AI for

The Wonder and the Worry

Research agencies need a technology edge to stay ahead of clients and competitors. If your firm isn’t thinking faster, learning better and seeing farther it can’t connect the dots from research to ROI.


Sure, we’ve already seen head-spinning changes to marketing tech over the past decade that have sometimes outpaced society’s ability to adapt.

  • The iPhone shifted our culture
  • Social Media altered our relationships
  • Marketing automation allowed for near 1:1 marketing

But even compared to these recent advancements, the earth-shifting potential of AI in marketing can’t be overstated, and the importance of marketers to use it responsibly can’t be ignored when it comes to privacy, data security, and ethics.

In a very real sense, the businesses that learn to implement Artificial Intelligence to power their brands will have not just a competitive advantage, but a compounding competitive advantage.

AI promises to organize machine learning into networked technologies that learn from us and interact with us as if they were human.

Chatbots will interact with customers in ways only humans do today.

Wearables will create relationships between humans and things.

AR/VR will merge our digital and analog realities.

But how will consumers react to being “sold to” by machines? What do they think of AI’s marketing applications today?

Qualtrics, the experience management company, surveyed over 1,600 US adults to understand their perceptions of emerging AI technologies, how they use them, and what concerns them about a world increasingly driven by machines.

The insights from this study will guide your product roadmap as you ponder how AI will redefine the experience and marketing landscape.

Person holding phone


Even at this early stage, AI is already embedded in our lives. According to a recent Qualtrics survey, 61% of US adults already say they are regularly amazed at the capability of their smartphone, and advancements like this will certainly enter the realm of possibility soon.

Google Home Amazon Echo


The New Gateway to Better Customer Experiences

Every industry has a pivot point, and the adoption of digital assistants is a substantial one for market research. Digital assistants like Siri live in our phones. Intelligent agents like Alexa sit on our countertops. Chatbots pop up increasingly often in our apps like Facebook Messenger. They understand natural language. They can perform simple tasks. They’re beginning to feel like people you know.

These and others are already fairly adept at telling you the population of India or who won the game last night, but soon they’ll also be able to tell businesses how to raise the stakes by collecting the valuable customer feedback that consumers choose to share.

This ability will have a massive positive impact for customer experience and market research professionals.

Like a digital version of “The Elf on the Shelf”, virtual assistants are always ready to listen from nearby as a smart speaker or in your phone. They snap to attention when you call their name.

What if this technology could become the new voice interface for market research? Could the majority of your future feedback be sent with your voice instead of your fingertips? Are most future surveys destined to be voice interviews?

After all, since you are already on a first-name basis with your digital assistant, you might as well tell it how you really feel.

Not only is it likely you will frequently provide your experience feedback with your voice in the future, this scenario isn’t too far off. We are regularly impressed with the stream of advancements in technology that surround us with increasing speed. In the recent Qualtrics survey of U.S. adults familiar with digital assistants, 61% say they are regularly “amazed” at this capability of their smartphone.

There are many ways digital assistants can help collect customer, brand, product and employee feedback:

Customers can provide a spoken NPS rating at the register just moments after purchase while their memory is fresh

A digital assistant can conduct a short interview with a new customer to measure the buying experience, and offer to connect the customer with a company agent should there be a problem

Companies can embed voice digital assistants into their products that would allow the user to describe how their experience is going, namely makers of vehicles, home items, and software.

Digital assistants can reach the millions of people who are unable or unwilling to take a survey online or with a mobile visual interface

Digital assistants will be able to collect much richer open-ended comments, as speaking is faster and more intuitive for most

For more involved purchases, digital assistants can check in with customers during different points of their buying journey to flag any concerns or friction the customer may be experiencing

As AI improves and can stitch together different events, digital assistants could (with user permission) aggregate web browsing and product purchases to understand when customers hit product road bumps.

Digital assistants on mobile devices will be able to add location data to survey response data for richer insights

IVR phone tree technology will become much smarter and allow customers on the phone to describe their experience while on hold or after their call

Feedback vs.

