As useful as they are today, AI-enabled digital assistants are poised to bring even more advancements and convenience. Digital assistants will offer even easier access to vast knowledge than with the Internet alone. They will free up our time by handling tasks like scheduling, shopping, and communicating. They will help consumers provide feedback about their experiences and desires for brands. Digital assistants will even begin to establish relationships with us and predict our needs.

And therein lurks the peril within the promise.

Just how well do we want digital assistants to know us? We may be on a first-name basis with our digital assistant, but since one of its goals is to sell to us, to what degree should we deputize it with BFF status?

Qualtrics surveyed 1,600 US adults to understand what they want from digital assistant AI technology, and what crosses the line.

Key Digital Assistant Consumer Perceptions of Digital Assistants

Most consumers prefer a “speak only when spoken to” policy with their digital assistants.

  • 65% prefer to talk first to their device
  • 11% want their device to make proactive recommendations

The consumers who want proactive recommendations from digital assistants want them most for:

    • Appointment reminders (64%)
    • Traffic delay warnings (64%)
    • Medical reminders (take pills, etc) (44%)
    • Vehicle service reminders (33%)
    • Notification when a family member has arrived somewhere (27%)

The consumers who want proactive recommendations from digital assistants are less likely to  want them for:

    • Nearby business you might want to stop at (14%)
    • Notification that friends are nearby (16%)
    • Movies you might like (18%)
    • Events you might want to attend (19%)

The top concerns consumers have about proactive recommendations are:

    • Being bothered too often (65%)
    • Getting unwanted marketing (61%)
    • Getting private data hacked (55%)
    • Privacy of location (54%)
    • Privacy of interests (51%)

Digital assistants and AI bring a tremendous new power as tools to collect feedback, drive demand and make life easier. But with this power comes a responsibility to protect user data, avoid being intrusive and practice ethical data-collection activities.

The brands that strike the right balance between serving and selling will be the ones that win in the new marketplace with digital assistants.