Interest in AI devices strongest from Asia

  • 32% of consumers surveyed globally by PwC plan to buy an AI device
  • Social networks’ influence highest in the Middle East, Indonesia, Malaysia and China


Interest in AI devices strongest from Asia


INTEREST in artificial intelligence (AI) devices is currently strongest amongst consumers in emerging economies including China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand, a PwC survey has found.

According to the global consulting firm, Asian consumers appear to be the most receptive to adopting AI devices for shopping.

“In China’s massive consumer market, more than one in five respondents (21%) already own an AI device and more than half (52%) plan to buy one. The story is similar in Vietnam (19% own, 45% plan to), Indonesia (18% own, 49% plan to), and Thailand (15% own, 44% plan to).

“Asian consumers’ openness to buying AI devices reflects their preference for voice interaction with electronics, as well as lower levels of concern about online privacy and security,” PwC said.

The findings were published in PwC’s Global Consumer Insights Survey, which assesses the shopping behaviour, habits and expectations of over 22,000 consumers in 27 countries.

In fact, almost a third (32%) 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, PwC said.

“The study reports that 10% of respondents already own artificial intelligence (AI) devices, such as robots and automated personal assistants like Amazon Echo or Google Home, and 32% 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,” PwC said in a statement.

The global consulting firm’s study also found that 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.

PwC Global Consumer Markets leader John Maxwell commented: “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.”

According to PwC, both online and in-store, social networks remain the biggest influence on consumers looking for inspiration for purchases, despite consumers reporting a small dip in their influence (from 39% to 37%). Social networks’ influence is highest in the Middle East (70%), Indonesia (58%) Malaysia (58%) and China (52%).

“These findings suggest that opinions and suggestions on social media sites — posted by friends and strangers alike—have more influence on specific purchase decisions than factors that retailers can control, such as advertising, promotions, and pricing,” PwC noted.

It highlighted that recognising the importance of social media, many retailers have sought to use these sites as channels not just for getting their mass marketing messages out to consumers, but also to participate in ongoing conversations that are relevant to the brand. “Consumers trust opinions on social media because they regard these as authentic and helpful,” PwC pointed out.

E-commerce has grown steadily, to the point where it accounts for an estimated one-tenth of worldwide retail sales. Emerging markets are especially keen on more online buying, as seen in those consumers’ greater likelihood to buy groceries online in 2018, said PwC.

“But the more interesting statistic lies in how brick-and-mortar stores have remained a key channel. PwC has been surveying consumers worldwide annually since 2010. Initially, it seemed people were buying from physical stores less often. By 2015, only 36% of respondents said they shopped at bricks-and-mortar at least weekly.”

However, as PwC pointed out, the past three versions of PwC’s Global Consumer Insights Survey have seen increases in weekly bricks-and-mortar shoppers, from 40% in 2016 up to 44% in this year’s survey.

“Physical shopping is, in fact, not falling out of favour as an activity, a finding reinforced by the unexpectedly strong showing of physical retailers in the 2017 holiday season,” PwC said, adding that ‘order online, pick up in store’ options may also contribute to physical stores’ continued popularity.

The global consulting firm also noted that another emerging consumer habit, especially in Asia, is a propensity for mobile payment.

“This year’s survey asks new questions about mobile payment, and the results were striking. Half of all respondents use smartphones to complete payment at a bricks-and-mortar store, either through customised orders in advance, in-store apps, or a mobile payment platform at checkout. Nearly half of those respondents, or a quarter of the entire survey, say they now prefer mobile payment.”

On data privacy, the survey reflects the ongoing tension for retailers on customer data. According to PwC, 41% of respondents are comfortable with retailers monitoring their shopping habits to tailor special offers for them.

“Conversely, over a third (37%) 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 found 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% maintaining the same spending as last year, and 37% planning more,” PwC concluded.


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