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As Industries Rush to Adopt AI, Digital River Survey Finds Online Shoppers Remain Skeptical

Shoppers see value in a mix of online and in-person experiences as post-pandemic ecommerce landscape continues to take shape

Digital River, an experienced global commerce enabler directly connecting brands and buyers, released findings from its most recent consumer survey aimed at helping brands navigate emerging technologies and changing consumer expectations. The survey data was collected from 3,000 total respondents equally spread across the US, UK, and Germany.

“It’s no surprise to see that shoppers have been slow in embracing AI in its nascency, especially given hesitations around data security and surrendering control”

US shoppers are the slowest to embrace emerging tech

Cultural differences are apparent in consumer attitudes toward AI, with US shoppers less likely to know about and/or engage with the tech than British and German counterparts.

  • Consumers in Germany (33%) were most likely to be familiar with AI prior to taking the survey, outpacing the US (24%) and UK (23%). Germans (38%) were also more likely to allow AI to automate routine orders for them than those in the UK (31%) and US (28%).
  • Just 15% of German consumers say that chatbots are not helpful, significantly fewer than in the UK (27%) and US (26%). Misinterpreting queries (42%), inability to handle complex requests (37%), and difficulties in escalating to human support (33%) were among the top reasons for this lack of popularity.
  • 72% of Americans expressed that interacting with a human representative was important to them, slightly above the overall figure of 70%.

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Shoppers want personalization, and reluctantly see AI’s potential in providing it

Consumers across geographies have not been eager to integrate AI into their shopping experiences, but they see its appeal when it comes to enhanced personalization. However, concerns around security and control have stemmed the tide of widespread adoption.

  • Just 27% of consumers expressed that they were familiar with AI prior to the survey. However, those who were familiar cited enhanced search and filtering capabilities (36%) and personalized product recommendations (34%) as its most impactful use cases.
  • Data security (54%) and privacy (49%) remained among the top concerns for consumers, outweighing convenience. With regard to AI, 29% of shoppers pointed to these areas as the top reasons for being uncomfortable with the tools.
  • Only 32% of consumers said that they would allow AI to automate routine consumers goods orders, expressing a desire to have control over purchasing decisions (42%), a lack of faith in AI’s ability to understand preferences (29%), and a desire to change orders based on shifting needs (28%).

Omnichannel appeals are centered on convenience

Shopping preferences have shifted toward an omnichannel experience in the wake of the ecommerce boom, with consumers seeing in-person and online formats as complementary, but also geared towards different types of purchases.

  • A majority of consumers surveyed expressed that they prefer to shop in person (63%) rather than online (32%), with those in the US (70%) more likely to say so than the UK (60%) and Germany (59%).
  • 51% of those who prefer ecommerce cited its convenience, with the ease of locating sales (37%), personalized recommendations (29%), and user-generated content (26%) named as its most enjoyable aspects. When asked where they begin the shopping process, 38% of consumers say online, while 22% said some combination of online and in-person.
  • Shoppers indicated a desire to shop for things like groceries (80%), toiletries (70%), and clothing/accessories (56%) in person, citing the able to view (67%) and try on (56%) products. Meanwhile, lower variance items like books and media (58%) and electronics (51%) proved most popular online.

“It’s no surprise to see that shoppers have been slow in embracing AI in its nascency, especially given hesitations around data security and surrendering control,” said Ted Rogers, Digital River’s Chief Marketing Officer. “It takes time for new innovations to be widely adopted, but brands should be proactive in honing their approach to AI and identify potential use cases to stay ahead of the curve.”

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