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Towards better interaction between salespeople and consumers: the role of virtual recommendation agent

Sihem Ben Saad (Business Department, Carthage Business School, University of Tunis Carthage, Tunis, Tunisia)
Fatma Choura (Higher Institute of Computer Science, University of Tunis El Manar, Ariana, Tunisia and LIGUE Laboratory, University of La Manouba, Manouba, Tunisia)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 10 November 2022

Issue publication date: 13 February 2023

1784

Abstract

Purpose

In the context of a profound digital transformation, the need for social interactivity is becoming fundamental for consumers on e-commerce sites. It allows them to interact with the company in the same way as with salespeople in physical stores. Among the different existing virtual agents used by companies to offer online solid interaction, this study focuses on virtual recommendation agents (VRAs). The purpose of this paper is to investigate the effectiveness of VRA on consumers’ psychological states and online impulse buying.

Design/methodology/approach

An experimental website was designed for this study. After interacting with VRA, respondents had to take part in a survey. The questionnaire included measures of perception of the VRA, perceived enjoyment, online impulse buying and perceived risk. Structural equation modelling was used to test the research model.

Findings

The results confirm the positive influence of the VRA on perceived enjoyment, which is positively associated with online impulse buying. The effect of the VRA’s presence on perceived enjoyment is moderated by gender.

Research limitations/implications

Only one product category was studied, for which the advice of VRAs is undoubtedly essential. However, this could also be valid for other products, such as technological products, where the consumer’s level of expertise may be low. Hence, the authors propose to extend this study to various products for a better generalization of the results.

Practical implications

This study provides practitioners with relevant findings on the efficiency of VRAs and offers them guidelines to design more interactive commercial websites with higher levels of social interactions. Such interactions should reduce perceived risks and make visitors more confident. This can encourage more traffic and sales, which implies growth in incomes and revenues.

Social implications

Through this technology, VRAs can create more humanized links between consumers and companies.

Originality/value

Working on VRAs is original as they represent the technology that can replace salespeople. In addition, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, this research is the first to test the impact of VRA on online impulse buying. By examining the VRA’s set of fundamental capabilities, this study contributes to existing research on how companies should integrate digital technologies in their sales interactions with consumers, which to date has focused on other sales channels such as social media platforms.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge with gratitude the support of Professor Leila Hamzaoui for her writing assistance and proof reading of the article.

Citation

Ben Saad, S. and Choura, F. (2023), "Towards better interaction between salespeople and consumers: the role of virtual recommendation agent", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 57 No. 3, pp. 858-903. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-11-2021-0892

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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