LONDON: Consumers are becoming increasingly familiar with artificial intelligence (AI), but the challenge for brands is how best to employ the technology to create the shopping experiences of the future.

That is according to a new study from OMD EMEA, the marketing performance firm, which worked with Goldsmiths, University of London, to discover how European consumers view AI within the retail sector.

Based on a survey of 15,000 consumers across 13 European countries, OMD and Goldsmiths concluded that shoppers expect “VIP treatment” and that the only realistic way for brands to deliver the high-quality, personalised experiences that customers now demand is through AI.

However, it is crucial that brands concentrate on promoting the benefits of AI, rather than simply highlighting the features, and they also need to consider the communications process – the point at which humans have to take over – in order to make the retail experience as seamless as possible.

“As an industry, we need to turn the bundle of technologies described as AI into services that people can care about, such as their insurance app or their cinema chatbot,” said Jean-Paul Edwards, Director of Strategy and Product Development, OMD EMEA. “It needs to be an upgrade to apps, ecommerce, and so on.”

Looking at the survey findings in detail, OMD reported that almost twice as many European consumers say they are as familiar with AI as unfamiliar, with nearly a quarter already using an AI device or app. And another 41% want to get one.

Meanwhile, 47% of consumers say they would act less patiently if they knew they were interacting with AI, while only 17% would reject help from AI across retail sectors. Interestingly, that is only a slightly higher proportion than those who say they would reject any kind of assistance (15%).

The survey also revealed two distinct groups of consumers who are reluctant to engage with AI – young people who don't think they need it and older people who don't understand it.

More than a third (39%) of 18-35 year olds who say they wouldn't consider having an AI-enabled device as part of their lifestyle suggest it is because they don’t need AI, while another quarter say it is easier to use their existing default option.

As a result, the report recommended, brands and retailers will need to manage customers' expectations, at the same time “as inspiring them about the benefits the technology can deliver to them right now”.

Data sourced from OMD EMEA; additional content by WARC staff