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Is AI Influencing Purchasing Decisions?

NEW UK CONSUMER STUDY: Nearly half of UK consumers believe AI directly influences purchasing decisions

  • 70% of consumers aware of impact of generative AI when purchasing online
  • 45% convinced it influences their choices
  • AI-generated deep fakes and misinformation among biggest online information concerns

SEVEN IN 10 (70%) UK consumers are now aware generative AI promotes goods and services online and 45% believe it directly influences purchasing decisions, according to a new consumer study.

The insight, gained by market research agency MSi ACI through a survey of 1,000 UK consumers, shows that fake reviews in general (49%) were the most concerning when it comes to trusting the validity of content.

But more than a third (38%) of the population think AI-generated reviews and celebrity ‘deep fakes’ are the biggest worry, with 37% feeling their trust is most put into question around AI providing misinformation.

The perceived impact of AI on purchasing decisions was also found to vary between different demographics of UK consumers.

Men are more likely (49%) to think AI has an impact on their decision making online than women (41%). Looking at geographic differences, Londoners are most likely (59%) to think AI is influencing their purchasing behaviour in comparison to their Scottish counterparts, where just a third (37%) believe this to be the case.

The research also found trust in decision making varies significantly between young and older consumers. Half (50%) of over 55s in the UK worried about being able to trust online sources due to potentially AI-generated fake reviews, compared to only 28% of 18–34-year-olds.

Dr Tom Bowden Green, Senior Lecturer in Marketing and Behavioural Science Researcher at Bristol Business School, University of the West of England, said: “There is clearly a high level of awareness of generative AI.  However, the apparent lack of trust in online sources is concerning as it suggests that AI and misinformation may be undermining an important principle known as social proof.

“When faced with a new situation, such as a potential purchase, consumers often look for reassurance from others. Marketers understand this and therefore provide reviews and case studies to help consumers.

“Yet, whereas people are experienced in judging human content, artificially-generated content is known to lack authenticity and therefore fails to encourage purchase intention.

“As generative AI is becoming more advanced, people are understandably cautious about whether the content they see online is trustworthy. Brands therefore need to think creatively about how they continue to offer human-to-human contact to build and maintain a connection with consumers.”

The study also looked at how trust in sources of recommendation and endorsement have changed during the past two years.

Trust in family and friends remains high, with nine in ten (91%) people saying their trust had either remained the same or improved in regard to seeking the advice of their nearest and dearest. In addition, advertising (81%) and media, such as newspapers and magazines articles, (80%) both showed stable and improved trust ratings.

Conversely, while still scoring a trust rating of 69% overall, faith in social media recommendations had reduced for 26% of consumers surveyed during the past two years.

Phil Sandy, UK Research Director for MSi-ACI UK, said: “This has been a fascinating programme benchmarking how consumers feel about the rise of AI and how it affects their online shopping experience.

“We have a significant way to go to truly understand how new technologies make an impact on the consumer, not only for the individual today but for firms to create long-term commercial marketing decisions.

“Such things can only be based on robust insight measured over time. We’re excited to see how these areas will evolve and how behaviours and perceptions continue to change for the UK’s consumer.