FEB 21, 2024 9:50 AM PST

Selling with Personality: Leveraging Human Characteristics in Product Design

If electronics tried selling themselves by speaking to you, would you have a greater urge to buy them? This is what a recent study published in Decision Support Systems hopes to address as a research duo investigated how artificial intelligence (AI) could be used as a productive marketing and retail tool for selling their products. This study holds the potential to help researchers, businesses, and consumers better understand how AI can be sold using anthromorphism (possessing human attributes).

“Companies have long used cartoon-like characters to sell products. We are familiar with the ‘M&M spokescandies’, for example,” said Dr. Alan Dennis, who is a Professor of Information Systems in the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University and co-author on the study. “But adding human features to a product can be a powerful way to influence consumers’ perceptions and decision making, because it can trigger anthromorphism.”

For the study, the researchers enlisted approximately 50 undergraduate students and asked them to pretend they were new master’s degree students who needed a new television, camera, or laptop for their studies. Using an eBay-style auction website, the students then bid on the products after watching a two-minute video exhibiting a speaker with human attributes which described the product. The goal of the study was to ascertain how much the students were willing to bid on the products with the video compared to products without, all while using an Emotiv EPOC EEG headset to gather data on their brain activity.

Image of one of the undergraduate students participating in the study. (Credit: IU Kelley School of Business)

In the end, the researchers discovered that the participants were willing to make approximately 20 percent higher bids on the laptop that displayed human attributes compared to the camera and television, whereas the latter two had the same bid amounts even with the two-minute video. Using the headset, the researchers also found that the two-minute video activated regions of the brain associated with environment recognition, although these results were not similar with all participants, as the researchers found the participants responded differently to the television and camera with the two-minute video.

“Our research shows that there are important boundary conditions in the effects of displaying products in an anthromorphic form,” said Dr. Dennis. “Our results show that anthromorphic displays lead to different cognition and different willingness to pay for more complex products, but not less complex products … Our results suggest that adding a face, movement and human speech are useful in designing the display of more complex products.”

What new discoveries will researchers make about how AI can be used as a marketing tool in the coming years and decades? Only time will tell, and this is why we science!

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

Sources: Decision Support Systems, EurekAlert!

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of "Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey".
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