Consumer Sentiment

Consumers Know More About AI Than Business Leaders Think

Of consumers, 70% are excited about GenAI in the workplace, but only 43% are enthusiastic about its impact on daily life

New Research by BCG’s Center for Customer Insight reveals insights from 21,000 consumers across 21 countries on AI awareness, usage, and sentiment. View the complete report findings here.

BOSTON, April 24, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — In a mere five days, ChatGPT amassed a million users, solidifying its status as a household name and highlighting a widespread public fascination with artificial intelligence. According to new research by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), consumers’ knowledge and excitement about AI is surprisingly high.

The research, published today in an article titled Consumers Know More About AI than Business Leaders Think, is based on a survey conducted by BCG’s Center for Customer Insight to measure the level of awareness of AI and generative AI (GenAI), as well as usage and sentiment among 21,000 respondents from 21 countries across six continents. It also explored questions relevant to the use of AI in the workplace.

“While perception and usage vary by market, age, and exposure, consumers around the world have a deeper appreciation of AI than we give them credit for,” said Aparna Bharadwaj, global leader of BCG’s Global Advantage practice, former leader of BCG’s Center for Customer Insight, and a coauthor of the study. “These survey findings should be a wake-up call for business leaders, underscoring the need for responsible AI to inform everything they do. If consumers and employees have concerns around data privacy and the ethical use of GenAI, they will not embrace the technology.”

Over 80% of survey participants demonstrated an awareness of GenAI, with a quarter already having used the technology. Seventy-five percent reported that they have used a GenAI powered app or service in a variety of ways to address unmet needs. Individuals under 35 reported higher awareness and usage of GenAI than those over 35 (86% versus 80% for awareness, and 32% versus 20% for usage, respectively).

Cautious Optimism Among Consumers

Consumers demonstrate a nuanced understanding of AI and its positive and negative aspects. While excitement about AI is prevalent, a notable portion of consumers surveyed display an insightful awareness of its potential downsides if not implemented responsibly. About 40% of consumers indicate that they are excited about the various uses of AI, while 28% report that they feel conflicted. Consumers also voiced outright concerns about AI, with 33% worried about data security and the ethical use of AI, and 30% worried about the possibility of AI replacing workers in certain jobs. Ten percent of consumers expressed concern about the environmental impact of GenAI.

BCG’s study details a “misinformation-excitement-concern curve.” Initially, consumers are worried about AI due to misinformation and myths. However, with increased experience and use of GenAI, consumers simultaneously exhibit more excitement and more concern about the nascent technology.

Greater Excitement About AI In The Workplace

Those surveyed recognize the value AI can provide, especially in enhancing daily life, with 39% of respondents expressing optimism about its impact in this regard, followed by 32% expressing enthusiasm for its potential in driving scientific and medical breakthroughs.

From an employee perspective, respondents have a more positive outlook toward GenAI, with 70% excited about the technology. Sixty percent believe that AI will help with learning and education, and 55% anticipate increased workplace efficiencies.

Workplace attitudes toward AI often correlate with job roles. According to BCG’s research, more than half of respondents feel they cannot be replaced by AI or other technologies, while only 19% express feelings of vulnerability or concern about potential job displacement. Those in process-intensive, office-based support function roles (such as marketing and communications, and finance and accounting) feel most threatened by AI, while those in relationship-intensive roles (such as house helpers/babysitters, teachers, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists) feel least threatened.

Openness To AI Is Not Synonymous With Market Maturity

While perception and usage vary by market, age, and exposure, consumers around the world have a deeper appreciation of AI than we give them credit for...

Sentiments regarding AI vary widely across countries, encompassing a spectrum of emotions ranging from excited to conflicted to concerned. While feelings about AI are polarized in every country, some countries are more receptive to the technology than others. Of the 21 countries surveyed, excitement was highest in China (56%), Indonesia (49%), and Brazil (46%), while respondents in France (50%), Australia (49%), and the UK (43%) exhibited the most concern.

Countries with younger populations, which tend to have greater technical and digital experience, generally exhibit greater excitement. Concern is higher in some countries with digitally competitive economies, where consumers may feel more threatened by issues around AI, such as privacy concerns or its impact on jobs. Many businesses in these markets are already introducing GenAI into operations. In less digitally competitive countries, excitement prevails as AI presents an opportunity to expedite solutions to critical issues in areas like health care and education.

Implications For Leaders

GenAI is here to stay and it presents extraordinary opportunities for both productivity gains and topline growth. For leaders who want to harness the transformative power of GenAI for business success, key implications emerge from the survey findings:

  • When looking to invent new applications for consumers, double down on transparency and balanced sell.
  • Pilot new ideas and products in markets that are more receptive to AI/GenAI and consider a tailored approach to privacy.
  • As companies roll out new AI offerings, it’s important to reassure customers before the applications scale too fast.
  • Corporate AI applications are more mature and more likely to be adopted and scale faster than applications that consumers can use in their day-to-day lives.
  • While data and tech are important, keep in mind the 10-20-70 rule: 10% of the effort involves building new algorithms and the science behind them; 20% of the effort involves deploying the tech stack and ensuring the right data feeds into the right systems; and 70% of the effort involves change management and other processes related to people. People and process changes are critical success factors. Be aware of the cultural nuances of AI/GenAI, which vary by country.

“For business leaders developing and deploying AI-enabled solutions and transformations, it’s critical that they build trust by respecting consumers’ views, navigating the misinformation-excitement-concern curve smartly, and tapping the pockets of excitement in emerging markets,” said Jessica Apotheker, BCG’s chief marketing officer and a coauthor of the publication.

Download the publication here.

 

 

 

About Boston Consulting Group
Boston Consulting Group partners with leaders in business and society to tackle their most important challenges and capture their greatest opportunities. BCG was the pioneer in business strategy when it was founded in 1963. Today, we work closely with clients to embrace a transformational approach aimed at benefiting all stakeholders—empowering organizations to grow, build sustainable competitive advantage, and drive positive societal impact.
Our diverse, global teams bring deep industry and functional expertise and a range of perspectives that question the status quo and spark change. BCG delivers solutions through leading-edge management consulting, technology and design, and corporate and digital ventures. We work in a uniquely collaborative model across the firm and throughout all levels of the client organization, fueled by the goal of helping our clients thrive and enabling them to make the world a better place.