smart home speaker voice assistant

Robots on the rise as consumers embrace AI smart assistants at home, PwC finds

Image credit: DT

AI home devices are quickly gaining consumer interest with almost a third of consumers planning to buy a robot or automated assistant according to a PwC report.

The findings are prompting retailers to watch closely as ‘voice commerce’ develops in the home.

PwC’s Global Consumer Insights survey assessed the shopping behaviour, habits and expectations of over 22,000 consumers in 27 countries.

The study reports that 10 per cent of respondents already own AI devices, such as robots and automated personal assistants like Amazon Echo or Google Home and 32 per cent said they plan to buy one.

Both consumer and retailer habits and offerings still need time to adapt, however, to make the most of the new voice commerce channel.

Technology companies are increasingly taking notice, with Samsung launching its voice assistant ‘Bixby’ last year and Apple’s pricier HomePod speaker going on sale in the UK last month. 

Interest in the devices is strongest amongst consumers in emerging economies including China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand.

Demand is generally lower in developed countries. Brazilian and Chinese consumers surveyed are twice as likely (59 per cent and 52 per cent respectively) to plan to own an AI device, as their American (25 per cent), British (24 per cent) or French (25 per cent) peers. Italy and Poland also showed strong interest with around 40 per cent of respondents planning to buy an AI device.

Across all markets, early adopters of AI devices tend to be men, aged 18-34, who are open to collaborative consumption, less likely to take action to reduce the risk of online security issues and fraud and less price conscious.

John Maxwell, PwC’s global consumer markets leader, said: “AI is moving very rapidly into the consumer and retail sectors. Consumers are shifting their shopping behaviours. 

“As soon as they want something, they can order it, rather than think about it until their next shopping trip. Within two to three years AI could revolutionise how companies profile, segment and serve customers.”

Voice technology was clearly the primary battleground for technology firms at CES 2018 in Las Vegas in January. The real technology star is now the consumer and it is our voices that hundreds of companies are vying to attract, with thousands of new products calling out for us to talk to them.

In addition to the growing popularity of AI, mobile devices are gaining traction with global shoppers.

Mobile purchasing has more than doubled in six years to 17 per cent of all shopping, and is likely to soon overtake computer purchases (20 per cent), which now accounts for only one in five of purchases made. Convenience is also playing a part, with half of all respondents using smartphones to pay for purchases in store. 

E-commerce continues to dominate – 59 per cent of consumers are shopping with online retailers - which has transformed shoppers’ expectations about shipments. 41 per cent of respondents say they would pay an extra charge for same-day or faster delivery, 44 per cent for a specific time slot, and 38 per cent would consider a drone as a delivery method.

Despite the dominance of the big online retailers, there is still room for physical stores to thrive. For the fourth year in a row, the number of respondents who say they shop at a bricks and mortar store on a weekly basis has risen, this year by 3 per cent to 44 per cent.

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