AI Assistance: How Consumers Want To Incorporate AI Into Their Shopping

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The balance between what consumers want and what companies prioritize is something I’m endlessly fascinated by, probably because the studies that dive into that balance provide lessons that no expert or forecaster can provide.

The latest that caught my eye was IBM’s “Revolutionize Retail With AI Everywhere” study, and while it’s no surprise that marketers and advertisers are likely willing to accept any AI help they can get, it’s vital to keep in mind consumers and the help they’d prefer to receive.

(Source: IBM Institute for Business Value)

Surveying 20,000 consumers in 26 countries, IBM found that 86% of those who hadn’t used AI yet want it to be able to help them research products, with 82% wanting service and answers to resolve issues and 79% wanting deals and promotions.

“AI-powered virtual assistants can help customers do all these things and more — if they can responsibly tap connected customer data,” the study says. “For example, text-based generative AI assistants can tap customer support emails, call transcripts, and purchase history in real time to serve up more helpful suggestions in natural language.”

The IBM study found that 84% of companies expect to offer text-based generative AI assistants by 2025, part of the heavy investments IBM says many companies are making for the future.

“However, many of today’s customer-facing virtual assistants still lack the training, capabilities, and skills needed to understand basic requests and answer customer questions,” the study says. “As a result, only about one-third of consumers who have used virtual assistants are satisfied with the experience. In fact, nearly 20% were so disappointed that they don’t want to use virtual assistants again.”

At the moment, only 14% of consumers are satisfied with the online shopping experience, and less than 10% are satisfied with their in-store experience. Still, there’s hope and desire on the consumer side, with 59% of consumers wanting to use AI applications as they shop, 55% wanting to use virtual assistants, and 55% wanting to use augmented or virtual reality.

“What’s more, nearly a quarter (23%) of consumers are “tech enthusiasts,” mainstream technology users with an active desire to try new digital shopping experiences,” the study says. “These early adopters are also the best brand ambassadors, with 70% saying they’ve introduced friends and family members to a new brand or product in the last six months.”

You don’t have to be a seasoned marketer to appreciate the pricelessness of word-of-mouth endorsements. 

Besides, being the subject of every tech chat sure seems to have worked for AI, hasn’t it?


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