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AI trust takes another hit: As businesses rush in with few safeguards, online shoppers have renewed concerns about security

by | Oct 6, 2023 | Public Relations

Brands and businesses across all industries are tripping over themselves in a rush to get AI into their operations to boost productivity, generate content, interact with shoppers, improve customer service and lots more. Most business leaders, and certainly communicators, know all of this and have likely engaged or experimented with it at some level. But average consumers—most of whom still have very little familiarity with how it works or what it does, according to new research—are seeing this swift and comprehensive adoption with increasing skepticism.

New research from brand-to-buyer commerce enabler Digital River, intended to help brands navigate emerging technologies and changing consumer expectations, takes the pulse of current consumer attitudes about the quickly evolving integration of AI in the US, UK, and Germany—and the results show that brands and communicators still have lots of work ahead to make consumers feel comfortable and safe.

Shopping Online. woman hand online shopping on laptop computer with virtual graphic icon diagram on desk,

US shoppers are the slowest to embrace emerging tech

Cultural differences are apparent in consumer attitudes toward AI, with US shoppers less likely to know about and/or engage with the tech than their British and German counterparts.

  • Consumers in Germany (33 percent) were most likely to be familiar with AI prior to taking the survey, outpacing the US (24 percent) and UK (23 percent). Germans (38 percent) were also more likely to allow AI to automate routine orders for them than those in the UK (31 percent) and US (28 percent).
  • Just 15 percent of German consumers say that chatbots are not helpful, significantly fewer than in the UK (27 percent) and US (26 percent). Misinterpreting queries (42 percent), inability to handle complex requests (37 percent), and difficulties in escalating to human support (33 percent) were among the top reasons for this lack of popularity.
  • 72 percent of Americans said that interacting with a human representative was important to them, slightly above the overall figure of 70 percent.

chatbot on website answering questions online,

Shoppers want personalization, and see AI’s potential in providing it—but reluctantly

Consumers across geographies have not been eager to integrate AI into their shopping experiences, but they see its appeal when it comes to enhanced personalization. However, concerns around security and control have stemmed the tide of widespread adoption.

  • Just 27 percent of consumers expressed that they were familiar with AI prior to the survey. However, those who were familiar cited enhanced search and filtering capabilities (36 percent) and personalized product recommendations (34 percent) as its most impactful use cases.
  • Data security (54 percent) and privacy (49 percent) remained among the top concerns for consumers, outweighing convenience. With regard to AI, 29 percent of shoppers pointed to these areas as the top reasons for being uncomfortable with the tools.
  • Only 32 percent of consumers said that they would allow AI to automate routine consumer goods orders, expressing a desire to have control over purchasing decisions (42 percent), a lack of faith in AI’s ability to understand preferences (29 percent), and a desire to change orders based on shifting needs (28 percent).

Omnichannel appeals are centered on convenience

Shopping preferences have shifted toward an omnichannel experience in the wake of the ecommerce boom, with consumers seeing in-person and online formats as complementary, but also geared towards different types of purchases.

  • A majority of consumers surveyed expressed that they prefer to shop in person (63 percent) rather than online (32 percent), with those in the US (70 percent) more likely to say so than the UK (60 percent) and Germany (59 percent).
  • 51 percent of those who prefer ecommerce cited its convenience, with the ease of locating sales (37 percent), personalized recommendations (29 percent), and user-generated content (26 percent) named as its most enjoyable aspects. When asked where they begin the shopping process, 38 percent of consumers say online, while 22 percent said some combination of online and in-person.
  • Shoppers indicated a desire to shop for things like groceries (80 percent), toiletries (70 percent), and clothing/accessories (56 percent) in person, citing the ability to view (67 percent) and try on (56 percent) products. Meanwhile, lower variance items like books and media (58 percent) and electronics (51 percent) proved most popular online.

Robot Holding Shopping Cart With Cardboard Boxes On Turquoise Background

“It’s no surprise to see that shoppers have been slow in embracing AI in its nascency, especially given hesitations around data security and surrendering control,” said Ted Rogers, Digital River’s chief marketing officer, in a news release. “It takes time for new innovations to be widely adopted, but brands should be proactive in honing their approach to AI and identify potential use cases to stay ahead of the curve.”

Read more about the findings here.

The survey data was collected from 3,000 total respondents equally spread across the US, UK, and Germany.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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