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Curiosity beats German angst: what do consumers think of AI?

German consumers believe that artificial intelligence (AI) will improve their lives by opening the door to new opportunities and services. They also see the advantages of AI applications and algorithms when it comes to fighting the coronavirus, according to a recent study by the IT service provider adesso. Despite this fundamentally optimistic attitude, however, many are hesitant to use AI-based services such as chatbots.

What do the people of Germany think of AI? In its new study, adesso takes a look at this very question. A survey of 1,000 consumers indicates that the majority are not afraid of AI, with 55 % even expecting to benefit personally from the use of the technology, and 82 % believing that robots will perform arduous tasks in future and make life easier. Even though 70 % of respondents think AI-supported applications will make many professions obsolete, only 12 % are concerned about their own jobs. “Our survey provides little indication of the proverbial ‘German angst’ or fundamental scepticism towards AI among consumers,” says Volker Gruhn, Chairman of the Supervisory Board and founder of adesso SE. “On the contrary: AI has arrived in the minds of consumers. They associate the technology with gains in terms of convenience and more customised support.”

High hopes for fighting the pandemic

With AI already being used successfully in medicine, AI applications and algorithms are set to provide support in the fight against COVID-19 when it comes to tasks such as identifying high-risk groups or predicting the spread of the virus. Nearly one in two respondents (47 %) believes that AI plays an important role in efforts to combat coronavirus. More than half (53 %) think that the technology will gain importance in society in light of the current crisis. And 59 % say they would use an AI-supported system such as an app to track and trace infections.

But what about the technology’s applications in everyday life? What kind of AI systems, such as chatbots, would consumers use? Two-thirds of consumers (67 %) can imagine using such an application to schedule appointments with government agencies and public-sector service providers. Almost one in two (46 %) would be interested in getting advice on an online purchase. One in three would consider using AI for assistance in buying insurance (38 %) or opening a bank account (33 %). The survey suggests that acceptance of AI systems depends to a large extent on the individual scenario. However, a vast majority of respondents see the advantages of AI-based systems, such as the ability to reach service providers and retailers 24/7, shorter waiting times (or even none at all) and the greater ease of finding information. In addition, 59 % of consumers who have already used a text chatbot said that the experience was a positive one. They were particularly impressed by the chatbot’s ability to find fast and precise answers.

Data protection is important, consumers say

The majority of those surveyed take a critical view of data gathering and data collection. For example, less than one-third like it when companies automatically make them personalised offers based on previous purchases, visited websites or activities on social media.

“Companies need to take consumers’ data protection concerns seriously,” Gruhn says. “What’s more, consumers lack practical experience with AI applications. That is both a challenge and an opportunity for businesses. They need to make greater use of AI’s potential and create convincing offerings. In doing so, it is important to make the added value of each AI solution for the individual absolutely clear.”

adesso partnered with the Cologne-based market research institute HEUTE UND MORGEN to carry out a survey on AI between January and mid-February 2020. A total of 318 decision-makers in the business world and 1,000 consumers from a wide range of age groups in Germany were surveyed. In early June, the consumers were surveyed once again on selected topics to analyse trends or changes in their attitudes on AI as a result of the current coronavirus pandemic.

The study can be downloaded for free.

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