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    What Is an AI Writing Assistant — And How Could It Help Brands and Retailers?

    10 minute read
    What Is an AI Writing Assistant — And How Could It Help Brands and Retailers?

    The collective imagination has always unconsciously feared and longed for the emergence of sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI). Whether HAL-9000 or R2-D2, cataclysmic disaster or utopian hope, a simulated mind equal to (or potentially surpassing) our human minds presents many possibilities.

    The power of AI-driven tech hasn’t quite reached the dramatic heights of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine’s musings. However, there have been a number of impressive advancements in recent years, resulting in more businesses deploying these tools — like AI writing assistants, for example.

    For brands and retailers, staying ahead of the competition often means staying in the know when it comes to rising trends — as well as keeping an open mind about leveraging them.

    Explore how an AI writing assistant works, some of its pros and cons, and the benefits of allowing your team to explore this emerging technology.

    What Is an AI Writing Assistant?

    The concept may seem self-explanatory: An AI writing assistant is a program used to automatically develop written copy based on prompts provided by the user.

    Empowered by both complex learning algorithms and natural language processing tools, these platforms render their findings into neatly developed text that often sounds a lot more “human” than you might expect. 

    Beyond the obvious, there are a number of other practical-yet-powerful applications of AI writing assistants worth noting, such as:

    • Product description generation;
    • Editing existing content based on defined parameters;
    • Elementary topic research;
    • Developing content ideas for your copywriters; and
    • Compiling formulaic reports.

    Though this is a robust list of capabilities, some AI systems, Skynet or not, have led to controversy and some concern about their ethical use.

    Particularly, AI platforms like GPT-3 (for writing) and DALL-E 2 (for creating visual art) have been at the center of a great deal of debate — not only regarding the nature of human expression and creativity, but also the benefits and limitations of these new technologies.

    This might beg the question, can AI assistants replace writers?

    Entirely? Not likely. AI writing assistants will likely become a mere part of “the writer’s room.” But with that being said, the technology does stand to revolutionize the way ecommerce marketers think about content in the years ahead. 

    How To Write Great (Not OK) Product Copy

    Work smarter, not harder, with this free template and toolkit to help you engage shoppers and boost product discovery.


    How Can an AI Writing Assistant Be Helpful in Ecommerce?

    If you’re reluctant to give AI assistants a chance, there are some benefits, particularly for developing ecommerce content.

    Enhance Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

    Thanks to their ability to swiftly analyze data at a tremendous scale, AI writing assistants can create highly optimized content that’s not only relevant for their shoppers but search engine web crawlers as well.

    Whether allowing the platform to develop copy from scratch, or simply deploying it to enhance human-created content, the insights derived from machine learning can go a long way in making sure your products stand out in search results. 

    Develop Relevant Product Descriptions

    Content like product descriptions are ideal for AI writing assistants: Here, customers will forgive less creativity but still expect precise information.

    It’s why many brands have used AI to automate the development of their product descriptions. AI not only frees up your writers to focus on more creative assets in your pipeline, but its processing power can also identify vast patterns in customer behavior that might be otherwise missed by human analysts — and optimizes your product descriptions accordingly.

    Of course, any AI-generated copy will likely require the review of a human marketer before publishing — though, with its help, most of the work will be done before you even start. 

    Automating Content at Scale

    Beyond product descriptions, your writing team may be faced with other tedious tasks, such as updating existing content to meet new style requirements, or personalizing/localizing dozens of iterations of the same copy.

    If you need to produce a great amount of content — and are a little flexible on the need for a creative spark — an AI assistant can automate a great deal of what would normally be a headache of a project. 

    Ensuring a Consistent Voice

    It’s a lot easier to maintain a consistent voice when you have a single writer. AI writing assistants providing even foundational first drafts will help you maintain your brand’s tone from piece to piece. 

    The Drawbacks of Using AI Writing Assistants in Ecommerce

    While there are benefits to bringing AI writers to your team, there are some drawbacks to consider.

    Machines Have a Weird Way of Thinking

    It may feel a little unfair to critique AI writers as potentially prone to error — after all, human writers make mistakes all the time.

    However, it’s important to remember these systems, while undoubtedly complex and powerful, are still merely machines requiring careful human oversight.

    Consider this passage from the introduction to a companion blog piece, “This Blog Post Was Written by an AI Bot — Could Your Product Descriptions Be Next?,” written in its entirety by an AI writing assistant:

    “Artificial intelligence (AI) is slowly but surely changing the way we write product descriptions. In the past, most product descriptions were written by humans.” 

    Though technically true, many human writers would remove “most” from that phrase. Even better writers would simply drop the sentence entirely, as it’s a claim so obvious it becomes nearly redundant to mention. (What other creatures are out there writing product descriptions?)

    Employing an AI assistant will often involve a balancing act of utilizing its analytical power while “humanizing” its final product. That might not work for every project. 

    Content Tends To Be Boring

    If you’re looking to develop a wildly creative blog entry, deeply emotionally resonant content asset, or even a “hot take,” taking the advice of an AI writing assistant might not be your best approach. 

    Human writers may be admittedly biased when it comes to this question, but AI assistants tend to be better at creating straightforward, fact-based copy, rather than something conceptual or creative. Think Joe Friday on Dragnet: “Just the facts.” That’s your AI writing assistant’s comfort zone.

    And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, if your brand leans heavily on creative marketing to stand out from the competition, you might be let down by some of the limitations of present AI technology to develop truly creative, memorable, or unusual copy. 

    A Lot More To Edit

    Though an AI writing assistant can produce a first draft at nearly lightning speed compared to a mere human writer, be prepared for a more tedious editing process. These platforms are outfitted with some very powerful language processing tools but aren’t ideal.

    In an example AI-generated blog post, the passage created to describe how the system can help “improve the quality of your writing” actually contains some pretty clunky phrasing itself. 

    “There are many benefits to using AI to write product descriptions. One of the main benefits is that AI can help to improve the quality of your writing. AI tools can help you to avoid common writing mistakes, such as typos, and can also help you to improve the flow and readability of your writing.”

    (A more concise human writer might edit this to say, “AI tools can help you avoid common writing mistakes while improving the flow and readability of your writing.”)

    Even with less-than-perfect prose, AI writers might save you valuable time for other projects — but remember, you’re editing something an algorithm spat out, not an experienced human copywriter.

    Should My Brand Use An AI Writing Assistant?

    It’s clear that AI writers have their pros and cons. However you feel about them — and whether or not your company ultimately decides to use them — there is some value in introducing your team to these platforms and new technologies.

    Developing a concrete understanding of the ways brands are using AI, how it works, as well as its strengths and limitations, will only empower your team and hopefully serve as a springboard to adopt newer, related technologies as they become available.

    There’s always some benefit in maintaining familiarity with emerging trends and technology and experimenting with them — even if obvious solutions don’t always immediately present themselves.

    Are These the Droids You’re Looking For?

    While AI technology has undergone some tremendous strides over the past decade, so far, it doesn’t seem like robots are coming to replace writers in the near future.

    However, understanding the various functions and applications of AI writing assistants can put your team at a tremendous competitive advantage, especially as these platforms become increasingly powerful and popular in ecommerce spaces.

    Want Great — Not Just OK — Product Copy?

    Customers need (not just want) great product content, and this includes product descriptions. Check out Salsify’s “How to Write Great (Not OK) Product Copy” for expert insights on developing engaging product copy that drives results.


    Written by: Chris Caesar

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