Monday Nov 20, 2023

Diving into Wayfair’s machine learning and AI odyssey

Wayfair's machine learning strategy has been critical to its growth.

The online furniture retailer's machine learning and AI journey started in 2013.

"It was about 'We think we can do better business, make our dollars go longer if we actually optimize this toolkit,'" said Tulia Plumettaz, Wayfair's director of machine learning, during the Targeting AI podcast from TechTarget News.

Wayfair started with putting machine learning technology to work to enhance its marketing. This meant using machine learning and AI technology to find the best medium to place its ads.

Soon, the online retail giant was expanding its use of the technology to price algorithmically and understand how price changes will change demand.

When Wayfair first engaged with AI, the company was mostly a "build shop," meaning it developed its AI and machine learning systems in-house, Plumettaz said.

However, the company has since pivoted to a hybrid approach and started partnering with third-party vendors, notably Google Cloud. Wayfair has also tested generative AI technology from OpenAI, even though the company has historically been a Google shop, Plumettaz said.

"We see the longevity of these partnerships as a mechanism of saying, 'Hey, we can use that to inform product,'" she said. "We see ourselves pretty much with a lot of vendors, as we want to be a partner as you're building your product rather than a transactional relation of, 'I buy a service from you.'"

Regarding generative AI, the retailer has integrated the technology into products such as Decorify, a generative AI design tool. It is also incorporating the technology internally and in some sales operations.

Esther Ajao is a TechTarget news writer covering artificial intelligence software and systems. Shaun Sutner is senior news director for TechTarget Editorial's enterprise AI, business analytics, data management, customer experience and unified communications coverage areas. Together, they host the "Targeting AI" podcast series.


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