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Virtual agents in e‐commerce: representational characteristics for seniors

Veena Chattaraman (Department of Consumer Affairs, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, USA)
Wi‐Suk Kwon (Department of Consumer Affairs, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, USA)
Juan E. Gilbert (Division of Human Centered Computing, School of Computing, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina, USA)
Soo In Shim (Department of Consumer Affairs, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama, USA)

Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing

ISSN: 2040-7122

Article publication date: 18 October 2011

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is two‐fold: to investigate virtual agent representational characteristics (modality, interaction style, animation, realism, embodiment, and gender) employed by agent software providers in developing commercial and non‐commercial web sites; and to examine older consumers' preferences in these agent characteristics.

Design/methodology/approach

Study 1 involves a content analysis of 64 sample web sites of agent providers, and study 2 consists of four focus group interviews conducted with 25 older consumers in the age group of 65‐82 years.

Findings

Findings from both studies reveal some important disconnects between agent characteristics (modality, realism, animation, and gender) offered by virtual agent software providers and those preferred by older consumers. As a result, important recommendations are provided for the development of virtual agents for e‐commerce applications to enhance accessibility for older users.

Originality/value

No previous studies have investigated which agent characteristics enhance web accessibility and are most preferred by older users in the context of e‐commerce applications.

Keywords

Citation

Chattaraman, V., Kwon, W., Gilbert, J.E. and In Shim, S. (2011), "Virtual agents in e‐commerce: representational characteristics for seniors", Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing, Vol. 5 No. 4, pp. 276-297. https://doi.org/10.1108/17505931111191492

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited