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Sora, World Simulators, and The Future of Commerce

Will AI diminish what makes a brand special? | AI’s impact in everyday marketing | Happy developers are productive developers

Greetings! This issue of The Fringe is a bit late. I got food poisoning last week. It’s a great reminder that the smallest things (microbacteria) can have the biggest impact.

Ugh. We’ll keep this one very short-ish…

Table of Contents

Let’s go.

Sora, World Simulators, and The Future of Commerce

No doubt you’ve seen Sora, OpenAI’s “video generator”, that produces results like this (sound effects by Elevenlabs):

Powerful. But how do you think they describe this tool?

  • Video generator?

  • Video creation tool?

  • Photo-realistic AI generation?

Well, OpenAI has a suggestion, and probably one you weren’t expecting:

World Simulator

You can read more about this in their blog post.

But what gets me is the concept: the ability to simulate worlds. And that got me thinking: what could this mean in an eCommerce environment?

Here are five crazy ideas of how this technology could impact the future of eCommerce:

  1. Virtual try-ons. These platforms already exist, but imagine feeding something like Sora with your product catalog. It could show shoppers different models of all shapes, sizes, and ages and generate something close to who they are.

  2. In-store product demos. Imagine seeing products addressing your unique use case or problem, including context-specific scenarios.

  3. Kill the website as we know it. Imagine a simulated store model built just for you. Too far? What if you feed it your shopping preferences and get a personalized-to-you video tour?

  4. Bring product reviews to life. Ok, sure, it can't replicate real people, but it can at least simulate them. Imagine an avatar that brings product reviews to life through unique voices and gestures, perhaps even exaggerating their words for effect.

  5. Make complex-to-use products more simple. You can create more educational content for products with complex or specific-to-you sizing, calibration, or complex use cases. Now you can really show people how it's done.

People are right to expect Sora to disrupt journalism; even Hollywood was put on notice.

But it’s definitely coming to business and marketing, it’s just a matter of when?

In what ways do you think Sora (or its technology) could evolve into a powerhouse for eCommerce? When?

The Latest

Dating and Companionship AI

People are lonely. In fact, 36% of all Americans—including 61% of young adults and 51% of mothers with young children—feel “serious loneliness.”

It’s also documented that people are prone to anthropomorphize AI and assign it human-like qualities, particularly if it demonstrates some semblance of emotion and empathy.

So this was just a matter of time:

From people asking AI to help spruce up their dating profiles, to just saying “To hell with it,” and people seeking a romantic connection with AI.

The first story makes all the sense in the world to me, but a romantic connection with AI?


TikTok and Meta are racing to make Voice Replication AI available to everyone

The first question is, why would you allow people to replicate anyone’s voice? Surely, this will lead to all kinds of shenanigans.

But Bytedance and Meta believe it will lower the barrier to making more audio content. In the hands of creators, sounds great. In the hands of bad actors, not so much.

The Xs

Brand Experience

Will AI diminish what makes a brand special?

What are your favorite products? Are there qualities or features about them that you just adore, even if others don’t get why you do?

We like what we like. No getting around that. But what happens when we make purchases through an AI assistant that perhaps doesn’t have a strong connection to your brand?

Which brands will stand out when the AI is just being “objective” about a particular product and giving you “just the facts, ma’am,” versus bonafide brand experiences?

The following article highlights:

  • AI's Influence on Purchasing: AI assistants will prioritize products based on objective criteria and personal user preferences, diminishing the traditional influence of brand loyalty.

  • Brand Meritocracy: A product's intrinsic quality and value become more important than its brand name, pushing brands to focus on genuine quality and innovation.

  • Adapt or die: Merchants must adapt their strategies to appeal to AI and human customers by emphasizing product quality and leveraging data for better customer experiences.

For example, you can book travel through AI now. The AI doesn’t care about a brand, but evaluating flights and hotels based on criteria you set. Sure, you might have preferences going into the transaction, but the AI could sway you to another “brand”, as long as it meets your criteria, and maybe a few other factors you never even considered.

From the article:

For everyone, AI-enabled Brand Meritocracy shifts additional focus onto improving brand experiences. Like outsourcing memorization of phone numbers to our phones, the task of remembering the name of an excellent product can be outsourced as well, so drilling in recall through advertising is less important than creating impactful moments.

We’re entering this world very soon. How will you stand out even more?

Marketing Experience

AI’s impact in everyday marketing

Here’s a podcast from a local station in Minnesota talking everything AI. Worth a listen:

User Experience

A discussion on conversational AI, context, and the importance of human judgment

For all you designers and UXers out there, this one’s for you:

"Curation is King. Content used to be king - content's going to be so easy to create by everyone that it's going to be the curation of that we're already seeing it in the migration back to newsletters and roundups and these taste makers deciding what is worth it."

"By design not by necessity we're going to as humans want to be in the loop on the decisions that these systems make we want to make sure they run it past us even if it's just to feel a sense of agency and happiness in our lives."


Customer Experience

Should Customer Success extend beyond success with the product?

Our CS team lead will probably hate me for this. She works so hard to help clients achieve their goals, and then I read this article, and I got to thinking.

Customer Success is already such a value-generating function in any company. But what if customer success extends beyond the product's success and morphs into a strategic partnership? What could this mean? From the article:

Transitioning to a partner role signifies a fundamental change. As partners, your company must understand customers’ business objectives, goals, and challenges. The focus shifts from merely selling your product or service to becoming a vested ally in customer success.

It’s different, but as the most front-facing role in most companies, CS teams can be the difference between brand trust and brand avoidance, between retention and churn.

Employee Experience

Happy developers are productive developers

Do you think developers are people, too? Ha! Of course you do, but how we treat them in practice is what matters, right?

According to Andrew Boyagi, who currently leads the DevOps Evangelism team at Atlassian, says the following:

There’s an unhealthy obsession with companies looking for a way to measure developer productivity.

Andrew Boyagi

According to Andrew, the impulse to “measure everything,” and in particular, people’s productivity, can backfire.

So, show some love to your developers. More here:

Data Experience

US customers are more brand loyal—and more demanding

From the article:

78% of U.S. consumers are willing to pay more to shop with the brands they’re loyal to, an increase of 8% compared to last year’s report, according to Marketing technology firm Marigold’s 2024 United States Consumer Trends Index Report. This figure is notably higher than the 63% reported among global consumers.

More here:

Final thoughts

Lots of change in the air. Don’t forget to tell someone you haven’t told in a while that you love them.

Have a great week ahead.


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