Collecting feedback from customers is becoming increasingly necessary for businesses to compete. However, the public is simultaneously becoming increasingly concerned about the data businesses collect. That verb, “collect”, is the key. How is data collected? Is it voluntarily offered by a customer? Or is it collected without explicit permission using cookies, geographic location, clicks, and search queries?

In other words, is feedback volunteered or is it extracted with surveillance? That distinction will be the great dividing line in the AI privacy debate. In may cases, surveillance is the norm, and AI will only introduce new forms of spying tradecraft.

Even in today’s emerging AI world, 33% of consumers say they already don’t think they can control how much information companies collect about them and 43% feel they have a lack of control over their personal information according to McAfee research.

Phone feedback Person using phone

Building AI frameworks may be one of the most ambitious challenges ever taken on by humankind, but the accompanying privacy challenges may be equally challenging.

Despite the privacy debate, there’s no doubt this technology is incredibly promising for customer experience practitioners. Voice is the new UX. Digital assistants will introduce a rush of customer experience feedback insights, which is infinitely more valuable than just giving us a traffic update during rush hour.

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘a faster horse.’

–Henry Ford

How Will Digital
Assistants Impact Your
Product Experience?

Henry Ford understood that some product concepts leap so far ahead that they cannot yet be imagined by customers. He once said that, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘a faster horse.’” Ford’s Model T wasn’t just a faster horse. It altered the very face of the earth. In our era, artificially intelligent digital assistants are on the cusp of doing the same.

Digital assistants like Siri and Alexa have gone mainstream, but they’re not stopping here. While still in their early stages of adoption, these chatty digital friends have the potential to seep into every aspect of business: customer service, order handling, ecommerce, product recommendations, marketing, and more. With the biggest tech brands on earth betting on digital assistants, it means they absolutely have as much world-changing potential as the Model T.

The data in our study can guide your product and service roadmap as you ponder how digital assistants will shake up the landscape.

How Consumers Prefer to Handle Tasks Today

We asked US consumers how they prefer to take care of common tasks to determine how likely they were to use a digital assistant versus another method.

Book a


On their computer


With a digital assistant

Book a


On their computer


With a digital assistant

take-out food


On their computer


With a digital assistant

Make a restaurant


On their computer


With a digital assistant

Call a


On their computer


With a digital assistant

Buy concert


On their computer


With a digital assistant

Schedule a doctor’s


On their computer


With a digital assistant

Register a product


On their computer


With a digital assistant

Get info about a


On their computer


With a digital assistant

On the Same Language Page

We’ve all been there--sometimes you ask your digital assistant a question and are astonished at its level of comprehension, and other times you can’t believe it misunderstood something so simple.

These inconsistencies will smooth out as the technology improves, but overall assistants perform well in the face of high expectations. US consumers say they expect their digital assistant to understand what they say 72% of time, and 58% of the time it actually does. While there is a gap between expectation and performance, it’s certainly not an insurmountable one. An important note: the degree to which digital assistants understand English varies if the person speaking to it is a native English speaker or not.

Smartphone Smartwatch

The Most Common Digital
Assistant Uses

It’s not surprising that the most common digital assistant uses overlap with many common smartphone uses.

The Top 5 Digital Assistant Uses:

Top 5 digital assistant uses chart

But consumers say that their digital assistant is not capable of performing all tasks with the same level of accuracy.

Consumers say their digital assistant is always helpful for:

Digital assistant is always helpful for chart

There is a simple reason for the growth of digital assistants based on artificial intelligence--they add value to daily life. Considering the young nature of digital assistant technology and the swift advances it is making, it will likely play a growing role in how we shop, travel, communicate, and live.

As you’re building out your product roadmap, make sure you’re asking the right questions to implement artificial intelligence in your offerings. While it is perhaps still a “nice to have” for today’s consumer, tomorrow’s consumer wouldn’t accept anything less.

How can

your products leverage the reach that
digital assistants provide?

you differentiate your product offering by integrating
a digital assistant?

your new service tie into the ways people are
communicating with the cloud?

digital assistants help you manage your technical support, customer feedback, marketing, and ordering programs?

Answering these types of questions today will help ensure your product roadmap meets the future expectations of digital assistant technology in everyday products.