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Unsupervised Purchasing: How AI Agents are Transforming Commerce

How AI Agents are Transforming Commerce
How AI Agents are Transforming Commerce

The advent of AI agents has ushered in a new era of capabilities and distribution patterns. These intelligent systems are not only transforming the way we interact with technology but also how products and services are distributed.

AI-first startups have been leveraging these new capabilities to offer innovative solutions. However, the distribution mechanisms have largely remained the same, with businesses still targeting the same user types with similar product packaging. This dynamic has favored incumbents with existing distribution moats.

But the emergence of agent-driven commerce could change this. The core idea is that AI agents will make unsupervised purchasing decisions on behalf of consumers. This shift will require businesses to influence our chosen agents rather than convincing us to buy. Existing distribution channels optimized for humans become less of a moat when products are optimized for AI agents.

We’re already seeing signs of this shift in areas like code generation. Programming agents, whether they’re copilots or fully autonomous, generate code snippets that use specific software libraries. These agents are essentially making purchasing decisions on our behalf.

In the near future, these agents will not only suggest but also test different libraries and APIs, purchase API keys or usage credits, and ultimately make the best buying decision. Like a savvy shopper, they’ll do the legwork and make the ultimate buy.

This pattern gives us a glimpse into how agent-driven purchasing might work more broadly. AI agents are better than humans at discovering options, evaluating them, and making the purchase. They can scour the internet and discover far more products than we can, especially lesser-known products that are not heavily search engine optimized.

Given the pace of innovation, it’s becoming increasingly clear that many product categories will have options that can be programmatically verified. Agents will be personalized and embed user preferences and appropriate context. We solve core agent competencies like long-term planning and have proper guardrails.

Outsourcing purchasing power to agents is a natural evolution from how we discover and buy new products today. As AI agents become net new market participants, they free us from the mess of ad-driven faux optionality and let new products compete on equal footing.


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