How voice technology influences what we reveal about ourselves

Researchers from University of Miami and New York University published a new Journal of Marketing article that examines how voice technology can affect what consumers reveal about themselves.

The study, forthcoming in the Journal of Marketing, is titled “Information Disclosure in the Era of Voice Technology” and is authored by Johann Melzner, Andrea Bonezzi, and Tom Meyvis.

We live in an era where consumers constantly interact with technological devices connected to the internet. Whenever consumers search for information online, make purchases, or consume videos, music, and other content, they disclose information about themselves. This disclosure has allowed technology companies to collect consumer information at an unprecedented scale — which they in turn have monetized directly, mined to identify unmet needs, or used to optimize marketing activities such as segmentation, targeting, and pricing.

Until recently, consumers interacted with technology largely through manual communication, which entails typing or selecting options by clicks or touches. Voice technology (brought about by artificial intelligence) has enabled interactions to also occur through oral communication and consumers increasingly engage with their phones, tables and other devices using their voices.

Melzner explains that “The rapid propagation of voice technology raises a vital question: Do consumers disclose more or less information about themselves when they interact with technology orally rather than manually? To answer this question, one needs to consider that consumers can disclose information about themselves both verbally, that is, by voluntarily providing information through language, as well as nonverbally, that is, by involuntarily revealing information through vocal paralanguage and ambient sound.”

Verbal Disclosure

The researchers also identify mechanisms that arise from fundamental differences between oral and manual communication. They integrate these mechanisms into a verbal disclosure decision-making framework illustrating the complex ways in which communication modality can affect consumers’ likelihood to disclose information. This modality-dependent framework not only provides impetus for future research, but can be used as a tool by marketers to gauge when and how oral versus manual communication may increase or decrease consumers’ likelihood to disclose information verbally.

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