When it comes to search engines, companies could work on SEO and paid ads to ensure a top spot. Now with the entrance of ChatBots like ChatGPT, what alternative do these companies have? 

Companies are making sales from ChatGPT, we have to acknowledge that. Take Logikcull, a San Francisco–based legal technology company. Law firms and legal teams use Logikcull’s tools to trawl through documents and surface information sought by investigators. Its services are high touch—the average annual contract value from customers is $28,000—with most of its contracts secured over the phone by a dedicated sales team. But this March, one customer mentioned they’d learned about Logikcull through a prompt response from ChatGPT.  In the last 60 days, Wilson estimates, 5% of Logikcull’s sales leads have come via answers provided by ChatGPT.

Logikcull’s situation may be uncommon but it doesn’t sit alone. Fairing, a New York–based data and survey platform for e-commerce brands, has also reported that dozens of its direct-to-consumer clients are seeing ChatGPT turning up in customer surveys. Customers are writing responses like “I can’t believe I used ChatGPT and it recommended something good enough.” At present, Fairing’s clients report that the proportion of sales initiated by ChatGPT answers are low—less than Logikcull’s 5%. 

However, any company early to this will benefit in a similar way brands early to TikTok managed to pivot their brands to be TikTok-friendly. Those who pivot to be chatbot friendly will benefit the most. 

Chat bots certainly aren’t going anywhere. The AI boom signals a paradigm shift in the field of search engine optimization, with e-commerce entrepreneurs grappling with how to seize that opportunity. The interest in ChatGPT as a sales referral platform has exploded alongside the boom in AI-based chat programs in recent months. Google and Microsoft are now engaged in a race to layer chat based on large-language models into their search products, even going so far as to rebrand them as “answer engines.”

While still in early stages, brands should always be monitoring what is said across these sites, so they know how to respond to customers and how to improve their products. According to Dave Peiris, head of SEO and product at Propellernet, a U.K.-based digital marketing agency, many SEO experts paid close attention to Google’s announcement at its May I/O Event that it will soon be testing a new feature called Search Generative Experience. SGE will insert AI-generated snapshots of responses into its regular (non–AI-generated) search queries, including suggested follow-up questions.

Regarding how quickly chatbots will take over the traditional Google-like search engine, there is debate among e-commerce executives. Most do agree, however that the future will lie in conversational product discovery. 

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