BCG Henderson Institute

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Advances in generative AI have brought the internet to an inflection point. In the not-too-distant future, large language model (LLM)-powered virtual assistants could become a universal gateway to the internet. For company leaders, this will mean making fundamental choices about how they engage with consumers.

On one side of the spectrum, companies will be able to relinquish control of their consumer interface to an LLM-powered virtual assistant (or other conversational AI) using APIs such as plug-ins. OpenAI’s ChatGPT plug-in enables consumers to make meal reservations and order groceries via third-party sites like OpenTable and Instacart; other LLM providers are likely to follow suit.

At the other end, companies can retain control of their interface with a custom generative AI model on their own website and app. The implementation will vary, with companies choosing to build or fine-tune. Bloomberg built its own model that it plans to integrate into its services and features. Expedia incorporated OpenAI’s model into its own application—users stay on the company’s site but plan trips using ChatGPT.

Both strategies—relinquish and retain—have benefits and risks. And the benefit of one option is often a risk of the other. It is also likely that various options will be beneficial for different use cases, based on specific needs and risk tolerance. We’ve researched these evolving market dynamics to offer insight into choosing among and activating each strategy. Now is the time to do so—before the future is defined by early movers.

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