Google Taps AI to Show Shoppers How Clothes Fit Different Bodies

Date: 2024-05-21T16:00:00.000Z

Location: www.wired.com

One of the new ad formats Google announced today will allow brands to link short-form videos they made—or ones they hired creators to film—to their advertisements in Google’s search engine. AI-generated text summaries of the clips will be included below. “I’ve got three Gen Z-ers at home, and watching them shop, it’s very video-based,” said Madrigal.

Google also launched a tool that allows companies to create entirely new, AI-generated product images based on photos from earlier marketing campaigns and pictures that represent their brand identity. For example, a home goods brand could upload a picture of one of its candles and an image of a beach, then ask Google to “put the candle on a beach that looks like this one under some palm trees.”

Shannon Smyth, the founder of a perfume and body-care company called A Girl’s Gotta Spa, said she began using Google’s AI image tools last year when the company first began rolling them out as part of software called Product Studio. Initially, Google only allowed merchants to swap the backgrounds on existing product photos and make small tweaks, like increasing the resolution.

“It coincided with struggling to keep up on our social channels with professional-looking photography, and as finances became more strapped I decided to give it a try,” Smyth says. She uses it to generate images for use on social media, in an email newsletter, and on her Amazon store. (Google put Smyth in touch with WIRED to discuss her experiences with its AI products.)

Smyth said Google’s AI tools save time and have gotten better as she has continued using them. “I admit, I was frustrated at first if it would generate images without shadows or reflections, or have an unidentifiable object in the photo,” she explained. “I've found that as I give feedback on every image, those issues begin to get resolved.”

Google is trying to help advertisers create compelling imagery without needing to spend as much of their time and budget on graphic designers, photographers, set designers, and models. That may not be good news for those workers, and if the product images aren’t accurate, shoppers could be left disappointed. But Google hopes AI imagery will make ads more engaging and draw more clicks—boosting its revenue.

Yet the company and its competitors may also be simply helping retailers avoid paying for expensive software like Photoshop or spending so much on creative services. It’s not clear how many customers will necessarily feel compelled to advertise more. Smyth said her company doesn’t purchase ads on Google, despite how much she appreciates Product Studio.

AI-generated advertising is increasingly becoming a fixture of the internet. Earlier this month, Meta began giving advertisers on Facebook and Instagram the ability to generate new versions of existing product photos using AI, after previously offering just AI-generated backgrounds. Meta and Google also allow advertisers to generate marketing copy for their ads.

Amazon announced a similar beta image-generation tool last fall that can also create backgrounds for product photos. Instead of advertising a garden hose against a plain white backdrop, it allows brands to create, say, a scene of a backyard with a garden and trees—no actual dirt required.

The looming question is whether consumers will find AI-generated ads off-putting, if they notice them in the first place. Some fashion brands, including Levi’s and the dressmaker Selkie, have faced backlash from customers after they announced they were experimenting with artificial intelligence. But for many smaller ecommerce companies, the potential benefits of using AI may outweigh the risks.

“Let's face it, small businesses are crumbling like a house of cards. We're barely hanging on,” said Smyth. “It has helped me to stay top of mind to customers and potential customers visually. I'm pretty confident my aesthetic would've tanked or I would've abandoned many social channels without it as an option.”