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Exclusive research: Understanding the lesser known benefits of AI

(Image credit: Shutterstock / metamorworks)

UK and US consumers are starting to recognize the benefits that AI can have for their shopping experiences. But while 74 percent of UK and 71 percent of US consumers can recognize one benefit AI presents, such as detecting fraud or making shopping easier, only 44 percent recognize each of the key benefits. In this blog, we will explore what these lesser-known benefits are and recommend ways that retailers can shout about them.

“AI technology means that my interactions with companies and brands are more personalized and relevant to me”

With two in 10 US and UK consumers disagreeing that AI can make the shopping experience relevant, this is the most under-recognized benefit of AI on our list. Personalization was the hottest marketing trend in 2019, driven by outrageously high stats claiming up to 70 percent of shoppers want personalized offers and products. But the reality is that so often personalization comes across as creepy rather than helpful – who has not had that sinking feeling when your phone pings with offers that you have been talking to your friends about in person? Is your phone listening or are you just that predictable as a consumer type? Neither is a particularly rewarding feeling. A report by Gartner last year predicted that by 2025, 80 percent of marketeers who have invested in AI will abandon their projects due to little ROI or difficulty in data management.

So how can retailers get the balance right between helpful and creepy when it comes to personalization? It is something that we at ContactEngine invest a lot of time and effort in getting right. Put simply, consumers tend to be happy for data they supply knowingly and willingly to tailor their service. If they explicitly state that they want to be contacted a certain way, and then you do, then that makes sense. If they have told you previously that they do not want delivery at weekends, then do not offer them those spots. In short, if you let your consumers see the workings, trust in your AI-driven services will only increase.

“AI helps me book a delivery slot for my online shopping”

Delivery optimization is another underappreciated area of AI by some, with 13 percent of shoppers disagreeing that AI benefits this area. This figure increases to 14 percent in the US and 15 percent in the UK disagreeing when asked if AI can ensure their Christmas shopping is delivered on time.

If 2020 was the year of poor availability in supermarkets, an unusable high street, and unreliable experiences with delivered takeaways (will it arrive hot? Will all the items you ordered even arrive in the first place? Who knows), then 2021 will be the year where the most dependable companies will rise to the top. Consumers are looking for security wherever they can find it and if I were a marketeer at any retailer, I would make sure that I had an aggressive campaign planned in for January to talk about how our robust systems stood up in the face of unprecedented demand. This trust, both for you as a retailer and for the technology you employ, will be fundamental for your success in years to come.

“AI can help detect and prevent problems early with household services like broadband and utilities”

Only 41 percent of UK consumers and 44 percent of US consumers agreed that AI can help detect and prevent problems with household services. I doubt most Americans have heard of Cujo AI. And why should they? The company specializes in operating behind the scenes. It protects more than 760 million connected devices in 25 million homes in the US (about 20 percent) from hackers using a sophisticated array of AI tools. It analyses communication metadata from millions of homes and uses it to improve and retrain their technology to stop attacks before they happen.

The details of the attacks they stop are kept secret, but 70 percent of the threat volumes in its network come from just 50,000 devices. Here, AI technology is working silently in the background, protecting the companies they work for but also individuals. The public needs to feel the benefits of programs like these. What if a customer received an email explaining the threat that was prevented after the incident? This could start to raise the awareness of technologies like this as a force for good and help them appreciate it all the more from the companies that deploy it.

“AI helps to detect fraud on bank accounts or credit cards”

It appears that the benefits of AI are already being felt in some areas of security. Only 9 percent of UK and US consumers disagreed that this was a key benefit of AI, ranking it the highest on our list. Companies like Visa, Mastercard, and PayPal are already investing heavily in this area. PayPal’s machine learning and deep learning algorithms are deployed to identify and prevent fraudulent behavior “within milliseconds” before, during and after a transaction.

Similarly, Visa claims that it prevents $25bn annually in fraud thanks to AI. It does this by scoring every single one of the 210 billion transactions that go through its network every year based on the likelihood its fraudulent.

As our research shows, most consumers already understand the benefit made possible by AI here, but are they feeling the benefit? PayPal’s Giving Fund is an excellent example of how payment services can give back to their communities. However, what if these companies could invest in initiatives and make it clear: “This money was made possible by funds saved by AI preventing fraud.” This way, hard-hit communities could feel a very real and relevant benefit of these programs.

Telling the story 

Our research reveals that while a third of consumers are uncomfortable using AI when interacting with brands online, a third have not yet formed an opinion. Even if you take the pessimistic view that those who are uncomfortable will stay that way, there is all to play for with 33 percent of the population. There needs to be a focus on sharing positive success stories, coupled with deploying transparent AI, which can take customers on the journey of why it is being used in the way it is. Only then will customers appreciate the above benefits of AI and remain even more loyal to the companies that use it.

James Walker, Chief Customer Officer, ContactEngine

James Walker is the Global Head of Analytics at OC&C Strategy Consultants, based in London. James has over 25 years’ experience developing clients’ analytics capabilities and holds multiple US Patents.