Are consumers’ AI fears rational?

Discussion
Source: Amazon Echo video
Apr 18, 2017
Tom Ryan

Many consumers were initially concerned about how the internet tracked their browsing habits but grew accustomed to it after enjoying the technology’s benefits. Is artificial intelligence (AI) going through the same phase?

According to a new global study from Pegasystems, the business process and customer relationship management vendor, only 36 percent of survey respondents were comfortable with businesses using AI to engage with them. The survey of 6,000 in six countries found 28 percent were uncomfortable and 37 percent indicated neither.

Asked whether they agreed that AI can provide the same, if not better, levels of customer service than a human can today, 38 percent disagreed versus 27 percent agreeing. One-third agreed that AI is “never going to know me and my preferences as well as a human being.”

Other findings in the survey showed confusion about AI and indicated that fear of the unknown may be inhibiting consumers from embracing AI-based technology.

While only 34 percent of respondents thought they had directly experienced AI, it turned out that when further questioned 84 percent had actually used at least one AI-powered service or device — virtual home assistants, intelligent chatbots or predictive product suggestions. Only 41 percent knew AI was present in Amazon Alexa and 57 percent in Apple’s Siri.

While 72 percent claimed they understand AI, far fewer could correctly define what it is or what it can do. Those who indicated they were familiar with AI were twice as open to engaging with the technology than those who weren’t. Nearly 70 percent wanted to experience more AI if it would help make their lives easier.

Pegasystems concluded that the results suggest businesses should be more transparent about the fair and pragmatic use of AI in their products and services. Don Schuerman, VP, product marketing and CTO, said in a statement, “Businesses need to focus on using AI to develop applications that provide real value for customers to improve their experiences rather than overhyping the technology itself.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will a preference for human interaction and technology fears hold back the acceptance of AI-driven engagement? What steps should retailers or brands be taking to reduce any AI apprehension?

Braintrust
"As real AI continues to integrate into our lives, most shoppers won't even realize that they're dealing with AI."
"AI will perk interest, need, and then acquisition. But when humans figure out what is really happening with the personal data, they will shut it down."
"When AI is used to more efficiently serve up product suggestions and relevant offers, consumers are generally delighted."

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24 Comments on "Are consumers’ AI fears rational?"

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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Fear and preference for human interaction will no more hold back AI than the horse-and-buggy held back trains, planes and automobiles. AI is already becoming integrated into the human experience in ways that are so subtle that many people don’t even realize that they’re experiencing it. AI cannot and will not be held back and its application in virtually all parts of our lives will not only continue but, I believe, will significantly accelerate. Retailers and brands can minimize apprehension by being transparent about how AI will be used and especially how it will benefit customers. Apprehension is often underpinned by ignorance which can be significantly reduced by informing and explaining.

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
BrainTrust

Let’s face it, AI serves primarily the seller in the way that Facebook serves Facebook. Sure there is consumer value in engaging with AI-based commerce, but the bloom will fade as consumers realize that this sophisticated selling technique is simply that — a better selling mousetrap.

Voice interface (driven by AI), which narrows the scope of shopping discovery, has the potential to accelerate this erosion of the consumer confidence of value.

Max Goldberg
BrainTrust

I think AI is too new for consumers to grasp its uses and value. Over time it will become a norm, and the science fiction versions of a computer like HAL 9000 taking over their lives will cause their fears to fade.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Honestly, as the article implies, consumers have no idea what AI actually is, nor are they aware of the benefits it can provide in their shopping journeys. Movies and the media, of course, build AI into something sinister. However as real AI continues to integrate into our lives, most shoppers won’t even realize that they’re dealing with AI. Retailers need not make a big deal about this. They don’t even need to announce when AI is being employed. For example, 1-800-Flowers.com’s GWYN shopping assistant fully leverages AI, yet the shopper is typically unaware of this capability.

Ian Percy
BrainTrust

Ralph, you raise something I’ve wondered about for years now — that maybe the whole amazing gang at RetailWire are but avatars and this whole thing is one big AI experiment. Are you real? Am I? Is McClain? Have you noticed how identical “Al” is to “AI?”

Al McClain
Staff

OMG, Ian, you are on to us! We’re all avatars at RetailWire except for the one behind the curtain running things, and we aren’t saying who that is.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

Love this! The lines between AI and reality are being blurred!

Ian Percy
BrainTrust

Who is this really?

