Autonomous products are transforming the way we perform many consumption tasks, including everyday activities such as driving, cooking, and recreational activities such as biking and skiing. However, very little marketing research has examined the consumer preferences for autonomous products.
This dissertation seeks to provide deeper insights into whether consumers differ in how they perceive the usefulness and risk associated with autonomous products, when adopting such products. The significance of autonomous products is that they can either assist the user by performing a given set of subtasks, or replace the user by performing the entire consumption task without user interaction.
In this dissertation, I propose that consumers will diverge in their perceptions of usefulness and risk and subsequent intentions to adopt assistive vs. replacement technology, depending on their degree of task expertise. Across three experimental studies using three consumption tasks (i.e., driving, cooking, and skiing), the findings converge.
The results from empirical investigation confirmed that the consumers’ task expertise is a crucial driver in the evaluation of usefulness and risks, and subsequent intentions to adopt autonomous products. More importantly, I demonstrated that consumers with higher levels of task expertise perceive assistive technology to be more useful and less risky, compared to replacement technology. In contrast, consumers with low task expertise perceive replacement technology to be more useful and less risky compared to assistive technology. Finally, perceptions of usefulness and performance risk will further affect adoption intentions.
My research-work offers important theoretical contributions:
First, this dissertation focuses on the consequences of autonomous products in a consumption context, and highlights some previously undocumented effects of product autonomy in the marketplace.
Second, this dissertation aims to contribute to the technology-related marketing literature, by complementing the existing research on the dark side of technology and answering recent calls for studies on how technology affects consumers differently, depending on their consumption motives.
Among others, this research has two practical implications:
First, consumer-centric firms should consider their target segments’ expertise when deciding which tasks, currently performed by consumers, are good candidates for assistive vs. replacement technology.
Second, this dissertation demonstrates that at the product launch stage, managers should consider the people’s expertise, and then communicate the benefits of replacement and assistive technologies in a way that matches their target audience’s consumption goals, to increase the likelihood of product adoption among target consumers.