Each season at Playtime & Kid’s Hub New York, Jennifer Cattaui, owner of the NYC based boutique Babesta, gathers an expert panel to discuss different shifts in the children’s market. The topic at the Summer 2023 show was new technology, diving into using Chat GPT and generative AI. Keep reading to discover Jennifer’s recap of all that we learned!
The Future Is Now. Generative AI tools like Chat GPT, DALL-E, Bard, and Bing Chat have taken the world by storm in what seems to be the blink of an eye. Or the press of the “Enter” key. Accessible to sole proprietorships and Fortune 500s alike, these tech tools can help businesses level up, so that they can get more done with less. Says Alice Holland, founder of childrenswear brand Little Prince London, “it’s like having the best assistant who speaks every language and is an expert in everything.”
Cathy White, Head of Automation and AI at Yates Ltd, says when it comes to choosing the best tool for your business, look to your goals and budget. Whether you want output in text, image or video, there’s a tool to help. Prices for these can range from monthly subscriptions to pay per query. Of all the generative AIs out there, she says that Chat GPT is the 800 pound gorilla at the moment, thanks in part to the fact that one version is being offered for free.
Chat GPT found some early takers in the childrenswear industry who are using it for a range of tasks. Karina Laflamme, owner of Headster Kids, a Canadian hat and accessories brand known for their vivid prints, says her company is using it for translations and brainstorming. Laflamme says her team regularly uses the tech when they need to toggle between French and English, or if they hit a creative impasse. “We’re known for our patterns and we wanted a new fruit print for an upcoming season,” Laflamme recalls. In a second, ChatGPT generated an extensive list of possible fruits to consider. She says they’ve also used it to update policy information on their site and similar administrative tasks.
Holland of Little Prince London notes she uses Chat GPT in her business quite a bit as well. As a small business, she does pretty much everything herself. From designing to logistics, website development to marketing and accounting, she’s always looking for ways to get through tasks faster. “I redesigned our website this summer and wanted to come up with new product descriptions,” Holland recalls. The small business owner admits that laborious tasks like these can slow her down. “I asked Chat GPT to provide me with snappy descriptions for the products,” she says. But, Holland warns, in her experience, “you can’t just copy and paste it — there are generally a couple of good sentences in each answer that you can use to edit.” She says the tech has saved her loads of time by keeping inspiration only a query away.
The technology is not only providing a productivity boost to small and medium sized businesses, but also to large corporations. According to Erin Rechner, Head of Childrenswear at trend forecasting firm WGSN, the company has taken it one step further and developed their own proprietary large language model — like an in-house version of Chat GPT. Theirs delivers automated translations of their content, all quality controlled by human translators, amongst other things. Rechner says they also use AI to process their data and drive forecasts with a 95% accuracy rate. There’s no doubt that tools like these are giving those who use them a distinct and powerful edge.
If your childrenswear brand isn’t using generative AI tools like Chat GPT to work better and faster, you may be losing ground to the competition. But before you try to catch up and start outsourcing everything to the tech, White says that there are certain things you should keep in mind with respect to data privacy and proprietary information. “Never put anything you consider proprietary into one of these systems as it becomes public knowledge in many cases,” she notes. WGSN’s Rechner agrees. “We recommend that every company has clear rules in place on how its employees use AI tools at work. It’s practical to presume that these tools are harvesting everything that’s put into them,” she says.
Another thing to know is that, like a human assistant, the technology can make mistakes. “Always check your answers,” White suggests, as Chat GPT can have technical flubs called hallucinations where the technology provides you false information. “Also, keep in mind that Chat GPT 3.5 (the free version) only has restricted knowledge, limited up to September 2021,” she says.
At the end of the day, it’s safe to say that generative AI tools are here to stay, so if you haven’t already, it might be the right time to give them a try. “Start small and get yourself familiar with the tools,” suggests White. “Use them but be smart and careful when you do.” If you’re still nervous, try to find an expert who can review your business and help you make a plan. And when you do it, Rechner adds with a smile, be sure to always say please and thank you. “Just in case polite people are spared in the digital apocalypse!”