Bill Hanifin
BrainTrust

I’m pretty sure to have validated each of the RetailWire founders as real people, but as for the rest of the internet…?

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

The average consumer has no idea of what AI is or how it’s being used. I’ll guess that Pegasystems’ findings reflect antipathy toward automated call answering that most people find unsatisfactory. Continued exposure to AI, and corporate transparency around it, should change opinions.

Ian Percy
BrainTrust

“Jennifer” from a finance company kept emailing me to see if I had any questions about their financial services. This in spite of multiple attempts to unsubscribe, which is difficult since I didn’t subscribe in the first place. Finally I phoned the company. Of course Jennifer was a pathetic attempt at AI and the explanation was that “she” had misinterpreted my intention to unsubscribe. Apparently clicking “unsubscribe” was artificially confusing to her.

The question “Are AI fears rational?” is a trick question. Reminds me of those who declare someone “not motivated.” Yes, that person IS motivated to do precisely what they are doing. They are just “not motivated” to behave like you!

ALL fears are rational … from that person’s perspective! Trying to argue them out of it is plain dumb. Otherwise you have no choice but to blame the customer for not appreciating your artificiality. I don’t know what the solution is, I just know that if I’m afraid, annoyed or confused by AI — that’s your problem, not mine.

Jasmine Glasheen
BrainTrust

Agreed. The chatbots I’ve experienced have been less than intelligent, so it’s a tough concept to rally behind. But AI is such a broad term that it’s not limited to obnoxious chatbots.

I enjoy the intuitive playlists that Spotify creates and the personalized coupons from Walgreens, so I have faith that within a few years voice technology will be up to par.

In the meantime, smart companies aren’t greeting their customers with uninformed bots or making it difficult to reach a person. Customers aren’t willing to stick around after a bad experience, especially when a company to which they’re paying money won’t pay for a human being to assist them.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

In a world where the lines between work and life are being blurred, we essentially are always at work and what we have is a “work/life integration.” The same scenario is at play with AI. Whether we like it or not, or if we are even aware that the AI revolution is in motion, the technological capabilities are already in full swing.

The seamless and somewhat friction-less experience we have when we Google search or shop on Amazon’s platform is already powered by AI, and it’s being fully integrated into our connected, social, digital and commerce lives. If there is any trepidation about AI becoming fully integrated into our everyday experience, it is truly based on misconceptions and a lack of understanding of what AI is vs. machine learning vs. augmented reality, etc.

What is not fully clear as of yet are the implications, privacy concerns and where we go from here. Let’s see how this all plays out over the next several years.

Adrian Weidmann
BrainTrust

Artificial Intelligence will become so deeply integrated and woven into all aspects of our lives that we, as shoppers and consumers, won’t even know that AI is being used. This already started years ago when Google integrated its first recommendation algorithms into its service — that was 15 years ago. Today IBM’s Watson and its capabilities are already being used across a wide range of products and services. AI is in its infancy and as such we talk about it as a “thing.” It will quickly become so embedded in the background of everything we experience that it will not be singled out — it will just be.

Carol Spieckerman
BrainTrust

AI is an inexorable force at this point so any consumer fears frankly won’t curtail it. The fact that many in government don’t understand AI compounds the potential complications down the road as regulations will lag behind actual implementation. I’m by no means anti-AI (not that it would matter if I were!) but the job losses, particularly in the retail sector, and accelerating creep factor will eventually become more noticeable to consumers. By then, AI will already be pervasive.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

“Only 41 percent knew AI was present in Amazon Alexa and 57 percent in Apple’s Siri.”

That statement underlines the whole issue of consumer AI perception. It seems that many or the majority of consumers are very unclear what AI is and perhaps are more influenced by Hollywood than experience, so that alone negates some aspects of the survey. Additionally, people respond with concern when surveyed about privacy or security yet divulge intimate details on social media and use weak/obvious passwords. So what respondents say and what they do are unsurprisingly two different things. In time, perceptions will change as users gain more exposure to real AI, so smart brands do need to be open about its implementation and considerate about user concerns and user rights.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Today AI is great for simple questions and customer issues, such as a change of address. Intelligent chatbot systems can create a personal experience until they can’t. And then the smart systems switch seamlessly to a human to finish the job. The systems continue to get better and AI will become more common in customer support. One of the big opportunities is that AI will help support a customer service rep or sales person — not the customer. That’s when AI become IA, as in Intelligent Assistant. Brands can do well to ensure that the AI experience they use with their customers is a reflection of the typical service they would receive from the brand at any other time (from a person).

