AI and the future of shopping

Artificial intelligence (AI) has begun to take the world by storm. AI continues to rise in popularity and has begun integrating into people’s lives more frequently.

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), AI has the potential to transform and benefit the future of retail by presenting an opportunity to create a more efficient and enjoyable experience for customers while also increasing profits for retailers, helping them to remain competitive in an ever-changing economy.

Judith Zaichkowsky urges regulators and legislators to look out for consumers’ interests, privacy and guard against monopolies

A recent study conducted by Simon Fraser University (SFU) professor Judith Zaichkoswhy, PhD, suggests that AI is being used to facilitate facets of the average person’s life.

Zaichkowsky, a professor of marketing in the Beedie School of Business, who has analyzed consumer behaviour and marketing, suggests that the use of AI may affect consumers and retailers. There are many types of bots that have come out over the past years that have been more known to the public.

Home voice bots are one of the bots that have been integrated into people’s homes. Zaichkowsky’s study, AI voice bots: a services marketing research agenda, indicates that home voice bots becoming more affordable allows these bots to be readily accessible, creating an upward trend in online retail.

A convenient bot future

Zaichkowsky believes that people will rely heavily on AI in the future.

Judith Zaichkowsky, professor of marketing in the Beedie School of Business. | Photo courtesy of SFU

“When people are in a hurry and know what they want, [they] can just ask for it to be delivered,” she states.

Businesses will need to adapt to these trends in order to remain competitive.

“These changes, welcomed by consumers, are disrupting the retail landscape,” Zaichkowsky explains.

Amazon has adapted to these changes relatively fast, capitalizing on the desire for convenience by automating online ordering and payment and offering next day delivery. They’ve also come out with Alexa and redefined their delivery system to be able to adopt AI.

Zaichkowsky formed a research team with the aid of Philipp Klaus, professor of Customer Experience Strategy at the International University of Monaco. In their study, The convenience of shopping via voice AI: Introducing AIDM, suggests that AI voice bots are both convenient and enhance customer satisfaction.

Zaichkowsky and Klaus’ research found that humans like being in control when conversing with voice bots. The study suggests that voice-activated AI shopping experiences offer an intuitive way to make purchases feel more natural.

To trust or not to trust a bot

The study also unveiled that the biggest obstacle to the widespread adoption of voice-activated assistants for shopping is trust. People want to be sure that they are getting the best price and quality when they use a bot and that their personal information is secure.

“I think this is the trust that people are getting the best result in terms of price and quality,” says Zaichkowsky. “If the bot is just linked to a warehouse with limited choice and no prior price information, then how do you assure the customer you are working for them and not against them.”

In addition, the professor suggests that if retailers and marketers want to enlist voice-assisted AI into their arsenal, they need to make sure it’s credible. Retailers and marketers who wish to use voice-activated assistants to reach customers must ensure that they can offer these guarantees.

“How can you guarantee to the customer the best prices, best choices and least amount of waste. How can you assure the customer good delivery times and secure personal information,” she says.

While Zaichkowsky’s research highlights the potential benefits of AI in boosting the shopping experience, it also cautions that voice assistants are merging economic and political power into fewer and fewer hands. Digital assistants can jeopardize consumer privacy and choice. Bots that seem impartial could be used in deceiving ways to dominate markets, stifle competition or even undermine democracy. She urges regulators and legislators to look out for consumers’ interests and privacy and guard against monopolies.

“It’s not a crusade against innovation,” says Zaichkowsky. “It’s a call to encourage competition and maintain healthy local and global economies that protect the well-being of citizens. And it’s a call to consumers and brand managers to understand the ways AI is influencing purchase decisions to capitalize in the era of convenience.”

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