73% of UK shoppers back human roles in retail despite AI advances

Despite 2023 being hailed as the year of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) hype-curve, UK shoppers are clear that AI can never replace human interaction.  Nearly three quarters (74%) of consumers believe no matter how good AI becomes at improving customer experience (CX), there will always be a role for human interaction in retail, according to new research from the Retail Technology Show (RTS), the industry’s leading event taking place on 24 & 25 April 2024 at London’s Olympia.

Original research of over 1,000 UK shoppers by RTS revealed that already a quarter (25%) of UK consumers agree AI is improving their shopping CX.  And, with consumer and business adoption of AI evolving at pace, a further 44% of shoppers say they don’t mind if retailers use AI in their buying journeys, as long as the experience is positive.

However, there are still deep reservations around the impact of the technology on consumers and the retail industry overall.  While the Business of Fashion and McKinsey State of Fashion survey of global fashion executives found the majority (73%) of respondents said Gen AI will be an important priority for their businesses in 2024, there is work to do to allay consumer concerns with 69% of respondents polled by RTS wanting retailers to do more to build trust when using AI in their shopping experiences.

Three quarters (74%) of UK consumers say brands should be transparent when using AI in their buying journey, with a similar number (72%) demanding retailers spell out their governance policies and procedures for AI use with customers.  Two fifths (39%) of shoppers are mistrustful of retailers’ and brands’ use of AI – increasing to 41% of Gen Z, dispelling the idea that only older consumers are reluctant around this nascent technology.

Consumer concerns are more wide-ranging than just the potential personal impact of AI.  Over half of respondents (53%) say AI risks stifling creativity within the retail sector, while a further 70% say AI will risk retail jobs within the industry which, according to Centre for Retail Research, already saw 120,000 jobs lost in 2023.  Yet, despite these challenges, 73% of UK shoppers polled by RTS also felt that despite the fast-paced adoption of AI, human roles will always be needed in retail.

Matt Bradley, Event Director for the Retail Technology Show, commented: “There’s no doubt 2023 was the year that Generative AI (Gen AI) exploded into the consumer psyche, increasing shoppers’ awareness of the use of AI, both in their personal lives as well as when interacting with businesses and in their shopping journeys.  And while AI’s mainstream use in retail is quickly accelerating, the proliferation of products and tools that came to market last year, alongside the level of further investment, signpost AI as one of the key transformative and disruptive technologies to watch as we look to the year ahead.”

Having worked as a speechwriter and advisor for Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk’s SpaceX, RTS headline speaker, Dex Hunter-Torricke, will be discussing the impact of Gen AI and how the retail industry can make sense of what he sees as a major opportunity.  Speaking to Customer Whisperer, Kate Hardcastle MBE, on the Headline Stage on Day 1, Hunter-Torricke will outline the AI lessons he has learned from working at Google, DeepMind, Meta and SpaceX and discuss the real-life applications and benefits, its potential to disrupt the industry and what retailers need to understand from a risk, compliance and copyright perspective.

Also on the Headline Stage, speakers from John Lewis & Partners, Morrissons, B&Q and Aptos Retail will join a panel discussing how retailers can increase competitive advantage by embracing the AI revolution.

Bringing together the brightest minds in retail with the most transformative technologies, the 2024 Retail Technology Show is a one-stop-shop for innovation, with 400+ innovators – from tech’s biggest players to fast-growth disruptors showcasing their transformative solutions.

To register to attend the Retail Technology Show for free, visit: Retail Technology Show 2024.

Join Retail Connections

Register here

Related insights

Consumers call for best-before date discounts – 44% want food expiry markdowns to cut grocery bills

A quarter of shoppers now only shop with retailers offering loyalty member pricing – RTS research

Former Confused.com exec, Andy Brockway, joins Retail Insight as new CTO

Upmarket Italian deli, Prezzemolo & Vitale, rolls out Pricer’s in-store automation solution

UAE, Australia, South Africa, India and Spain lead global demand for UK brands, ESW data reveals

AI chatbots prove ‘most disruptive’ automated experience for UK shoppers

Join Retail Connections

Get the latest industry views and exclusive member offers sent direct to your mailbox.