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Three-quarters of consumers across 5 key global marketers agree that they’re loyal to certain brands, but will move on as soon as they have a bad experience with them. So finds Acquia in a customer experience-themed report [download page] that finds tension between consumers’ desire for personalization and their concerns about data usage.

On the one hand, 78% of consumers surveyed agreed that they would be more loyal to a brand that showed them they really understood them and what they were looking for. On the other hand 79% also agreed that brands should not be able to use their personal data to try and market different things to them.

The report’s authors posit that “trust is the missing link,” and recommend that marketers protect data and comply with regulations, offer value in exchange for shared data, and be respectful in the manner in which data is requested. It’s true that trust matters a lot for consumers, not only in terms of data sharing, but in the brands they entrust their purchases to.

Providing positive experiences can help build that trust, but marketers can improve in this area. Two-thirds of the consumers surveyed in Australia, France, Germany, the UK and the US said that they don’t remember when a brand experience exceeded their expectations. And half said the brands they engage with don’t meet their expectations for a good experience. It’s worth noting that a majority of Millennials would lose trust for a brand that doesn’t live up to its promises. However, as much as the provision of a great customer experience (critical attributes can be found here) depends on data, marketers need to tread carefully.

Will AI Help? Consumers Are Split

Marketers appear optimistic that artificial intelligence (AI) can help them deepen their customer relationships. But are consumers ready themselves? After all, corporate executives don’t seem to be prioritizing the customer experience when considering AI use cases.

The Acquia study finds that consumers aren’t wholehearted in their embrace of AI-driven interactions. Just 1 in 8 (13%) are looking forward to AI making interacting with brands a better experience, while close to 1 in 5 (17%) strongly disagree that it will improve interactions with brands.

Previous research has come to similar conclusions. For example, one study found that 7 in 10 respondents believing that brands will mostly rely on AI for communications 5 years from now, but majorities of both men (65%) and women (56%) felt that AI would make experiences less personal. The Acquia survey respondents are in agreement, with three-quarters feeling that the problem with automated experiences is that they’re too impersonal.

Nonetheless, an accompanying survey of marketers from Acquia reveals that 81% believe AI-powered innovations will improve interactions with brands, and 77% intend to make AI and machine learning part of their marketing strategy in the upcoming year.

It’ll be up to marketers to figure out how to present these innovations in a way that appeals to the many consumers who still favor the human element.

About the Data: The results are based on an August 2018 survey of 5,003 consumers, roughly 1,000 each from Australia, France, Germany, the UK and the US. The report also included results from a survey of 501 marketers, about 100 from each of those countries. The consumers were all 18 and older and the sample was balanced by age and gender. The marketers are all director-level and above and from companies with at least $10 million in annual revenue.

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