing Coveo’s generative AI search has brought the client a competitive advantage in B2B search capability. If you want your business to benefit from AI-powered search, contact TMG to evaluate and implement a new search solution for your business. As with any new hot technology, the dust of hypothetical opportunity will settle and real-world applications will begin to prove its value. In this case, businesses looking to do more with their data – for the betterment of their business and their customers – are seeing real results from implementing AI-powered search.

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