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Would the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in shopping expand or limit one’s options? And which of those would be a good thing? Tech users’ perceptions were put to the test in new survey results [download page] from The Integer Group.

The survey asked almost 3,700 US consumers their perceptions of AI, of whom 3,615 described AI in positive terms (“tech users”). These tech users’ attitudes formed the basis for the report, the second in a series of four. (Coverage of the first can be found here.)

Respondents were asked their thoughts on AI’s ability to bring them items to choose from and ultimately buy.

Overall, more respondents were confident that AI would narrow (56%) than expand their options (44%).

Interestingly, among those who felt that AI would narrow their options, a slight majority thought that it would limit them from seeing all of the options they would normally explore. Conversely, slightly fewer felt that AI would narrow their options, but in a good way.

This brings to mind research from L2, which found that Alexa prioritizes Amazon’s Choice products over top-ranked items in conventional search. In presenting just a couple of options for an item, Alexa essentially makes a lot of decisions for the shopper, and the factors used in that curation may not rest simply on high-ranking products.

Nonetheless, there’s more to AI than just Alexa. And among the 44% who felt that AI would expand their options, the overwhelming majority felt that it would be a good thing in helping them see new things they hadn’t considered, as opposed to making it too confusing and overwhelming to choose.

Overall then, the majority (61%) of respondents felt that AI curation would benefit them either by expanding their exploration and helping them find new things (37%) or by narrowing their options in a good way (24%).

Notably, there was virtually no difference in the generally positive attitude when sorting by generation, with about 6 in 10 of each age cohort seeing the positive side of AI curation.

The differences to be observed, instead came in how AI would prove beneficial: the older the adult, the more the benefit was seen in terms of expanding horizons; the younger the adult, the more the benefit was perceived to be in narrowing options.

Shoppers Aren’t Willing to Give Up Control

While respondents to the survey seem generally in favor of AI curation, that doesn’t mean that they’re ready to let AI do their shopping for them.

Thinking ahead 5 years, the majority of respondents could see themselves letting Alexa find the best deals on things they regularly buy (some are already asking Alexa about deals), remind them when household items are low, and help make shopping lists.

But fewer than one-third would let an AI assistant automatically buy staples they typically buy, and only 1 in 5 would allow it to automatically buy perishable groceries. Likewise, just one-fifth would be comfortable letting AI proactively order items they haven’t purchased but might like.

There are more generational gaps here: Millennials (27%) were more than twice as likely as Boomers (12%) to believe they’d let AI proactively order everyday household items for them.

Moreover, Millennials were considerably more likely than Boomers to see themselves letting AI stop them from ordering something because they’d reached their monthly budget or because it did not align with their health or lifestyle goals.

Even in these cases, though, Millennials did not display an overwhelming desire to delegate responsibilities to AI. That suggests that for the time being, AI curation will be seen as a useful tool, but not one that supplants its user’s own responsibilities.

About the Data: Part I of the Integer Group’s white paper series is available for download here and Part II here. Parts III and IV will follow in the coming months. For more information on Integer’s study, Embracing the Machines: AI’s Collision with Commerce, and to sign up to receive the series of white papers, visit www.integer.com/artificialintelligence.

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