Tom Redd
Guest

I am with Lyle, so down thumb me. AI will perk interest, need, and then acquisition. But when humans figure out what is really happening with the personal data, they will shut it down or rush out of the space. AI needs info and data to operate — and it will search out the sources. Developers that are targeting the consumer will want to resell or profit on what they collect. This is when the collision will occur.

In addition, think FB caused intrusions into privacy? Wait till FB-AI or HAL2018. HAL will be cool until he gets at your bank account and spending habits and shares that info.

HAL has no friends! You all rush to be hip … I hang in the old world.

Bill Hanifin
BrainTrust

The gap in consumer recognition of AI in their online interactions tells the story today. The article cited that “while only 34 percent of respondents thought they had directly experienced AI, it turned out that when further questioned 84 percent had actually used at least one AI-powered service or device.”

Technology is best used when it accomplishes a specific intended purpose as designed without becoming the center of attention. When AI is used to more efficiently serve up product suggestions and relevant offers, consumers are generally delighted. When the customer experience is enhanced, I’ll bet consumers will not be as concerned with “how” it happened.

The implications of increased proficient use of AI by e-tailers will be interesting to watch. Will the efficiency have any impact on lowering prices for consumers or will the impact be a “better customer experience” for consumers with the operational savings accruing all to the merchant?

Tom Erskine
BrainTrust
4 months 1 day ago

Yes. Specifically the idea that devices like Home and Alexa “listen and learn” will continue to slow the pace of adoption for AI-driven engagement.

For consumers ready to adopt them, it is critical for retailers to recognize not “preference for human interaction” but instead a preference for “natural interactions” that feel like human ones. Any user experience that falls short of feeling natural will fail.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

Afraid of losing personal data at this stage of the game? Are you kidding? If that’s still actually a concern of yours, I hope you never bought a smart phone, a computer, a fit bit, a watch, or a digital TV. (See also: Snowden Files) Good luck to all 10 of you!

I had a friend of mine tell me last week that he was talking about painting a few rooms and never once did so online, only in conversation in his house. Next day, Benjamin Moore ads started showing up on every site he looked at. SO, worry not, my fellow consumers. Either get off the grid altogether or enjoy the help from Benjamin Moore!

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Ultimately people want what works (that many don’t even know exactly what AI is suggests a heavy discounting of their stated preferences).
And as long as both are available, I think people will be happy. The problem will be when the threshold is passed and AI (completely) displaces humans. Will that moment ever come, or will individual retailers/providers keep homo sapiens around as a selling point (?)… we’ll just have to wait and see.

William Hogben
BrainTrust

“Only 41 percent knew AI was present in Amazon Alexa and 57 percent in Apple’s Siri.”

This is the key line in the survey, and it’s where you realize they’re not surveying whether consumers like and trust AI, just whether they recognize it. “AI” means Terminator, it means danger, it means robots replacing you — this survey is all about the brand and not the substance.

Consumers are ready for AI, as the survey states the majority are using it without realizing it.

david salisbury
Guest
There’s a fair degree of evidence privacy is still a big issue for consumers. When credit card and personal data can be hacked so easily in an era of data insecurity. That’s not to say consumers aren’t enthusiastically adopting smart speakers that could be potentially mining even more intimate details about them. At the end of the day, however, predictive analytics provide valuable suggestions for consumers, as can be seen from how algorithms on Amazon, YouTube or Netflix work very effectively. Chatbots like VR pushed by Facebook, have been a bit of a failure so far. Amazon and Google have shown voice commerce has a more direct bearing on retail and commerce and the future of AI. The new consumer is fairly educated as to how AI will scale to know them, but for their brand loyalty and data mining, there has to be a considerable benefit. Amazon and Google are well positioned to off those. Apple and Facebook less so; with regards to convenience and retail. The competition in AI has begun and every major player has their Siri-equivalent; which is really about a dozen. How augmented reality and AI combine and add value to online experiences that sync… Read more »
wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"As real AI continues to integrate into our lives, most shoppers won't even realize that they're dealing with AI."
"AI will perk interest, need, and then acquisition. But when humans figure out what is really happening with the personal data, they will shut it down."
"When AI is used to more efficiently serve up product suggestions and relevant offers, consumers are generally delighted."

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