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AI devices gaining traction among consumers 

Jul 31. 2018
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By   THE NATION

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ALMOST A third of consumers surveyed globally by PwC plan to buy an AI device including robots or automated assistants, with retailers watching closely as ‘voice commerce’ develops in the home.

The finding were published yesterday in PwC’s Global Consumer Insights survey, which assesses the shopping behaviour, habits and expectations of over 22,000 consumers in 27 territories. 

The study reports that 10 per cent of respondents already own artificial intelligence (AI) devices, such as robots and automated personal assistants like Amazon Echo or Google Home, and 32 per cent said they plan to buy one. Both consumer and retailer habits and offerings still need time to adapt however, to make the most of the new voice commerce channel. 

Interest in the devices is strongest amongst consumers in emerging economies including China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand. Demand is generally lower in developed territories. Brazilian and Chinese consumers surveyed are twice as likely (59 per cent and 52 per cent respectively) to plan to own an AI device, as their American (25 per cent), British (24 per cent) or French (25 per cent) peers. Italy and Poland also showed strong interest with around 40 per cent of respondents planning to buy an AI device.

Across all markets, early adopters of AI devices tend to be men, aged 18-34, who are open to collaborative consumption, less likely to take action to reduce the risk of online security issues and fraud, and less price conscious.

John Maxwell, Global Consumer Markets leader, PwC, said that AI is moving very rapidly into the consumer and retail sectors. Consumers are shifting their shopping behaviours. As soon as they want something, they can order it, rather than think about it until their next shopping trip. Within two to three years AI could revolutionise how companies profile, segment and serve customers.

In addition to the growing popularity of AI, mobile devices are gaining traction with global shoppers Mobile purchasing has more than doubled in six years to 17 per cent of all shopping, and is likely to soon overtake computer purchases (20 per cent), which now accounts for only one in five of purchases made. Convenience is also playing a part, with half of all respondents using smartphones to pay for purchases in store. 

E-commerce continues to dominate – 59 per cent of consumers are shopping with online retailers -which has transformed shoppers’ expectations about shipments, as 41 per cent of respondents say they would pay an extra charge for same-day or faster delivery, 44 per cent for a specific time slot, and 38 per cent would consider a drone as a delivery method. 

But despite the dominance of the big online retailers, there is still room for physical stores to thrive. For the fourth year in a row, the number of respondents who say they shop at a bricks and mortar store on a weekly basis has risen, this year by 3 per cent to 44 per cent. 

“Traditional retailers could be at an advantage as shopping behaviour in stores shifts more to the experience than just shopping,” comments Maxwell.

 “With experienced salespeople, lifestyle offers on-site such as exercise classes, or image recognition allowing for tailoring of products being offered, consumers can expect showrooms, as opposed to just shops.” 

On data privacy, the survey reflects the ongoing tension for retailers on customer data. 41 per cent of respondents are comfortable with retailers monitoring their shopping habits to tailor special offers for them, but conversely, over a third (37 per cent) of consumers are protective about their privacy, and opposed to retailers identifying when they are nearby and targeting them with offers. 

The annual survey also finds encouraging news about consumer confidence despite concerns about depressed spending and investing. Globally, the majority of consumers surveyed plan to spend the same or more as they did last year, with 38 per cent maintaining the same spending as last year, and 37 per cent planning more. 

Vilaiporn Taweelappontong, Consulting Lead Partner for PwC Thailand, adds that it’s interesting to see that Asian consumers, especially Thai consumers, are quickly adopting AI devices for shopping. 

Thailand ranks fifth among countries with the highest ownership of AI. China leads the pack, followed by Vietnam, Indonesia and the US. This reflects how receptive and open Thai consumers can be when it comes to buying AI devices. 

It also means that offering a convenient shopping experience is key to winning the hearts of Thai customers.

“Thai retailers therefore need to adjust their strategies to meet this demand and bring in technology to enhance the customer experience and develop new distribution channels to boost sales amid a sluggish economy and purchasing power,” Vilaiporn said.

 

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