TECHNOLOGY

Study: Don’t underestimate the value of AI

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Brands that are not thinking about how to leverage artificial intelligence are already falling behind.

This was according to the Retail Revolution study from OMD EMEA, and Goldsmiths, University of London. It is based on 15,000 consumers across 13 European countries.

While brands are turning to more interactive technologies to engage shoppers, customers now expect “VIP treatment” when they shop. To drive the high-quality, personalized experiences customers now expect, retailers must consider how to embrace the next stage of those technologies: artificial intelligence.

According to the study, almost twice as many European consumers said they are as familiar with AI compared to those who are unfamiliar with the technology. Nearly a quarter of consumers already use an AI device or app, and 41% want to get one.

Meanwhile, 47% of consumers claimed they would act less patiently if they knew they were interacting with AI. Only 17% of consumers would reject help from AI across retail sectors. This was only slightly higher than those who said they'd reject any kind of assistance (15%).

The study did reveal two distinct groups of consumers that are reluctant to engage with AI: young people who don't think they need it and older ones who don't understand it.

Over a third (39%) of 18-35 year olds said they wouldn't consider having an AI-enabled device as part of their lifestyle said it was because they didn't need it. Another quarter said it was easier to use their existing default option.

The challenge for retailers is to create a balance between managing customer expectations, inspiring them about the benefits the technology, and deciding how to best to employ AI to create the shopping experiences of the future. However, the risk is that companies will focus on what the machines are capable of, rather than what customers want.

The key things brands need to consider when planning a deployment is where to put AI in the communication process, where humans have to take over, and making the whole process as seamless as possible. They should think about training the machines to work with the consumer to deliver value — a move that will encourage consumers to use them further. Brands should also think about matching different interfaces to different demographics.

"As an industry, we need to turn the bundle of technologies described as AI into services that people can care about, such as their insurance app or their cinema chatbot,” said Jean-Paul Edwards, Director of Strategy and Product Development, OMD EMEA. “It needs to be an upgrade to apps, e-commerce, and so on.”

Retailers that will succeed are companies that use AI to manage customers' expectations, while simultaneously inspiring them about the benefits the technology can deliver.

"People find it hard to imagine this stuff. Brands should inspire them, but inspire them around their everyday needs,” he added. “Brands need to talk about the benefits, not the features."

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