Not long ago, artificial intelligence (AI) was the stuff of science fiction. Now it is changing how consumers eat, sleep, work, play, and even date. Consumers can interact with AI throughout the day, from Fitbit’s fitness tracker and Alibaba’s Tmall Genie smart speaker to Google Photo’s editing suggestions and Spotify’s music playlists. Given the growing ubiquity of AI in consumers’ lives, marketers operate in organizations with a culture increasingly shaped by computer science. Software developers’ objective of creating technical excellence, however, may not naturally align with marketers’ objective of creating valued consumer experiences. For example, computer scientists often characterize algorithms as neutral tools evaluated on efficiency and accuracy, an approach that may overlook the social and individual complexities of the contexts in which AI is increasingly deployed. Thus, whereas AI can improve consumers’ lives in very concrete and relevant ways, a failure to incorporate behavioral insight into technological developments may undermine consumers’ experiences with AI.
A new Journal of Marketing article seeks to bridge these two perspectives. On one hand, our research team acknowledges the benefits that AI can provide to consumers. On the other hand, we build on and integrate sociological and psychological scholarship to examine the costs consumers can experience in their interactions with AI. After exposing the tension between these benefits and costs, we offer recommendations to guide managers and scholars investigating these challenges. In so doing, we respond to the call from the Marketing Science Institute to examine “the role of the human/tech interface in marketing strategy” and to offer more scholarly attention to situations where “customers face an array of new devices with which to interact with firms, fundamentally altering the purchase experience” (Marketing Science Institute 2018).
We begin by presenting a framework that conceptualizes AI as an ecosystem with four capabilities: data capture, classification, delegation, and social. We focus on the consumer experience of these capabilities, including the tensions felt.
We then discuss the experience of these tensions at a macro level, by exposing relevant and often explosive narratives in the sociological context, and at the micro level, by illustrating them with real-life examples grounded in relevant psychological literature. Using these insights, we provide marketers with recommendations regarding how to learn about and manage the tensions. Paralleling the joint emphasis on social and individual responses, we make recommendations outlining both the organizational learning in which firms should engage to lead the deployment of consumer AI and the concrete steps they should take to design improved consumer AI experiences. We close with a research agenda that cuts across the four consumer experiences and suggest ideas for how researchers might contribute new knowledge on this important topic.
From: Stefano Puntoni, Rebecca Walker Reczek, Markus Giesler, and Simona Botti, “Consumers and Artificial Intelligence: An Experiential Perspective,” Journal of Marketing.
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