Consumer trust in AI wavers, but for brands and businesses, it’s full steam ahead

by | May 5, 2023 | Public Relations

Many consumers may be reluctant, skeptical and even afraid of AI in their brand and business interactions, but that isn’t stopping companies worldwide from embracing the tech bearhug-style as they see AI as the long-awaited solution to the personalization and CX issues that may be their biggest challenge in the post-pandemic age—and although the path forward isn’t clear just yet, brands can’t risk being left behind when their AI-adopting competitors get it figured out. 

The findings from the fourth annual State of Personalization report from customer engagement platform Twilio underscore the value of an AI-driven personalization strategy for brands looking to both retain existing customers and acquire new ones, especially in today’s competitive market. To power even more sophisticated real-time customer experiences, the vast majority of businesses are turning to AI to harness high volumes of real-time data and power their personalization efforts. In fact, a commanding majority (92 percent) of businesses are now using AI-driven personalization to drive business growth, the research finds.

However, a disconnect exists between this enthusiasm and the comfort level of consumers—the report found that only 41 percent of consumers are comfortable with companies using AI to personalize their experiences, and only half (51 percent) of consumers trust brands to keep their personal data secure and use it responsibly. But these “growing pains” are expected to fade away over time as the tech advances. The question is: How much time are we talking about?

Consumer trust in AI wavers, but for brands and businesses, it’s full steam ahead

Nevertheless, the numbers and stats clearly show these AI-focused efforts are already working

Sixty-two percent of business leaders cite customer retention as a top benefit of personalization, while nearly 60 percent say personalization is an effective strategy for acquiring new customers. Consumers also increasingly confirm the value of personalization, with 56 percent saying they will become repeat buyers after a well-executed personalized experience, a 7 percent lift from last year’s report. These findings clearly point to a growing opportunity to build customer loyalty and lifetime value by engaging consumers with tailored experiences. During this time of uncertainty in the macro economic climate, businesses shouldn’t let potential ROI like this pass them by.

The report shines a light on how a staggering amount of businesses are experimenting with AI to differentiate and drive business growth, but it also provides guidance on how to get this right—starting with the critical need to raise consumer confidence in the technology.

Bridging the stark disconnect in AI confidence

To effectively leverage intelligence technology in a way that strikes a balance with the current comfort level of consumers, businesses must first establish a baseline of trust about the data used to deliver that personalization.

“Today’s consumers are savvier than ever, and their demand for real-time, personalized experiences is growing by the day. More than ever before, we’re hearing and seeing that customer loyalty hinges on effective personalization,” said Katrina Wong, VP of marketing at Twilio Segment, in a news release. “While our report shows that businesses are racing to implement AI-powered personalization, and reaping benefits like boosting customer lifetime value as a result, it’s crucial they don’t overlook the importance of trust and transparency. Informed by real-time, first-party data that’s utilized thoughtfully and responsibly, AI has the potential to augment and enhance the toolkit of every marketer and CX professional in the industry, and to usher in a category of next generation, fine-tuned, customer experiences that drive sustainable growth.”

Consumer trust in AI wavers, but for brands and businesses, it’s full steam ahead

Getting AI-driven personalization right means conquering quality and privacy issues

AI-driven personalization is only as good as its underlying dataset, and without robust data, customer experiences will likely miss the mark for consumers. It’s a real challenge: half of companies report that getting accurate data for personalization is a struggle, an increase of ten percentage points compared to 2022, and 31 percent of businesses cite poor quality data as a major obstacle in leveraging AI. Meanwhile, accuracy (47 percent), speed of real-time data (44 percent), and customer retention or repeat purchases (44 percent) were the top metrics of successful AI-driven personalization.

To improve AI results and personalization overall, companies need to invest in data quality, leveraging effective, real-time data management tools, and continuing to increase their use of first-party data.

The report also offers success story snippets, such as how businesses like Camping World and Toggle recognize the importance of preserving trust while continuing to improve personalization. Almost all of the companies surveyed (97 percent) are taking steps to address consumer privacy concerns, demonstrating a commitment to responsible data use. The most popular step is investing in better technology, such as Customer Data Platforms, to manage customer data.

Consumer trust in AI wavers, but for brands and businesses, it’s full steam ahead

A growing appetite for AI: Gen Z call for AI-infused experiences

One tremendous opportunity for AI-driven personalization is in engaging Gen Z consumers. Growing up with smartphones and tablets at their fingertips, this demographic of digital natives expect unparalleled digital experiences. Gen Z is an especially welcoming demographic for brands, as they are both more influenced by personalization and more willing to embrace AI. In fact, a third (34 percent) of Gen Z consumers already expect AI to be used in their experiences with brands.

For example, Gen Z consumers are much more likely to say that personalized experiences have influenced them to make a purchase than other generations:

  • Gen Z – 72 percent
  • Millennials – 66 percent
  • Gen X – 57 percent
  • Boomers – 42 percent

And, almost half (49 percent) of Gen Z consumers say they’re less likely to make a repeat purchase if an experience is not personalized.

Meanwhile, Gen Z consumers are much less likely to say that they are uncomfortable with AI being used to help brands personalize their experiences:

  • Gen Z – 15 percent
  • Millennials – 24 percent
  • Gen X – 34 percent
  • Boomers – 43 percent

Consumers today want to feel valued and understood, and personalization is a key tactic to achieve that. Businesses are clearly excited by the potential of AI to accelerate their ability to tailor experiences to the unique preferences and behaviors of each customer, but for this to be successful, brands will also need to get consumers on board. With consumer comfort levels lifted by AI that is thoughtfully and responsibility implemented, and informed by high quality data, brands will be able to create a deeper connection that translates into increased spending and brand loyalty.

Consumer trust in AI wavers, but for brands and businesses, it’s full steam ahead

Download the full report here.

Twilio’s State of Personalization Report is based on two surveys conducted by Method Communications in March 2023. A consumer survey targeted 3,001 adults who purchased something online in the past six months. A business survey targeted 500 business managers and decision-makers at consumer-facing companies that provide goods and/or services online. Survey respondents were from Australia, Brazil, Colombia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, Spain, United States, and the United Kingdom.

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