Australians will embrace AI if it makes consumer life easier, but still fear the ‘robots’

Australian brands are scrambling to understand how they can implement AI – including everything from chat bots and CX to marketing and product development – but need to bear in mind consumers are still fearful of the technology and in many cases fundamentally misunderstand its function, new research from Ipsos has revealed.

A new research paper ‘Brave new world: Are Australians consumers ready for AI?’ based on a representative sample of more than 1,000 Australians, found 70% believe robots will increasingly take human jobs, with 62% agreeing that “using robots and artificial intelligence to replace human workers is bad for society”.

Australian consumers are open to the idea of interacting with AI – but largely indirectly – and they are less comfortable with communicating with brands via AI.

In response to the statement: ‘I am happy to use products and services that use artificial intelligence if it makes my life easier’, 41% agreed and a further 37% were on the fence. 22% disagreed.

A clear majority (59%) do not like the idea of interacting with a robot to make a purchase, with 25% feeling neutral about the idea; and 66% do not like the idea of a robot being used by a brand to communicate with its customers.

How consumers feel about brands using AI. Source: Ipsos

Opinion is split about technology’s role in humans’ future – and whether it will be a net positive or negative for society – with 48% agreeing with the statement ‘I feel optimistic about the future of technology’, but 46% also agreeing with ‘I’m afraid of technology taking over on the future’. 54% agree that ‘We already rely too much on technology’, while 48% believe technology will help solve some of the world’s biggest problems.

Consumers’ fears about robots. Source: Ipsos

Kirsten Riolo, director of Ipsos, said businesses and brands are constantly talking about AI, but little is heard about how consumers – “the very heart of business, big and small” – actually want to interact with it, and if they understand it at all.

“Do they even know what it is? What do they make of all the hype and the ‘man vs machine’ vision of the future painted by the likes of Elon Musk? And as consumers, what are their comfort levels around the use of AI in the touch points they interact with every day?” she said, noting most people understand little about the range of technologies which fall under the AI banner.

How consumers feel about the future. Source: Ipsos

Pointing to the conflicting feelings Australians have towards technology – “they’re not quite sure whether to be afraid or helpful” – she said the research made some things very clear for brands.

“One thing is certain,” she said. “A majority – 7 in 10 – believe that the labour market of the future will be radically reshaped, resigning themselves to a tomorrow where many jobs will be done by robots. Further, more than six in 10 believe that replacing human workers with AI will be bad for society.

Do consumers even know about AI? Source: Ipsos

“With so much concern about particular elements of AI, perhaps the most pressing job of business is to first educate consumers and then address and alleviate their fears.”

More of Ipsos’ research into AI will be discussed at the Mumbrella and IAA breakfast tomorrow which includes a panel discussion on ‘Artificial intelligence just got real’ featuring Ipsos’ Riolo, IBM Watson’s Dev Mookerjee, UNSW’s Professor Toby Walsh, On Message’s Douglas Nicol and moderated by president of IAA Adam Donnelley. For more information, click here


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