Mar 29

More men using smart home devices to buy goods, Bryan researchers find

More men say they are using smart home devices to buy goods and order services than do women, according to new research from professors at UNC Greensboro’s Bryan School of Business and Economics.

Additionally, Millennials are more likely to have multiple smart home devices and interact with those devices than are older generations.

These findings — and more — come from Dr. Bonnie Canziani and Ms. Sara MacSween of the Bryan School’s Department of Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Hospitality, and Tourism. Their paper, “Consumer acceptance of voice-activated smart home devices for product information seeking and online ordering,” was recently published in the peer-reviewed journal, Computers in Human Behavior

“The original question was, ‘How likely are customers to use these devices to buy products or services?'” said MacSween.

It took about six months to construct the survey used in the study, which was deployed in the summer of 2018. 

“We were really concerned with the voice aspect of ordering goods and services since we felt this was a gap in the field. Given that voice functions are appearing across multiple devices such as smart home devices, cars, and smartphones, we thought it would be timely to investigate what kind of consumers would use voice for shopping and ordering activities,” said Canziani. “Voice merges the functionality of telephone talk with a website or screen ordering. The primary questions involved looked at whether using voice to order was driven by the convenience of the tool itself or something else such as entertainment value of voice, which relates to hedonic pleasure that consumers derive from shopping experiences.”

MacSween says women played music, asked about the weather and sought information more on these devices, while men were more likely to use it for purchase-related activity.

“Men were more than doubly likely to use (a smart home device) for online banking and a statistically significant amount likelier to order services and products, control their homes and search for product information,” said MacSween.

For Canziani, the issue of gender in this research was telling due to the fact that men’s comfort with technology overrode typical consumption tendencies for gender in certain product categories. In this case, men dominated ordering for things like clothing and household products.

Another thing that stood out to the researchers was an apparent desire for convenience over privacy. Both cited brand as an important factor in this decision for consumers.

“The lack of concern about privacy and security, and inversely the level of trust, were connected with the belief that a company, Amazon, was trustworthy and using Alexa voice-operated tools to buy from Amazon was seen as trustworthy,” said Canziani. “The brand the tool accessed did influence voice ordering in a strategic way.”

MacSween says that trust has been building for some time — for example, the first Black Friday deal on an Amazon smart home device.

“It’s actually quite interesting,” said MacSween. “Individuals know the devices are recording, but they’re less concerned about security because they feel comfortable about the parent company. In 2018 Amazon was the second-most trusted brand in the country and people know that Amazon stores the purchase history and has their credit card information.”

It’s not just adults who enjoy using these products. The Bryan School researchers noted children seem to enjoy using the devices as well, whether to do math problems or tell jokes.

Both expressed interest in continuing this research, possibly on the future of voice ordering or how smart home devices control future household purchases. 

“I would be interested to determine how voice is used for ordering new products rather than reordering previously purchased products and the role of recommendations coming from Alexa-type tools,” said Canziani. “The other big issue is to dive into differences across categories of products. The voice-activated tools are starting to provide ancillary screens, which based on our research, women prefer for shopping. We imagine that voice alone may be more useful for less visual products, such as theater tickets or music, than for others — say, visual attribute dominant products such as clothing.”