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Amazon launches Rufus AI assistant, doubling down on retail gen AI push

Amazon Rufus AI will be able to answer a variety of customer queries about products and services for US users of its online marketplace.

By Greg Noone

Amazon has announced the release of a new generative AI shopping assistant. Named ‘Rufus’, the application will answer simple questions about products and services on Amazon’s online marketplace. The Amazon Rufus tool was launched in beta form yesterday and will be rolled out in the next few weeks to US customers using the Amazon Shopping app. 

“Rufus is a generative AI-powered expert shopping assistant trained on Amazon’s extensive product catalog[ue], customer reviews, community Q&As, and information from across the web to answer customer questions on a variety of shopping needs and products,” said the company. “Rufus meaningfully improves how easy it is for customers to find and discover the best products to meet their needs, integrated seamlessly into the same Amazon shopping experience they use regularly.”

Two images of the Amazon Rufus AI assistant in action on mobile devices.
Amazon’s new Rufus AI assistant will be able to assist US shoppers with questions about specific items and supply them with broader product recommendations. (Photo by Amazon)

The capabilities of Amazon Rufus

Amazon added that Rufus will be able to answer a variety of consumer queries. These include questions related to general product research, comparisons between different product types, queries about specific products and recommendations about gifts (“What are good gifts for Valentine’s Day?” was one such example volunteered by Amazon.) US customers seeking to test out Rufus’ capabilities will be able to do so when they next update the Amazon Shopping App on their mobile devices. 

The big tech firm was careful to remind customers, however, that not all suggestions made by the tool may prove useful – a wise addendum, perhaps, when headlines about generative AI assistants insulting users or their own companies abound. “It’s still early days for generative AI, and the technology won’t always get it exactly right,” said Amazon. “We will keep improving our AI models and fine-tune responses to continuously make Rufus more helpful over time. Customers are encouraged to leave feedback by rating their answers with a thumbs up or thumbs down, and they have the option to provide freeform feedback as well.”

Amazon Rufus AI is latest in general AI push across e-commerce

Rufus is just the latest in several minor experiments with generative AI on Amazon’s online marketplace. These include AI-generated summaries of product reviews, personalised size guidance through the platform’s Fit Review Highlights feature, and the use of generative AI to enrich product descriptions and listings for the online marketplace seller community. It’s also in line with increased consumer interest in using generative AI in retail, with a recent IBM survey finding that 59% of customers would be interested in using AI applications as they shop.

The release of Amazon’s Rufus AI assistant came during the big tech firm’s fourth-quarter earnings call, which shared mostly positive news about its performance toward the end of 2023. This included quarterly revenue growth for its cloud arm, AWS, of 13%. Overall revenue was posted at $24.2bn in the same period, in line with analyst estimates. However, growth was slower at AWS compared to its hyperscaler rivals, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud, where revenue rose by 30% and 26% respectively. 

The provision of new generative AI services remains key to the continued growth of AWS and its parent company, Amazon’s chief executive Andy Jassy said. “Gen AI is and will continue to be an area of pervasive focus and investment across Amazon, primarily because there are few initiatives if any that give us the chance to reinvent so many of our customers’ experiences and processes,” said Jassy. “We believe it will ultimately drive tens of billions of dollars of revenue for Amazon over the next several years.”

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