Can ChatGPT Help You Find Discounts?
Artificial intelligence chatbots like ChatGPT have been in the news lately for a variety of reasons — not all of them good. But for the most part, these tools are a curiosity for many who may be wondering how to use them. OpenAI's ChatGPT can help with writing and brainstorming, but how about consumer applications? For example, can you use ChatGPT for shopping to help you find discounts or sales?
We decided to put this text chatbot — and a couple of others — to the test to see what kind of advice they'd provide. Check out our discoveries and drawbacks below.
Can You Use ChatGPT for Shopping?
What Are AI Chatbot Programs?
AI chatbot programs are essentially bot programs that are being trained to provide answers and assistance to users. They're not beings that are "thinking" for themselves. So while some have reported on claims suggesting AI may be sentient, these chat programs are not a Skynet situation. The answers users get are based on the prompts they provide, of course, but also the information the program received during training.
Can ChatGPT Help You Find Discounts?
When you use any AI chatbot program, the answers you get will depend on what kind of prompt you give and the version of the program you're using. For example, the free version of ChatGPT is currently based on the GPT-3.5 language model, which may not have updates on select topics after 2021. You can pay for ChatGPT Plus for $20 per month, which ensures you have access even when demand is high as well as a faster response speed and priority access to new features. But for most people, the free version should be enough.
So what happens when you ask ChatGPT to help you find deals? In our use of ChatGPT-3.5, we tried the prompt "Help me find deals on Dyson vacuums." But the result wasn't exactly what we expected. Instead of directing us to specific sites with deals or even suggesting programs that could help us find savings, ChatGPT gave us six tips on finding deals on Dyson vacuums in general. These included basic ideas like the following:
- Check Dyson's website
- Check major retailers like Target and Best Buy
- Sign up for email newsletters from Dyson and other retailers
- Consider buying refurbished Dyson vacuums
- Wait for major shopping events like Prime Day or Black Friday
To see if we could get more specific answers, we also tried the prompt "Track the price of a Dyson V15 Detect Absolute." But that didn't give us a groundbreaking response either. Instead, we received more basic tips. Among them were setting up price alerts on sites like Best Buy, using price tracking tools like CamelCamelCamel or Honey, and checking the Dyson website or authorized dealers for price drops. If you're looking for guidance to shorten your shopping trips, relying on ChatGPT doesn't seem like the best way to go about it.
The chatbot may also mention different retailers and sites. For example, this query suggested CamelCamelCamel and Honey, but another one suggested CamelCamelCamel and Keepa.
How Does Google Bard Compare?
ChatGPT isn't the only AI chatbot program in town. Google Bard is also available for some users now, although if you're interested in this one you may have to get on a waitlist first. This writer did, but didn't have to wait long before a spot opened up.
To keep things simple, we used the same prompt for Google Bard that we did for ChatGPT. First we asked Bard to "Help me find deals on Dyson vacuums," and the responses were noticeably different from the ones ChatGPT gave. In fact, Bard provided actual deals, including the following:
- Dyson Ball Multi Floor Origin vacuum in Fuchsia for $199.99, a savings of $100
- Dyson Ball Animal 2 in Iron for $299.99, a savings of $200
- Dyson V8 Absolute for $349.99, a savings of $150
- Dyson Outsize+Laser for $849.99, a savings of $100
- Dyson V12 Detect Slim for $599.99, a savings of $100
- Dyson Cyclone V10 Absolute for $449.99, a savings of $150
You can click the button on Bard answers that says "Google it," which will then bring up a related topic below to search — in this case, "Dyson vacuum deals." If you then click that, a new tab will open up with the search results. And while it seems the highlighted ones are available there, it's not necessarily easy to tell at a glance which offers are the suggested ones and which are just current offers.
We also conducted a test with the prompt "Track the price of a Dyson V15 Detect Absolute," and Bard kind of worked. It provided information on that model of vacuum, and stated the current price on Dyson's website was $749.99. But that wasn't quite true. That price is actually for the Dyson V15 Detect and is the list price. We had asked Bard specifically about the Dyson V15 Detect Absolute, which was $699.99 at the time of this writing — that's a $100 savings. (At the time of publication, the price had jumped up to $799.99 on the Dyson site.)
Bard then went on to suggest some generic price tracking strategies. These included signing up for email alerts with Dyson, shopping at Amazon where Prime members get free shipping, checking Walmart and utilizing Walmart's price match guarantee, and shopping at Best Buy with its price match guarantee.
Once again, this response isn't perfect and there are issues with this advice. Walmart's price match guarantee is restrictive, and you must meet very specific requirements to use it. Best Buy is a little more forgiving, but still, only certain purchases are eligible for price matching. Additionally, the V15 Detect Absolute model seems to be only available at Dyson itself. That means you can't price match in most cases because it's not available at approved retailers like Amazon or Target.
And What About Microsoft Bing?
