A study building on anthropomorphism theory probed user interactions with smart devices
Choosing the best human-like features for voice-controlled smart assistants (VCSAs) like Amazon’s Alexa is an important decision for marketing managers as they can influence liking and loyalty in consumers, but equally can deter people. Doing so involves some understanding of how consumers relate to these devices. It is well understood that users “do not just perceive a static object” but interact and engage with VCSAs dynamically.
This three week study attempted to explore the human-object relationships formed among 39 “informants”. It concluded that VCSAs are typically viewed as a “servant”, “partner” or “master” and that successful interactions seemed to be based on a feeling of superiority for the user over the device. Those who saw VCSAs as servants were most prepared to continue using them whereas treating the devices as partners ended in disappointment and led users to “abandon” them.
The authors explain that consumers seem to relate to voice-controlled devices through the lens of “familiar roles” like “parent/child” or “student/teacher”, so providing cues to recognisable interactions might help. And users should be given a feeling of control through feedback mechanisms to encourage them to stick with a product and learn how to use it.
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