UK consumers creeped out by retail technology that detects emotion

A new survey looking at what consumers think of the use of AI in the retail space has revealed what they find creepy and what new tech they’re ready to engage with.

RichRelevance’s ‘Creepy or Cool’ survey asked consumers to rate a number of different technologies and trends as either ‘creepy’ or ‘cool’, as well as ascertain sentiment towards the use of AI.

It demonstrated a change in UK consumer sentiment towards what is and isn’t ‘cool’. Previously trendy technologies, such as using fingerprints for payments or interactive mirrors remained ‘cool’, but experienced a decline in popularity compared to 2017 (fingerprints down 6%, to 50% and Interactive mirrors down 8.5% to 35.63%).

Instead, newer technologies such as voice search and virtual reality gained the biggest increase in interest with UK customers (voice search increased its popularity with consumers to 46.32% and virtual reality debuted on the survey with a ‘cool’ score of 40.59%).

Skepticism remained high around the use of facial recognition software, but it was emotion detection technology, a new entry for the 2018 survey, which went straight to the top of this year’s ‘creepy’ list.

Top 5 ‘creepy’ technologies according to UK customers:

1. Emotion detection technology that adapts your shopping experience depending on your mood (57.98%)

2. Facial recognition technology that recognises your preferences (56.83 %)

3. Retailers know when you’ve been paid (56.45 %)

4. Voice assistants within your home (Amazon Alexa, Google Home) are ‘always on’ and listening, providing product suggestions based on your conversations (56.35 %)

5. Targeted ads on your phone based on your proximity to certain shops (45.56 %)

Top 5 ‘cool’ technologies according to UK customers:

1. Fingerprint scanning to purchase items and arrange home delivery from the shop floor (50.05 %)

2. Using voice-recognition technology to search for products (46.32 %)

3. Smartphone apps that show product information, display videos, or even flag where desired items are located (40.97 %)

4. Virtual reality goggles that simulate store aisles in your own home (40.59 %)

5. Digital screens / interactive mirrors / virtual reality glasses in dressing rooms (35.63 %)

The survey also found that while close to a third of UK customers are willing to share more personal data to improve their shopping experience, they are less willing to hand it over than their European counterparts.

RichRelevance suggests that such privacy fears could be based on a lack of understanding, as only 25% of UK consumers said they were familiar with artificial intelligence – in comparison to 37% in France and 67% in Germany.

However, a further 38% of Brits would be willing to share more data, if it was collected anonymously – referring to the ability to collect data without explicitly linking to an individual.

“This year, the technologies which customers have branded ‘cool’ are those that increase convenience or improve the customer experience, online and offline, with an appropriate trade-off against their privacy,” said Henrik Nambord, VP Sales, EMEA for RichRelevance.

“However, it is clear that UK consumers still do not fully understand AI. As such, not only do retailers need to be transparent about how they use AI, but also emphasise its benefits – primarily its ability to make the customer shopping experience more memorable than ever before. RichRelevance helps retailers understand the technology behind the personalised experiences works, giving them the power to be more transparent about how they use AI.”

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