Consumers in Asia fastest out of the gates for home AI adoption

06 August 2018 4 min. read

A recent survey from PwC has revealed that Asian consumers are way ahead of the global curve when it comes to ownership of home artificial intelligence devices, with China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand all ranking in the top five for current uptake and intention to purchase.

In a recent global consumer insights survey conducted by Big Four professional services firm PwC into opinions and trends concerning home artificial intelligence aids, taking the pulse of 22,000 consumers in 27 worldwide locations, consumers in China, Vietnam and Indonesia have come out on top for current ownership levels, with Thailand not far behind.

In addition, while Brazilian respondents were the most enthusiastic globally for home artificial intelligence – with the 59 percent majority intention to incorporate aids such as Amazon Echo or Google Home into their domestic lives – the Asian nations of the survey ranked in the following four places, ranging from 44 percent to 52 percent of respondents indicating that they were planning to purchase a device.Ownership of AI devices: Top 10 countriesThe intention of Asian consumers to purchase home AI devices combined with the current ownership levels in these countries indicates a market ripe with huge ongoing potential. As it stands, more than one in five of the Chinese consumers surveyed owns a home AI device (21%), with a further 52 percent intending to buy. This is echoed in Vietnam (19% ownership and 45% planned ownership) and Indonesia (18% and 49%) and to a slightly lesser extent Thailand (15% and 44%).

As a contrast, in the US, which splits Thailand and the top three for ownership with a current rate of 16 percent, the intention to purchase figure stood at just 25 percent – below the global average of 32 percent and suggesting a market currently closer to exhaustion than its Asian counterparts. This consumer response in the US mirrored those from other mature economies, such as the approximate three quarters of respondents in the UK and France who had no current intentions to adopt.Home AI device ownership figuresThe PwC survey report, however, offers certain caveats. “As it stands now, personal assistants are still relatively primitive—they can understand single commands but not context and patterns of behaviour. You are going to see a lot more capability in the next three-to-five years,” says says Anand Rao, with the expectation that interest in owning an AI-based device will increase as the technology matures.

Or when fears for privacy are allayed?

A curious quirk of the survey was the gendered difference in responses, with altogether only 27 percent of females indicating an interest in purchasing a home AI device compared to a 36 percent positive response from males, in addition to a current 9 percent to 11 percent female/male disparity in ownership. Although such devices can enhance home security, there may be a heightened concern for personal privacy from female consumers.

Indeed, a lesser concern for privacy is forwarded by the authors of the report as one explanation for the far higher uptake by consumers in the Asian nations of the study: “Openness to buying AI devices reflects their preference for voice interaction with electronics, as well as lower levels of concern about online privacy and security,” the survey report states.

Certainly, the denizens of many Asian countries would be more familiar with the notion of robotics and interacting with automation in everyday facets of life, with a recent report highlighting that the highest absolute numbers and density of industrial robots per worker are found within countries of the region. However, there may be another element at play – shopping, and the added convenience of AI assistants for purchasing in commonly crowded Asian cities.

Further, the PwC report notes that 30 percent of current AI owners say they spend less on shopping than they did prior to buying their device, despite the average early adopter reporting as less price conscious when browsing. Early adopters are also more likely to buy everyday items in bulk (70 percent of respondents) and have high expectations for quick delivery – two profile aspects again suggestive of home AI as an enhanced tool to combat the time and inconvenience of shopping in congested cities.

And as to what the data means for retailers, the report concludes; “For traditional retailers, the challenge is using AI to enhance the customer experience so that the in-store experience is something consumers value enough to keep coming to the physical store. For Amazon and other big e-retailers, the challenges are concerns about privacy and security. Companies that implement AI while maintaining the human touch will likely be the winners in the years ahead.”