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Neurophysiological responses to robot–human interactions in retail stores

Gaia Rancati (Department of Business and Economics, Allegheny College, Meadville, Pennsylvania, USA)
Isabella Maggioni (Department of Marketing, ESCP Business School, Turin, Italy)

Journal of Services Marketing

ISSN: 0887-6045

Article publication date: 17 March 2022

Issue publication date: 28 February 2023

1116

Abstract

Purpose

Retailers are increasingly considering the introduction of service robots in their stores to support or even replace service staff. Service robots can execute service scripts during the service encounter that can influence customer interactions and the overall experience. While the role of service agents is well documented, more research is needed to understand customer responses to a technology-infused servicescape and to investigate the value of service robots as interaction partners. The purpose of this study is to examine the degree of customer immersion in human-human or human-robot interactions across different stages of the service experience and to understand how immersion affects store visit duration under each condition.

Design/methodology/approach

An experimental field study was developed to test the research hypotheses. The study was conducted in a retail store selling premium Italian leather goods with 50 respondents randomly allocated to one of two experimental conditions, interaction with a service robot or interaction with a human sales associate. Participants’ biometrics were collected to measure their immersion in the service encounter and to assess its impact on store visit duration.

Findings

The interaction with a service robot increases the level of customer immersion during the service encounter’s welcome and surprise moments. Immersion positively affects visit duration. However, participants exposed to a robot sales associate reported a shorter visit duration as compared to those who interacted with a human sales associate.

Originality/value

This study contributes to the emerging service and retail marketing literature on service robot applications applying a neuroscientific approach to the study of human–robot interactions across different moments of the service encounter. For managers, this study shows the conditions under which service robots can be successfully implemented in retail stores in accordance with the type of task performed and the degree of immersion generated in customers.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This work would not have been possible without the financial support of Fedon1919 in the person of Pietro Fedon, who provided the merchandise, and the collaboration of his team, consisting of Lucia Ziliotto and Mauro Zatta. The authors are especially grateful to Morgan and Arman Ariane, who allowed us to use their store in Claremont as the setting for the study.

The authors thank Professor Paul Zack – Claremont Graduate University and Professor Jorge Barraza – University of Southern California for kindly providing the Immersion Neuroscience Platform and their support, insights, and expertise throughout the research. The authors also thank Prof. Jim Boerkoel – Harvey Mudd for assistance with the coding of the service robot.

Citation

Rancati, G. and Maggioni, I. (2023), "Neurophysiological responses to robot–human interactions in retail stores", Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 37 No. 3, pp. 261-275. https://doi.org/10.1108/JSM-04-2021-0126

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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