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The Unexpected Preference for Chatbots Over Humans in Online Shopping

The Unexpected Preference for Chatbots Over Humans in Online Shopping

Although the idea of real human interaction during online shopping would seem favorable to most consumers, a recent study tells us otherwise. It suggests that when embarrassed by their purchases, consumers prefer conversing with an identifiable chatbot rather than an actual person.

Researchers at The Ohio State University found that this is particularly observed in instances where consumers buy items online like antidiarrheal medicine or skincare products. These products can, for various reasons, potentially embarrass the buyer and activate self-presentation concerns.

Jianna Jin, who led the study as a doctoral student at Ohio State's Fisher College of Business, noted that despite the general preference for human customer service agents, there is a reversal of this trend when there are fears of judgment. She explains, "they would rather interact with a chatbot because they feel less embarrassed dealing with a chatbot than a human."

Chatbots are rapidly becoming prevalent as customer service agents. Rebecca Walker Reczek, a professor at Ohio State's Fisher College of Business, points out that given this shift, companies must clarify whether consumers are interacting with a chatbot or an individual.

The series of studies conducted during the research used different scenarios around purchasing embarrassing items. The results showed interesting patterns. For instance, when consumers imagined buying hay fever medication, a non-embarrassing product, 91% of them preferred dealing with human customer service. However, the idea of procuring antidiarrheal medicine saw 81% of the participants opt for chatbots.

Another factor that stood out was the 'human' depiction of the chatbots. Participants responded positively to clearly identified chatbots but were uncomfortable when the chatbot used emotional language or had a human-like appearance. It seemed as though this triggered a proactive defense mechanism to avoid embarrassment, even if the chatbot was clearly identified as non-human.

This research can serve as a significant aid to companies in crafting their customer service strategy. As the world of conversational AI develops rapidly, it may become harder for consumers to differentiate between a chatbot and a human customer agent. Therefore, clear indication of the usage of chatbots can put customers at ease, especially those concerned about possible judgment and embarrassment.

Disclaimer: The above article was written with the assistance of AI. The original sources can be found on ScienceDaily.