Microsoft Bing tends to be the joke of the search engine world, but its response to our first Dyson query set it apart. After we stated, "Help me find deals on Dyson vacuums" in Bing's AI-based chat program, we received a lengthy list of deals and the stores where we could find them. We were amazed and wondered if Bing would be declared the winner.
But when we looked into the results, they weren't as impressive as they first seemed. For one thing, clicking the links provided didn't take us to the store or product. Instead, it just opened another Bing page with search results for "Dyson vacuums on sale." That meant we still had to navigate to another store's page and look up the item in question there.
It's important to note that the results didn't provide any projected savings. That is, we got a store name, vacuum model, and a price. But that didn't mean the item was actually on sale. In fact, the first one on the list was the Dyson Omni-glide cordless vacuum from Target for $449.99. It turns out that wasn't a sale price for that item. In fact, not only was there no discount noted from Target, but when we checked the same product on Dyson's own website, it was going for the same price — also without a discount noted. So while Bing called these "deals," it doesn't seem like they really were.
SEE ALSO: The Ultimate Guide to Shopping at Target
We still had one more test to conduct, though. We entered "Track the price of a Dyson V15 Detect Absolute" for Bing and waited for a response. While Bing let us know it was searching for "Dyson V15 Detect Absolute price tracking," the results were significantly slower to generate. More than 10 minutes later, we still had zero results, and Bing didn't even tell us it couldn't find anything or handle the request. Instead, it said the same thing it did when we initially ran the query.
Another point not in Bing's favor? You must use the Microsoft Edge browser if you want to try the AI chatbot functionality. That might not be a deal-breaker for some people, but for others that are loyal to Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox, that swap could be hard to make.
What Are the Drawbacks of Using AI Chatbots to Find Deals?
As we've shown, AI chatbot programs are pretty unreliable. Even if you use the same one, the differences in responses can vary from day to day. Because of that, we can't be certain that using these programs can shorten your shopping time or make the process easier. It may even be a waste of time to seriously use this method for finding deals right now.
That said, these programs could provide a starting point for shoppers. For example, Bard gave us models and prices to look for, while Bing suggested stores to check. Though Bing's highlights weren't actual deals, it did call out stores that people might not think of checking otherwise, such as Saks Fifth Avenue. And even though Bard didn't tell us where exactly to look, it provided specific models and prices that we could take to Google Shopping to find the stores offering those deals.
They're Narrow in Scope
When an AI chatbot program does list models and prices, the problem is that it's limited. Bard only noted a handful of offers in general, while Bing suggested "deals" that didn't provide any savings. These programs may also be limited to specific listings, such as the ones that rank highest or are "approved" behind the scenes. This could change over time, but for now it's not obvious where these kinds of answers originate.
Other limitations include the fact that responses can be very generalized. You may see repetitive information, or basic tips that are tailored to seem like they apply to your query but don't. You also see a lack of context in many cases. For example, Bard supplied savings amounts when we asked for Dyson vacuum deals, but Bing did not. That may be due to the fact that Bing's suggestions weren't deals, but even so, that lack of context can be misleading and make your shopping take even longer.
Other bits of information provided can also be pretty vague, like the example cited above about "exclusive technology" and "all floors." Still others can be more informative, as Bard also noted when models were "lightweight and versatile," and provided the maximum runtime. But there's no consistency for this yet, so it's not something you can comfortably rely on.
Shopping Is Still an Active Process
Being able to ask AI chatbot programs for help with activities like shopping may seem like having a personal assistant, but that's not really how they work. As demonstrated, even if your program of choice can give you good information, it's a starting point at best. Because you aren't getting valid search results for your query right away, you're basically adding a step to your process. And it isn't one that makes shopping any easier, compared to going to Google Shopping and typing in the item you're hoping to find a deal on.
They Don't Offer Extra Perks
As shown, the chat programs don't offer extra perks either. You can't set deal alerts for products you're interested in, and you can't really track prices. Even if the program suggests some price tracking tools, specific ones like CamelCamelCamel are good only if you're tracking prices on Amazon, and others like Honey may be just fine, but you aren't going to get a comprehensive list of price trackers from one of these chat programs. Unless, of course, you ask for one specifically, and even then, you'll likely get a handful of options at most.
Again, that might give you a starting point, but you can't expect to get very far. That means you'll likely have to go right back to your favorite browser and search engine, and seek out recommendations that way.
DealNews Does the Work for You
The good news is that even if these chat programs can't provide comprehensive help with shopping, DealNews absolutely can. Start by creating a profile, and then you can set your own preferences to personalize your experience, save your favorite deals, and post comments to engage with our curators and writers.
The best thing, perhaps, is that you can set a deal alert for any products you're interested in. You'll have the option to select relevant categories, stores, brands, and keywords, as well as a price range. And because of the highly customizable nature of the alerts, you can be as broad or specific as you want. When we list a deal that matches your parameters, you'll receive a notification and can grab the deal before it sells out.