AI’s influence and the future of privacy

The influence of AI 

The modern consumer is shrouded in an invisibility cloak of influence businesses need to see through: the hunger for efficiency, affordability, and loyalty, however, creates a flower garden of opportunities for those who crack the code.

Artificial Intelligence’s (AI) sizeable influence since its inception has sent waves across the globe across a vast array of industries. In addition, the introduction of ChatGPT (Chat Pre-Trained Generative Transformer) saw the public across all walks of life, policymakers, and tech leaders scramble to understand its unicorn-like potential. And it hasn’t stopped there. 

Looking at the numbers, the projected economic potential – whether it be global or local – is sizeable. On a global scale, for example, McKinsey is forecasting Generative AI adding $4.4. trillion to the economy per annum [1] and on a local level, projecting a boost in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 26% [1].

In other words, AI is mighty. And it’s only going to get mightier. However, big numbers and breakthroughs aside sheds light on an important consideration: how can companies educate the consumer about the benefits and pitfalls of AI whilst continually innovating their practices? Before looking into this, let’s look at AI’s immense influence. 

Influence of AI across retail 

With AI blending Engineering, Psychology, Computer Science, and Linguistics, tones of simplicity form on the surface and undertones of enormous complexity on the underside. As a result, AI hasn’t just been delivering groundbreaking solutions but also has created entire industries. 

Retail is just one of many sectors where significant developments in AI have and continue to occur. Whether it be utilizing Computer Vision (CV) to understand how and where consumers are browsing in-store, offering personalized shopping guidance on in-store Point-of-Sale (POS) systems to implementing Virtual Dressing Rooms (VDRs), AI services in the retail sector are predicted to increase to over $31 billion by 2028 [2].

Contrast this to back in 2016 when only 4% of retail companies were utilizing some form of AI and in 2021 where this number had climbed to 28% [3]. With COVID-19 acting as an incredible catalyst in the world of E-commerce, the future of online shopping is set to be a rollercoaster ride with AI in tow, but do consumers really understand what they’re getting themselves into?

So, how much do consumers understand AI? 

AI has very much been a mixed bag when it comes to both understanding and trust. Generally speaking, interactions with AI chatbots are popular with a Consumer Data Platform Resources survey finding 53% of respondents have interacted with an AI chatbot of some form [4].

Healthcare, in particular, is one such industry where chatbots are becoming invaluable for administrative tasks, namely reordering prescriptions and booking appointments. 

Aside from the popularity of AI chatbots, AI’s holistic impact has its good and bad points: consumers find AI helpful in the likes of shopping (63%) and customer service (53%) [4].

However, from the same survey, only 34% of people find AI chatbots helpful and an additional 43% feel they need improvement [4]. What’s more telling, however, is the desire to access human support – something wished for by 64% of people [4]. In other words, chatbots can be useful but like any piece of technology, they can have their moments!





Data privacy: Earning customer trust

Numbers and usefulness aside, turning to how consumers currently accept privacy communications is where things become a maze: messages ranging from “Accept”, “Ask app not to track” and “We value your privacy: we use cookies to help give you the best experience on our site..” have become the norm on both desktop and mobile browsers, so much so they’ve become buzzwords.

With 81% of people having privacy concerns about the use of AI in recommendations, customer service, and support, questions are emerging about how companies can ensure their privacy policies aren’t alien statements to purely tick compliance boxes [4].

The language used in informing customers about the privacy angle, for example, is becoming increasingly important. Nowadays many website privacy policies are written in extensive jargon, creating a blur for consumers on what data is being and why it’s being collected.

Put it another way: imagine a consumer signed up for a loyalty program with a retailer that had over the last few occasions delivered excellent service. The message wouldn’t be filled with corporate legal dictionary-like speak: it’ll combine a carefully curated selection of marketing buzzwords to draw the customer in.

Linking to the above, another angle to earn customer trust is to look at the contents of the privacy policy. It’s important to have the essentials covered and the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) provides guidance on this, but going a step further in explaining why the data being collected is an important angle to keep in mind.

The backbone of education is explanation: being able to tell the consumer the advantages of sharing specific data. For example, having information in the prompt before simply accepting is a great way of helping the consumer feel comfortable with the destination of their data. Imagine then the consumer shares that experience with others about how well that company has respected their data: it builds loyalty, a wider customer base, and more importantly, trust.

Conclusion

Ultimately, whether it be adjusting the language in a privacy policy or working towards improving a chatbot’s reliability, the many tentacles of AI will continue to inspire, test, worry, and excite all who use the tools.

With no doubt some interesting innovations yet to come, data privacy and educating the consumer will be key in winning their long-term trust. For those in charge of data initiatives – whether it be a Sole Trader or the Chief Data Officer at a multinational corporation – look at your organization’s privacy policy and ask yourself: do I understand what I’m being asked to share and why? If not, there’s your starting point.

Bibliography

[1] McKinsey Tech Outlook: Chui, M., Issler, M., Roberts, R. and Yee, L. (2023). McKinsey Technology Trends Outlook 2023 | McKinsey. [online] www.mckinsey.com. Available at: https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/mckinsey digital/our-insights/ the-top-trends-in-tech#new-and-notable.

[2] Retail Sector AI Services: Yili, W. (2023). Here’s how artificial intelligence can benefit the retail sector. [online] World Economic Forum. Available at: https:// www.weforum.org/agenda/2023/01/here-s-how-artificial-intelligence-benefit-retail sector-davos2023/.

[3] Retail Success with AI: Kovalenko, O. (2023). Unlocking Retail Success with Artificial Intelligence (AI) | SPD Technology. [online] Software Product Development Company. Available at: https://spd.tech/artificial-intelligence/ai-for-retail/ [Accessed 14 Nov. 2023]. 

[4] Customer Data Platform Resource: Getting Personal: Consumer Perspectives on AI in Marketing and Customer Service. (n.d.). Available at: https:// get.treasuredata.com/rs/714-XIJ-402/images/Consumer-Perspectives-on-AI-In Marketing-and-Customer-Service.pdf [Accessed 15 Nov. 2023]. 

[5] KPMG Consumer Insights: Gillespie, N., Lockey, S., Curtis, C., Pool, J. and Ali Akbari (2023). Trust in Artificial Intelligence: A global study. Trust in artificial intelligence. doi:https://doi.org/10.14264/00d3c94.