The Revolution of AI Powered Search Engines

Dan Calladine

Head of Media Futures, dentsu

The Pace of Progress with AI Powered Search

Generative AI is the most disruptive technology breakthrough of the last decade and is set to occupy center stage in the coming months and years. As chief disruptor, generative AI takes the pole position in our list of top ten trends for 2024. This article is extracted from The Pace of Progress – 2024 Media Trends, dentsu’s 14th annual trends report. Read on to learn about generative AI’s potential to revolutionize how people search and access information online and how they interact with brands.  

The promise of more natural interactions

Over the last 25 years, search engines have become a central starting point for anyone looking to learn, shop, be entertained or get informed online. During that time, technology companies have been on a quest to better understand users to make their search engines more sophisticated, convenient, and relevant. Yet, the way people search has not fundamentally evolved. As we try to get the machines to understand us, we tend to use odd, concise phrasing packed with keywords rather than free-flowing conversations.

AI powered search engines represent a massive paradigm shift in how we search, to the point it feels almost magical for any first-time user. The ability to use natural language, to get an actual answer rather than an index of links, and to follow up on questions is a game changer for our relation to technology.

The Obstacles Facing AI Powered Search

It is not surprising then that leaders in search have started to integrate generative AI into their search engines, with Microsoft bringing ChatGPT capabilities into Bing  and Google using its conversational AI-powered search tool Bard to create Search Generative Experience.

However, generative AI’s path to search domination faces two significant obstacles. First, AI-generated answers can be confidently wrong and rife with bias, and “hallucinations” can creep into the output. Second, monetization – likely to rely heavily on advertising – is yet to be defined.

While platforms strive to overcome these obstacles, advertisers can already benefit from generative AI developments to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of their search investments, from simplifying the working processes to improving campaign performance. Applications include gathering competitive intelligence, developing large amounts of ad copy variations that match the brand voice, suggesting keywords, and increasing the frequency of testing. Ultimately, generative AI enables faster scaling of media campaigns to better capture consumer demand.

Embedded concierges bubble up everywhere

All the rage in 2016 and pronounced dead by many in 2018, chatbots are back, this time supercharged with generative AI and the capabilities of doing more than launching a playlist or sharing weather forecasts.

As the frequency of exposure to generative AI will play a big part in changing people’s behaviors, companies like OpenAI are actively looking to embed ChatGPT in people’s daily lives by supporting plugins. For brands, this represents an opportunity to elevate their customer experience, especially those with large product catalogues. By using AI-generated concierges, brands can turn massive amounts of information into personalized answers tailored to people’s needs and, in doing so, reduce choice paralysis.

KAYAK, the travel search engine, uses the technology to respond to questions such as ‘Where can I fly to from NYC for under $500 in April?”. More than 150m people have already used myAI, Snapchat’s chatbot powered by generative AI, for everything from design inspiration to recommendations for skincare.

2024 is set to experience a revival in chatbots, and brands should take another look at them now that generative AI has revolutionized their capabilities.

What’s Next for AI Search Tools? 

As generative AI-powered search gains traction from customer support to product recommendations, new ad opportunities are expected to emerge to target very qualified users with very detailed answers. If it becomes the norm, consumers’ expectations could increase, and apps and sites not integrating these capabilities may become less relevant.

This is the first of ten trends discussed in dentsu’s The Pace of Progress – 2024 Media Trends report. Come back for trend #2 – Creativity reimagined.

Download our full dentsu 2024 Media Trends report for more insights on the rise of AI powered search engines.