Global: In which business category are consumers more prepared to be assisted by robot salespeople?
January 5th, 2022, Janice Fernandes

Global: In which business category are consumers more prepared to be assisted by robot salespeople?

Restrictions during COVID-19 forced most consumers to reduce human interaction and increase contactless experiences. But just how willing are consumers around the world to cut out humans altogether and be assisted by a robot salesperson after the pandemic?

A new survey from YouGov reveals their perceptions. We asked consumers in 17 markets across the globe in which business categories would they be happy to be assisted by a robot salesperson to continue the contactless experience.

Nearly half of global consumers say they don’t want to be assisted by a robot salesperson (49%)

In nine out of the 17 markets surveyed, at least 50% of consumers would prefer not to be assisted by robots at all. However, a quarter of global consumers overall (25%) are ready to be assisted by robots at supermarkets, grocery stores and retailers, followed by at airports (20%), restaurants and cafes (20%), hotels (19%), banks (18%) and car showrooms (11%).

Robot salespeople at supermarkets are popular in most markets

Once lockdown was lifted, supermarkets were one of the most visited stores in a majority of the surveyed markets across the globe. While overall global consumers are happy to be assisted by robot salespeople in a supermarket, respondents in the Asian markets make up a higher share of these consumers (50% in China, 48% in online Hong Kong, 47% in Indonesia, 44% in urban India and 36% in Singapore). The proportion of people in agreement is comparatively smaller in North America (27% in urban Mexico and 19% in the US) and shrinks still more in the European markets (Poland has the highest share at 28% and France and Spain have the lowest at 9% each). Digging deeper into the data also suggests that globally younger respondents are happier to be assisted by robots – this could perhaps be attributed to an increased comfort level with technology.

Airports can aim at going contactless

A worldwide travel ban during the last two years has certainly changed the travel industry, but how many consumers are willing to be assisted by robots? Turns out consumers are next most comfortable with robot assistance in airports with 20% globally saying they would be happy to be helped out by an automaton. While the Asian markets continue to lead, the US (16%) and Britain (15%) have a comparatively higher share in this category. At least one in ten consumers in 16 of the 17 markets are happy to be assisted by robots at the airport. Italy is the one country where only 8% of the consumers agree with this idea.

One in five global consumers say yes to robot salespeople at restaurants and cafes

The online community in Indonesia appear most inclined towards robotic assistance at restaurants and cafes (41%), slightly more than even China and India (40% each). The North American audience continues to remain a small share (22% in urban Mexico and 14% in the US) and the same goes for the European markets with Poland having the highest share of 20%. Further analysis reveals that the youngest age group (18-24-year-old) of global consumers have a higher degree of openness in this regard. They are three times more likely than the oldest age group of 55 and above (30% vs. 10%) to be happy with robot salespeople in their restaurant.

Will consumers prefer to check-in and check-out without interaction?

Hotels along with airports is the next business category where a higher share of US consumers would be happy with robot assistance (16%). While Denmark (7%), France (7%) and Spain (8%) continue with their low shares, GB comes in at 15% and Australia at 17% – a comparatively higher share for both markets. While the overall data indicates that globally the younger generations are more inclined towards robot assistance in hotels, this also plays out in almost every individual market – with the UAE being the only exception. Here, the older generation of consumers aged 55 and above are slightly more likely than all other age groups to be happy with a contactless experience – 18-24 (31%), 25-34 (29%), 35-44 (32%), 45-54 (25%), 55+ (39%).

Automated banking may only be the beginning

Of the 17 markets in our study, consumers in China continue to lead as the most likely to be comfortable with robot assistance (37%) in banks. Among the other Asian markets, Singaporeans make up the lowest share with only 22%. Online banking may have picked up during the pandemic, but consumers in some markets are slightly more ready to go completely contactless. After supermarkets, the Polish are most likely to accept robot assistance at banks (21%), while Sweden (9%) and Demark (5%) continue to have less than one in ten interested consumers. The global data further suggests that men are more likely to be happy with a robot salesperson at banks than women (21% vs. 15%). Among these men it’s the 25-34-year-olds who have the highest share (27%), followed by 18-24 (26%), 35-44 (25%), 44-54 (21%) and 55+ (13%) age groups.

Are consumers ready for robots as car dealers?

Marketers might find it particularly useful to know that consumers across all 17 markets are least likely to be happy with a robot car salesperson. It seems to indicate that consumers want that human touch and expertise especially when purchasing a car. Unsurprisingly, China has the highest share of consumers (24%), along with urban Indians (24%). One in ten British (11%) and American (12%) consumers are happy with this idea – a lower share than the Asian markets but higher than other European countries (Poland (9%), Germany (5%), France (4%) Italy (7%), Spain (5%)).

It can be noted that the Asian markets tend to be more open to the idea of businesses with robot assisted salespeople compared to North America or the European markets.

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Methodology: The data is based on the interviews of adults aged 18 and over in 17 markets with sample sizes varying between 509 and 2124 for each market. All interviews were conducted online in August 2021. Data from each market uses a nationally representative sample apart from Mexico and India, which use urban representative samples, and Indonesia and Hong Kong, which use online representative samples.