Chat GPT is in essence an AI chatbot using natural language processing to converse in an uncannily human way. It uses the huge amount of data that it was fed to predict sentence structure, grammar, language and meaning.
Cathy White, Head of Automation and AI at Yates Ltd. says Chat GPT comes up with answers as a result of its neural network training. “It’s an electronic brain, similar to the human brain with no physical limitation or need for sleep,” she says. This “brain,” White notes, is made up of interconnected machine learning models that are fed data in very large quantities from sites like 4Chan, Wikipedia, and Reddit. When you ask a question, it calls up all the data it was fed on and generates an answer.
As mentioned, the 3.5 version of Chat GPT is free. However, White warns, “There’s always a price for using things for free. Most of these bigger AI engines are using the public to train their large language models and the more time that goes on the more information it has and the smarter it gets.” This means, the people who are using it are both feeding it additional content and giving it more and more value. As a result, if or when it moves from free to a paid model, because it’s become so valuable thanks to all of its “free” users, it may end up being expensive.
Of course, there are infinite potential uses for this technology. Erin Rechner, Head of Childrenswear at trend forecasting agency WGSN, notes that for Playtime retailers and brands, the tech can easily be used to produce things like newsletters, item descriptors, and Instagram post copy. “It can even be used to code, so you can have more autonomy within your brand’s website,” she says. That’s good news for anyone whose eyes cross at the thought of learning complex coding languages in order to maintain or update their website.
Getting started is simple. “Go to openai.com and choose your option of free or paid,” White advises, reminding that version 3.5 is the free version and 4.0 is the paid version. When you ask a question, be sure you’re calling up the desired version. After that, she says, “Type anything you want to start with and off you go.”
Writing a question for generative AI is referred to as prompt engineering. The key to getting Chat GPT to work best for you is in how you frame the prompt, or more often, the series of prompts. “The number one thing to think about is the flow of your conversation with Chat GPT as it keeps context from previous questions,” White says. “Be simple, be specific, and break your topics and questions down into smaller chunks,” she suggests. Leading it down a path with multiple questions will allow you to build up the context.
Rechner offers up an example: Instead of typing “edit this sentence,” she suggests something more like “edit this sentence to make it sound more authoritative, use first-person pronouns, and keep it to 50 words or less.” Another technique called “priming” can help get the info you want in the form or voice that you’re looking for. “You can feed it things you have written so it can copy your style,” Rechner says. “After you’ve fed it a decent amount of written copy, you can then give it a specific writing task in your tone of voice.
Although it can do a lot, Chat GPT does get things wrong sometimes. Besides the hallucinations, the tech is notoriously not so good at math (and when it’s called out on a wrong answer, it’s known to apologize and admit its limitation). A good rule of thumb is that all answers should be checked, and for the most part, tweaked. Headster Kids’ Karina Laflamme recalls trying to get Chat GPT to write copy in French — but Quebecois French. The tech spat out text that was full of colloquial (and often inappropriate) copy — not usable by the Canadian children’s brand. As mentioned earlier, these tools are only as good as the info they were trained on. “They cannot forecast trends or predict the future,” says Rechner.
“Midjourney and DALL-E2 are being used to create backgrounds or add playful elements, spotted at kids’ brands such as Monnalisa from Italy and Balabala, a Chinese brand,” Rechner notes. “Kids can instantly be floating in space or go on a safari in the Serengeti with the use of AI design prompts.” There are also some planet-friendly uses on the horizon. Rechner shares, “Something I really look forward to is how AI can help shape the supply chain to reduce unsold merchandise and overproduction.”
Wow, the future really is here! We hope these insights give you the confidence and knowledge to explore new technology like Chat GPT and generative AI. (Re)watch the seminar any time here on our Instagram! Thank you again to Jennifer Cattaui and our 4 amazing experts, as well as our partner Earnshaw’s Magazine.