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Authors: Anne-Madeleine Kranzbuehler (Delft University of Technology, Netherlands, The), Mirella Kleijnen (VU University Amsterdam)
More and more consumers are using smart products equipped with artificial intelligence. A recent survey forecasts that by 2022, 50% of US households will be equipped with voice-activated smart speakers such as Google Home or Amazon Echo (Juniper Research 2017). A recent Adobe study found that of the consumers owning such a smart speaker, 47% use integrated voice assistants for product search in their shopping process (Adobe 2018). Thus, an increasing number of consumers is already outsourcing or will outsource decision making tasks to such smart technologies in the near future. Such an outsourcing of decision making tasks might be very convenient to many consumers as it takes care of a potential choice overload. Especially with the rise of online shopping, there are literally endless options for many product and service categories that might lead to a decreased motivation to choose and lower levels of post-purchase satisfaction (Scheibehenne, Greifeneder, and Todd 2010). On the other hand, outsourcing shopping decisions to voice assistants might also have adverse consequences for the competitive landscape as algorithms (programmed by commercial parties) heavily influence market shares. Outsourcing shopping decisions to voice assistants thus constitutes a trade-off for consumers: they give up control in return for increased convenience. In this study, we will analyze (1) what motivates consumers to use such voice assistants in their shopping decision making in the first place and (2) how positive initial experiences with such outsourcing will transfer to other decisions in a consumer’s life. If a consumer is satisfied with the outcome of an outsourced shopping task, she might build up trust in the voice assistant. Just like consumers value and follow the recommendations of friends and family they trust (e.g., Hoerger and Howard 1995), they might increasingly rely on their voice assistant for decision support also in more complex contexts. Consumers already heavily rely on comparison websites for typically important and complex decisions for instance for mortgages or insurances. Completely outsourcing such decisions to voice assistants could be a logical next step that even further reduces decision complexity in return for limited control. Our results will provide insights for manufacturers of voice assistants into which other areas of consumer decision making might be interesting fields of application. Further, we will provide insights for society into whether consumers should be prevented from outsourcing complex life decisions to such voice assistants as it might lead to adverse consequences for their own lives or the competitive landscape.