Making Sense of AI Skepticism: Strategies for Winning Over Customers

Artificial intelligence (AI) integration into ecommerce operations has become commonplace in today’s digital landscape. However, many customers remain skeptical about AI’s benefits and implications. To use AI successfully, it’s crucial for businesses to understand and address these concerns. Our objective is to better understand what customers think of AI, provide insights to build trust, and ultimately win them over.

Understanding Customer Perception of AI

In February 2024, we surveyed 1,458 online shoppers to understand their feelings about AI. Despite the potential benefits of this new technology, online buyers have yet to be convinced it will give them a better shopping experience.

Here’s a rundown of the main concerns we came across:

  • Uncertainty: 39% of online shoppers are unsure if the ecommerce retailers they visit use AI.
  • How it’s used: 56% across most age segments believe the impact of AI on their customer experience depends on how it’s being used.
  • Privacy: 47% are not interested in sharing personal information in exchange for a more customized or convenient experience.
  • Helpfulness: 33% believe AI will be most helpful in delivering more timely responses, but only 15% think it will give them more accurate or higher-quality responses.

With AI usage spreading so quickly, it’s no wonder customers are wary of it. Many are uncertain whether their favorite retailers are using this technology, which casts doubt on their entire shopping experience. Others are skeptical about AI advantages, as we discovered when 21% of those surveyed said they did not believe AI would improve their online shopping experience.

Despite the uncertainty of customers, retailers shouldn’t fear using AI. As we’ve learned from our survey, overcoming skepticism is all about using artificial intelligence the right way.

Strategies for Building Trust in AI and Mitigating Negative Brand Impacts

Customer trust is essential to maximizing success. Recent data from Deloitte found that trusted companies actually outperform their peers by up to 400%, and customers who trust a brand are 88% more likely to make another purchase.

But trust is hard to earn and easy to lose. To build customer trust in AI, creating a positive experience is vital. We’ve put together some steps to help you get there.

1. Trust First, AI Second

If shoppers don’t trust your brand without AI, it will be hard to convince them to trust you with AI. Before implementing anything new, it’s essential to have built a solid foundation that you can use to win customers over.

First, let’s go over what not to do. Our survey revealed that certain website features can hurt brand perception:

Based on that information, avoiding the pitfalls listed above makes sense. In fact, doing the opposite may make for good trust-building strategies:

  • Provide easy-to-find support details on websites.
  • Use an in-house, hands-on customer support team before using chatbots.
  • Put resources into quick response times.
  • Use a clear return policy.
  • Don’t ask for unnecessary personal data.
  • Use the data you do have responsibly.

Once you’ve laid the groundwork of customer trust, you can start integrating AI into your processes.

2. Seamless AI Integration

Our survey found that customers have mixed feelings about how AI will be most useful:

For AI to work effectively, it needs high-quality data to learn from and make accurate predictions. A recent report revealed that poor data quality caused failures or delays in up to 38% of AI projects. Poor-quality data can lead to errors and biases, resulting in inaccurate predictions, unsatisfying interactions, and damage to customer trust.

AI implementation requires a thoughtful and deliberate approach to lessen these issues. Starting small and focusing on areas where AI can have the biggest impact is a smart way to begin. This gives you time to gather the necessary data and assess the results before scaling up. As customers witness small but positive results from AI, they may become more comfortable with it and open to embracing more widespread use.

3. Transparency

Our survey also showed customers aren’t always sure how often they encounter AI when shopping online. When asked whether they believe the ecommerce retailers they visit are using AI, we found:

  • 52% believe retailers are using it.
  • 39% aren’t sure.
  • 35% think almost all retailers are using it.

Overall, younger shoppers were more likely to believe AI was being used, while older shoppers tended to be less certain. This apparent lack of transparency is clearly causing doubt among consumers, and it’s just one more thing hindering trust in AI.

Customers value transparency. Deloitte’s data on customer trust also showed that when customers believe a brand is highly transparent, they are 2x more likely to promote that brand on social media. And aren’t we all more willing to trust products our family and friends personally recommend? When brands are transparent about AI usage and its capabilities, it helps foster trust by eliminating that barrier of customer uncertainty.

4. Education

It also helps to educate customers about your goals. For example, let’s say you want a chatbot to gather and analyze data from customer support conversations. In this instance, the goal is to identify common problems and get ahead of them quicker than you would have without AI, leading to a better customer experience in the long run. Shoppers need to know your AI isn’t maliciously out to get their personal information — it’s actually beneficial to them.

Another way to gain customer trust? Highlight the role humans play in your AI integration.

We know from our survey that 39% of customers see chatbots as something that could negatively impact brand perception. This is especially true for shoppers aged 50 and over. While 33% think AI will provide more timely responses, only 15% believe it will give more accurate or high-quality responses or give them a more personalized experience.

It’s clear that customers value the empathy that comes with human interaction, and they perhaps dread the unfeeling, impersonal experience of talking to a robot. It’s possible that some simple education could help ease their minds. They need to know AI isn’t running unchecked — it’s simply a tool used with careful human oversight. They need assurance that humans are still playing a role in those interactions, and they need to have the option of talking to a human representative when necessary.

Final Thoughts

While brands increasingly see the need for AI to gain a competitive edge in ecommerce, it’s essential to do so in a way that doesn’t sacrifice customer trust. Thoughtful integration with a focus on transparency and education are the first steps toward easing AI skepticism and winning over customers.

Download our Shopper Insights Brief

Our free Shopper Insights Brief is a great place to start if you’re thinking about integrating AI into your CX strategy. It’s packed with tons of customer stats and analysis. Download it today.