The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Consumer Behaviour: Topline Research Results

Alison Little

Applying Semiotics to Marketing and Brand Research

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Cherry Huang

Artificial intelligence – ‘What a time to be alive’? or ‘The biggest manmade crisis since the atom bomb’? From a consumer standpoint, I tend towards the former – it is after all totally within our control and who doesn’t want an R2-D2 or a KITT car? But the childlike excitement associated with the perfect fictional concept is of course a world away from the commercial reality. It’s not all fun and games. The technological disruption of this imminent industrial revolution is unprecedented. And as weak AI products gain mainstream traction and developers advance steadily towards the realms of general AI business would be wise to monitor the impact of this ground breaking tech on customer behaviour.

FlexMR ran a consumer research project exploring the effect of artificial intelligence on consumer behaviour, perception and aspirations. The report looks at the overall UK population as well as the attitudinal differences between the genders and generations.

1. Consumer Perception - Virtual Personal Assistants

The popularity of AI powered Virtual Personal Assistants has boomed in recent years. Not surprising when you consider that 33% of the UK population believe AI today to be very intelligent.

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1/3 UK consumers believe that AI available today is very intelligent

Millennials are championing the Virtual Personal Assistant movement. Nearly half of this generation agree that they are the best technological development to date. Gen Z however is not quite so taken.

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44% of Millennials see Virtual Assistants as best tech development to date


2. Consumer Aspirations - Robotic (Physical) Personal Assistants

A formidable number of the UK population would like an AI robotic assistant to take over at least one routine lifestyle task but the confidence interval between want and trust currently stands at 25%.

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95% of consumers want to pass routine tasks to AI robotics but only 70% trust it

Tasks that require social and emotional intelligence will remain in the human domain for the foreseeable future with only 9% of consumers prepared to trust their clothes shopping to AI robotics and only 4% prepared delegate babysitting to it.

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Only 9% of consumers are prepared to trust clothes shopping to AI

3. Consumer Emotions - Robotic Friends and Pets

Was it inevitable? Babysitting aside a sizable proportion of Gen Z sees themselves having an AI friend in the future.

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40% of Gen Z sees themselves having an AI friend in the future

UK pet owners are not adverse to AI either. 37% of dog owners and 39% of cat owners would like a furry AI companion.

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Over 1/3 of UK pet owners see themselves having an AI robot dog or cat

When recreational emotional intelligence is ready, so are UK consumers.

4. Consumer Fears - An Artificially Intelligent Workforce 

Be it in terms of AI robotics or AI software, 1/3 of UK consumers fear for their jobs in the wake of tech advancements and over half of these consider that their AI replacement could happen within the next ten years.

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34% of UK consumers fear AI will replace them at work

The majority of Millennials believe that AI will replace them due to enhanced speed and accuracy whereas the majority of Boomers believe that their AI replacement will be due to cost savings.

5. Consumer Experiences - Commercial Virtual Assistants

Good news for the online commercial chatbot developers - Consumers are more open to online AI assistance than telephone AI assistance. A marked percentage don’t mind whether the customer service agent is human or machine online as long as they receive the answer to their query.

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29% of consumers don’t care whether online customer service is human or AI if query answered

The younger generations are more intrigued by commercial AI than the older generations. Just over a 1/4 of Gen Z and just under a 1/4 of Millennials are interested to see how online AI customer service agents deal with their queries.

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27% of Gen Z intrigued to see how online AI service agents address queries


Outake - An Artificially Intelligent Prime Minister

A little tongue-in-cheek but projectively a definite nod towards the political dissatisfaction of the UK population, just under a 1/4 of UK consumers claim that they would trust an AI Prime Minister over Theresa May, just over a 1/4 Jeremy Corbyn.

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23% UK voters would trust AI Prime Minister over Theresa May. 27% over Jeremy Corbyn


It's An AI Future

Like it or not, artificial intelligence is here to stay and the speed at which its applications are adopted by the consumer will only continue to rise. In terms of behavioural impact, there are lifestyle considerations, spending shifts, motivational movements and value adjustments to name but a few all of which differ from generations to generation and on occasion between the sexes. A business strategy equipped to deal with the technological disruption brought by AI is key to success, both today and tomorrow. Organisations that put the consumer first across every department will undoubtedly minimise risk and benefit from the commercial opportunities.

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