Robots, society and the marketplace

The central area of my research has to deal with the self, self-image in particular, and it answers the questions of who you are as a person, so therefore it is it’s very central in driving a person’s attitude and behaviours, and I want to address this from a perspective of the consumer, so how does the self drive consumer behaviour, in brief. I have three research themes that come out of there. The first one looks at the self and cross-cultural consumer perceptions in terms of brands. The second one, I look at how the body image and the self interact to drive consumption. The third and most recent area I’m working on has to do with human-robot interactions, the self and artificial intelligence. And that’s probably the one which I’m focusing the most efforts on now. I recently published a discussion piece which addresses the key issue of which sectors or marketplace sectors would be affected the most greatly in the next decades. And there is ample evidence that healthcare, education, are some of the key areas which will be vastly impacted by AI and robots. Besides that, the area of companionship. You can think about people who are lonely, who might have robots at home, Or even as far as the area of sexbots, where people might look at that type of robot. And as a marketer I’m also very interested in the issue of how social robots and AI are used in retail and consumption settings. With regards to specific empirical research which we work on, I have a project now which we’re developing with colleagues in the UK, and we’re evaluating how social robots are used to overcome acculturative stress, so after people relocate, they might have some additional stress, they might feel lonely, so how they might use companion robots, in order to overcome that stress. Then, considering that Asia is one of those hotbeds for AI and robots, I also have some contacts in Japan. We want to look at the connection people develop with social robots, and how that affects some consumption behaviours. There is ample evidence that consumers use brands to express themselves because they use them as part of their self-identity. So now we want to evaluate if this also will apply rather to a brand, in this case to a robot or AI equipped in a robot. So, if consumers connect well with these robots, it’s more likely that they will accept these robots, for example in a retail setting or hospitality setting, and therefore make the interaction more comfortable. This is also very important, of course, for these companies, when they choose to select which type of robot. Which takes us to our project where we also look at specific robot design features, for example anthropomorphism. Does the robot look more like a toy, more like a terminator or more like a human robot? So, those design features might influence how comfortable you feel, as a consumer, when you interact with it. And managerial implications are vast, because we are aware that in the next five, ten, twenty years, robots and AI will have a very big impact on the marketplace across all sectors, so companies really need to understand how consumers interact with these robots if they can accept them, not just from the perspective of making money, to exploit, you know, the use of these robots, also in terms of psychological well-being. It’s not easy for a person, specifically older groups, to suddenly find themselves with a robot and AI. So it’s important to understand how people connect in order to make that transition much much easier, for society overall and also for companies.

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