Industry News
What do consumers think about artificial intelligence?
Brian Byer
April 15, 2020

There seems to be an odd disconnect when it comes to the public’s embracing of artificial intelligence. Ask marketers and they’ll tell you they love the technology. They visualize a rosy future where life is good thanks to AI innovations.  Leaders of global enterprise also seem equally enamored by AI. They can’t wait to deploy groundbreaking programs that will render impeccable insights on their customer’s every want and need.

But then there’s the consumer group itself. AI’s ultimate target demographic. This is the massive group that’s poised to reap the most benefits from an AI-powered customer experience, and yet they’re also the group that expresses cautious, mixed feelings about adopting this new technology into daily life.

In order to glean a better understanding of how consumers assess the current AI landscape, and what they think about its future prospects, my agency, Blue Fountain Media, surveyed more than 1,000 people in the US between the ages of 18-65 for their authentic feelings about AI.

As marketers, these survey findings hold key insights into how we might shape our communications with consumers, as AI becomes a larger part of our tool belt. 

To summarize, while there still appears to be a great deal of consumer trepidation about AI, inroads are being made -- so there’s no reason to ring the death knell on the technology quite yet. But what can we learn from understanding the areas of success -- and the areas where there are still misgivings -- when it comes to the consumer’s relationship with AI?

Summary findings

Many consumers aren’t sure what AI is or does

While those of us in the business world are invested in knowing what AI is and how it can be leveraged, some 43% of survey respondents reported they weren’t exactly sure what AI is or how it’s being currently employed. In fact, some 7% indicated that they don’t know and don’t care what AI is. And when you look at the stat below, it seems that even those who are knowledgeable of AI’s capabilities don’t have the best feelings about it.

Marketers can help educate the public about the benefits of AI by featuring it as a part of the story whenever they introduce consumers to an AI-powered program or campaign. It’s time to give AI such much-needed credit for improving the customer experience and raise consumer awareness about the benefits.

Consumers are wary of an AI-powered future

It’s telling that only 26% of respondents reported feeling “great” about Artificial Intelligence. A majority of respondents (60%) had a lukewarm acceptance of AI, allowing for its ultimate future potential but also noting that we need to be careful of how it’s employed. In what might be a sign that the tide is turning on public opinion, only a relatively small percentage of respondents (6%) said they feel “bad” about AI or that the technology presents an imminent threat to mankind.

Drilling into the apprehension about AI a little more, 34% cited they were concerned an AI program might inadvertently injure or kill someone. A slightly smaller percentage of respondents (32%) worried that AI would eventually replace all of our jobs which would drastically affect the consumer economy.

Despite these fears, a majority of respondents either felt positive or neutral about the pace at which AI is rolling out. Some 38% said they feel comfortable with how quickly AI is being incorporated into their lives, while 26% said they feel neutral because they haven’t noticed one way or the other.

Once again, as marketers, we can make our jobs a lot easier if we run some interference against these negative perceptions. The sooner consumers get comfortable with AI integrating into their lives, the sooner they will trust and embrace our messages.

Where are consumers embracing AI?

When it comes to enjoying the fruits of the AI consumer experience, people are looking at their smart home devices which currently represent AI’s most visible and personally impactful use. About 39% of survey respondents cited smart home devices, such as voice assistants like Alexa, Nest thermostats, and Ring doorbells as their favorite use of AI. The other area of AI consumer acceptance (18%) said AI has its largest impact on GPS and related navigational tours.

Having a voice assistant strategy is a must-have for marketers today.  Not only have they embraced these devices, but they’re also increasingly relying on them for search and shopping. With a sound voice strategy, the brand or clients you represent will have a better shot of being discovered and used.

Consumers demand a human touch

One interesting survey finding reveals a deep-seated concern of the part of consumers that a human element remains an element of the AI equation. Overwhelmingly, 87% report that they would trust the diagnosis of a human doctor over an AI one.  When it comes to customer service, jaded no doubt by years of telephone-tree loops and robocalls, 41% said they wanted their service issues resolved by with a human agent.

People will always play a big role in AI. Developing it, enhancing it and correcting it.  It’s important to let consumers know that AI doesn’t spell the end of human interaction – and we can get that message across by including the human touch in our campaigns.

Conclusion

The promise of AI for business is tremendous, but consumers still have concerns that brands must be aware of as they manage AI rollouts. The Blue Fountain Media survey suggests businesses use AI to augment experiences and customer service, without replacing human touchpoints altogether. Awareness of consumer sensitivities around the technology can help brands avoid missteps.

 

Brian Byer is vice president, GM of Blue Fountain Media, a PacteraEDGE Company. He has 20 years of operations, technology, marketing, management and business analysis expertise. He manages the New York City agency’s activities relating to the creation of professional content and commerce websites and facilitates the growth of the company’s technology partnerships.

 

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