Which brand-engagement tactics are cool in 2018—and which are creepy?

by | Jul 6, 2018 | Public Relations

Recent rollouts of tech-enhanced brand engagement and outreach strategies continue to improve personalization efforts and customer experiences—well, for the most part. New research reveals that some of these tools aren’t exactly resonating with consumers—and in some cases, come off as downright creepy.

The 4th annual Creepy or Cool survey from experience personalization firm RichRelevance offers insights into consumer preferences and opinions on cutting-edge technologies shaping the customer experience like Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence.

AI and data preferences take center stage

The new survey reveals that AI has entered the mainstream with 2 out of 3 Americans (67 percent) reporting that they’re at least somewhat familiar with the term. One in 3 respondents (32 percent) are at least somewhat positive about AI—yet an overwhelming majority (81 percent) think companies are obligated to tell consumers that they’re using AI, and how they’re using it.

Despite recent news cycles on how companies misuse customer data, a majority of Americans (59 percent) remain willing to share data in return for a better customer experience and most (40 percent) say it should be collected anonymously—referring to the ability to collect without explicitly linking to an individual for personalization purposes. This is on par with 2017, where 63 percent said they would allow retailers to collect more customer data to improve the customer experience.

“Consumers generally know that data is being collected about them and that they are benefiting from AI. However, consumers are increasingly expecting brands and retailers to be transparent about when and how they’re using AI in their interactions,” said Mike Ni, CMO of RichRelevance, in a news release. “As a result, companies are increasingly under pressure to adopt explainable and open AI systems that provide clear insight into how and why decisions are being made. Traditional black box, closed AI solutions are just not an option anymore.”

The survey also asked Americans to share their opinions on specific technologies to improve the shopping experience. Key findings include:

What’s creepy?

Clothing and wearables include sensors/tracking devices that allow retailers to track you in exchange for a discount.

  • 76 percent Creepy (vs. 10 percent Cool)

Companies understand your shopping habits so well that they are able to use artificial intelligence to choose and automatically order products on your behalf.

  • 69 percent Creepy (vs. 14 percent Cool)

Facial recognition technology identifies you as a loyal customer as soon as you enter and relays your preferences to the salesperson in-store.

  • 61 percent Creepy (vs. 24 percent Cool)

What’s cool?

Robots guide you to specific products within store aisles upon request.

  • 48 percent Cool (vs. 32 percent Creepy)

You can use fingerprint scanning to pay for items and get automatic home delivery, all from the store floor.

  • 46 percent Cool (vs. 31 percent Creepy)

The Millennial Divide

Younger shoppers (ages 18-29) are keen to embrace new technologies. Younger shoppers feel that AI-based personalization is valuable (66 percent) and are less likely to find innovation creepy. Significant generation gaps include:

Computer programs (such as chatbots) use artificial intelligence to help you answer customer service questions, rather than a real person.

  • Overall: 41 percent Creepy; Millennials: 27 percent Creepy

An augmented reality app allows you to view products in a store and then displays associated information and recommendations, including whether you need to replenish what you have at home.

  • Overall: 36 percent Creepy; Millennials: 26 percent Creepy

Voice assistants within your home (Amazon Alexa, Google Home) provides personalized product information and suggested products for you and your family.

  • Overall: 41 percent Creepy; Millennials: 32 percent Creepy

The survey of 1,037 US consumers was conducted by RichRelevance in May 2018.

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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 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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