Why Canva Is Investing In CustomGPTs — and Why You Should, Too

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Caroline Forsey
Caroline Forsey


On Wednesday, January 10, OpenAI launched its new GPT store, which highlights popular and trending custom GPTs.

canva using customgpts

And, in the past two months alone, over 3 million custom GPTs have been created — which range in topics from writing and research to hiking and astrology.

There are some businesses already leveraging custom GPTs to create personalized AI chatbots that can best help their employees, partners, or customers.

And Canva is one of them.

When asked why they‘re investing in custom GPTs, Canva’s Head of Ecosystem, Anwar Haneef, told me, “GPTs like ours allow people to use their favorite products in a convenient and more interactive way than they might usually — and it becomes a discovery engine for those businesses.”

Here, Haneef and I discuss why Canva decided to invest early in custom GPTs … and why you should, too.

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Why Canva Invested in a Custom GPT, and How It Helps Their Business

Custom GPTs Introduces a New Entry-Point to Your Brand

Canva's mission is to empower the world to design.

And AI helps Canva accelerate their mission by increasing the accessibility of design.

ChatGPT Plus, for instance, costs $20/month — which is an incredibly low barrier-to-entry for users‘ who are intrigued by design but aren’t sure where to start.

As Haneef puts it, “As people have embraced chatbots and ChatGPT, it’s now providing another entry point for anyone to go from idea to first draft design quickly, with access to further customize the output in Canva.”

He adds, “We’d already launched the technology that powers our GPT — Magic Design — which allows you to generate any design you can imagine by entering a text prompt in Canva. It was simple to build the custom GPT as a way to make Magic Design accessible to a new set of users, and it gives users a chance to have more of a dialog and add specific requests.”

Consider what happens when I ask Canva's GPT to design a colorful, vibrant logo for a new cat cafe in downtown Boston:

Isn't it purrfect? (Sorry … I had to.)

Essentially, you might think of custom GPTs as a powerful lead generation strategy. As I become more comfortable with designing, I'll likely segue to a Canva account to finish my logo and add a compelling landing page.

Custom GPTs Become a Discovery Engine For Your Business

ChatGPT currently has around 180.5 million users — making it a powerful opportunity for connecting with new potential customers.

"We see custom GPTs as a significant opportunity to meet users where they are … especially those that are open to trying new technologies and ways of working,” says Haneef.

He continues, “GPTs like ours allow people to use their favorite products in a convenient and more interactive way than they might usually — and it becomes a discovery engine for those businesses. It’s very early days, but we’re excited about the uptake we’ve seen so far."

Haneef envisions the future of Canva as one comprehensive AI platform. And that includes both bringing leading AI models onto Canva (including DALL-E, Imagen, D-ID and others), but also bringing Canva's AI products onto other top platforms.

In short: Asking why you might create a custom GPT is similar to asking why you might create an Instagram account. OpenAI is a powerful platform for reaching new users' who might be seeking out tools and products that you offer.

It‘s vital you position your brand on the platforms your users’ leverage the most — so if they're on OpenAI, you should be, too.

As Haneef puts it, “OpenAI has positioned itself to be a platform that attracts a wide swathe of users. Creating a GPT can help a company connect with that growing user base, and harness the power of an LLM (large language model) in a context users are increasingly familiar with.”

How Canva Measures Its Success on GPT Pro

While awareness and user acquisition are excellent benefits, Haneef told me he isn't intentionally leveraging the GPT as a user acquisition engine.

“We are seeing some uptick in new users coming in from this platform,” he says, “but it's still early, and the learnings from engaging with this customer base outweigh the benefits of user acquisition at this point.”

For now, Canva’s goal is to get a better understanding of how users embrace and interact with this mode of design creation and conversational editing.

“We naturally saw this as an opportunity to gain greater understanding of conversational editing, to learn what sort of designs people want to generate when using this format, and learn from a user base who we assumed would be very AI-savvy,” he says.

The Best Use Cases for Custom GPTs: Creative Partners

When asked which use cases seem best-suited for custom GPTs (and which don't), Haneef was quick to tell me: “The most impactful GPTs will be those that leverage AI as a creative partner.”

He adds, “The GPTs that can be used to brainstorm creative ideas, do research, and act on the results by performing an action will be incredibly useful for consumers.”

For instance, maybe Canva's custom GPT users leverage the GPT to generate a social media post, create a poster, or brainstorm creative designs for a presentation.

Haneef continues: “Another use case I’m excited about is the way GPTs can radically simplify policies, guidelines, or instructions around performing a task — which a user would otherwise need to peruse large volumes of content to understand. We are already seeing custom GPTs being used within our teams for simplifying operational tasks.”

Why Create a Custom GPT In the First Place, Versus Leveraging Tools Already On The Market?

Finally, I asked Haneef a question that had been on my mind during our conversation: Do brands really need to create their own custom GPTs, versus leveraging the plentiful AI tools that already exist?

And could we eventually oversaturate the market with too many custom GPTs?

Haneef isn't concerned.

As he told me, "As with any new platform, it’s difficult to predict how things will evolve, but participating early gives builders the opportunity to learn from early users and help shape the platform."

He continues, “It’s difficult to predict consumer behavior, but building our custom GPT helps us understand and refine how consumers will interact with products like ours in a conversational manner. We see a custom GPT as an opportunity to showcase our brand, voice, and product value in a new way, and — together with our users — refine how this interaction will evolve.”

As with any new platform, it makes sense to get in early. These are the early days of custom GPTs, and taking the time to develop and test your own custom GPT — which highlights the expertise of your brand and your products — can go a long way towards growing your reach and interacting with users' in a fun, new way.

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