Artificial intelligence behind 80% of all Christmas purchases

Companies use algorithms to get to know customers and recommend products

People shopping on Avinguda del Portal de l'Àngel in Barcelona
People shopping on Avinguda del Portal de l'Àngel in Barcelona / Maria Asmarat
Lorcan Doherty

Lorcan Doherty | @catalannews | Barcelona

January 5, 2024 01:11 PM

February 5, 2024 10:51 AM

Our purchases are being conditioned by artificial intelligence, and the impact is greatest at Christmas when we buy more. In fact, artificial intelligence, or AI, is behind eight out of ten of all purchases made this Christmas, according to a new study by the Organization of Consumers and Users (OCU).  

“Is the phone listening when you talk about a brand and afterwards that brand appears as an ad?” Josep Maria Ganyet, a computer engineer specializing in AI, asks himself before answering: “It doesn’t really work that way. We’re not that special.” Instead, there are algorithms behind it.  

According to the OCU, each consumer spent about 745 euros this Christmas season, ten times more than last year, half of which was spent on Christmas gifts. 

AI encourages spending 

Artificial intelligence is the main reason for the increase, as it helped the consumers to find inspiration, and search for products and deals.  

“Our purchases are conditioned by our online habits,” explains Ganyet. “We leave a lot of traces, and they are used to create a profile of us and our behavior that is similar to other people like us.” The recommendations made by algorithms are based on the purchases made by consumers with similar patterns and habits and account for about 80% of customers' online purchases.  

“Those who know us better are Google or Amazon,” says Ganyet, who adds that on the downside the technology “can create very dystopian societies.” 

Businesses use ChatGPT 

When it comes to business, artificial intelligence can be used for many things beyond just making recommendations, according to Joan Mas, director of the Digital Technologies Division at Eurecat, Catalonia’s Technology Center.  

AI can also be used to manage inventory, monitor competition’s prices, and make decisions based on previous sales campaigns, among other things, Mas says.  

In other cases, generative AI can be used. An example is ChatGPT which creates content based on data observations.  

“In fashion, it can create a virtual vision of how a certain garment fits,” he explains.  

Not for everyone 

The experts admit that the new technology is not available to everyone and that the large multinational companies are the ones that have benefited the most, although small businesses also use AI to get closer to potential customers, for example through ad campaigns on social media. 

‘Natural intelligence’ is needed 

More than half of consumers have spent more money than planned, according to OCU, and Ganyet warns that consumers should use their “natural intelligence because all the recommendations involve artificial intelligence.”