Porter Novelli

In my last post I talked about philanthropy in fashion and how brands are finding success through giving back to the community. In this post, I’ll focus on a panel led by Aki Iida (Head of Mobile, Zappos.com) and Michael Yamartino (Head of Commerce, Pinterest) titled “AI and Your Shopping Habits”.


When thinking about fashion, technology doesn’t usually come to mind, but SXSW certainly changed my point of view. Iida and Yamartino both discussed how their brands are benefiting from AI (artificial intelligence) or machine learning, which they defined as a way of categorizing information – to define commonalities. As technology evolves AI and machine learning are evolving too, making it easier for brands to connect with consumers and provide them with personalized shopping experiences.

Zappos creates different algorithms based on how far customers go with their purchase. They come up with the algorithms after answering a couple of questions – Did the customer just expand a photo and leave the site? Or did they go all the way and purchase the item? These steps hold different weight in the algorithm, which allows Zappos to personalize their advertisements for each customer. Machine learning also keep things like price points in mind when picking advertisements, based on how much a customer spent on their last purchase or how much the items that they searched for cost. Is this personalization free? No. It takes time to collect this data, but as they continue to collect more and more data, the cost continues to decrease.

Pinterest most generally uses machine learning for the “picked for you” section of your home feed. These recommendations come from their catalog of pins and AI finds the most relevant pins for you. While you may think that Pinterest gets these recommendations with the data they collect from keywords in pin descriptions, they actually go beyond just that and analyze the actual images you pin. Through machine learning, they can analyze specifics based on what you choose to get a close up of using their zoom tool:

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Pretty cool huh? Whether you’re a consumer wondering how you’re seeing ads on Facebook of something you just purchased or a brand exploring how you can integrate machine learning into your marketing strategy, it’s important to know these technologies will continue to evolve. Although AI can often feel like an invasion of privacy, the overall goal of brands like Zappos and Pinterest is to bring consumers personalized experiences and make it easy for them to find exactly what they are looking for.