Survey: Despite Data Privacy Fears, Consumers Eagerly Embrace AI to Save Money

Survey: Despite Data Privacy Fears, Consumers Eagerly Embrace AI to Save Money

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Consumers are leery of many things, but artificial intelligence doesn’t appear to be one of them. That’s according to a new survey by UserTesting, which found that despite concerns over data privacy — and a general uneasiness about brands using their personal information without consent — the majority of Americans are eager to embrace AI in order to save money and save time when shopping with their favorite brands.

Eighty-seven percent of consumers say they are “likely to provide personal information to brands if it saves them money, and 79% plan to use artificial intelligence to find the best Black Friday deals this year.

That willingness to embrace AI for brand marketing purposes seems to fly in the face of other consumer surveys, which have found as many as 81% of consumers worry about company data privacy policies.

At least some of the conflicting survey data could be due to a lack of information or knowledge on the part of consumers about what the use of artificial intelligence in brand marketing actually entails.

“While people think they have a good understanding of how AI is integrated into the technical  infrastructure around them — in retail, business, educational, and entertainment environments — their responses around acceptable uses showed that they don’t fully recognize how data privacy rules are already impacting their world,” says UserTesting’s Lija Hogan. 

To make her point, Hogan cites survey results showing that just 30% of consumers believe AI is used by streaming services to recommend what to watch or listen to next, even though in actuality, it’s well-documented that services like Spotify and Netflix do actually utilize AI for content recommendations.

“The fact that many survey respondents weren’t aware of it may indicate that people don’t have as strong of a grasp on how it is being leveraged in their daily lives as they think they do,” Hogan says.

Good and ethical use of technology requires finding the right balance between what people want and need and what businesses are able to provide. Roughly half of the consumers in UserTesting’s survey said they trust AI, and the most trusting generation is Gen Z. By far, Baby Boomers were found to be the least trusting generation in UserTesting’s survey.

Seven-in-10 consumers say they are concerned about data privacy in these cases, with the top concerns having to do with not knowing what’s being done with their personal data and getting targeted ads.

Given that, Hogan says it’s critical that brands have a continuing dialogue about what consumers perceive to be safe, effective, delightful, and useful applications as they continue to push the boundaries of what is possible now and into the future.

“AI is quickly becoming more capable of delivering better experiences, and Americans also need to be ready for the changes that will accompany those improvements,” Hogan says. “Businesses must stay close to customers to deliver the right experiences in the right way, at the right time.”

The types of experiences brands can deliver to consumers using AI tools will likely evolve in the coming years. The ways businesses can take advantage of these tools for marketing purposes will almost certainly go beyond what consumers are comfortable with, which is why so many martech insiders, including Hogan, believe it may take businesses time to strike the right balance when they’re leveraging personal information.

“Since people are overconfident about how much they understand about how artificial intelligence currently appears in their lives, I think we should spend more time learning about how people are forming those impressions so that we can learn better approaches to transparency and education,” Hogan says. “I think it’s important that people truly understand how AI works — and how it can be used to create meaningful and compelling experiences.”

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.