HBR article on autonomous products and consumer happiness

What would be your guess—does the use of autonomous technologies make us happy? Accumulating research suggests that using smart and autonomous products makes consumers happier—but only under certain circumstances, as a recent Harvard Business Review article reveals:  

“Robots Save Us Time—But Do They Make Us Happier?”
by Ashley Whillans, Emanuel de Bellis, Fabian Nindl, Tobias Schlager

Increasingly, humans outsource tasks to autonomous and smart technologies, such as robotic vacuum cleaners, cooking machines, and autonomous lawn mowers. This approach saves time, reduces stress, and contributes to consumer happiness. However, there are two important caveats: 

1. Consumers feel guilty if their products seem too humanlike. 

Although many products are intentionally designed to appear humanlike (e.g., by receiving nicknames or providing the opportunity for voice interactions), adding “person-like” qualities to autonomous products can backfire: Consumers are less comfortable with humanlike products doing their dirty work, and even feel guilty about this.

2Consumers worry that using autonomous products makes them lazy.

Particularly in cultures, in which busyness serves as a status symbol, the use of autonomous products can convey the image of a lazy person. The fear of creating such a negative impression reduces consumers’ happiness with autonomous products and could be a major obstacle for their broad adoption.

Manufacturers of smart products should consider these potential reductions in consumer happiness and address them in their marketing strategies and product development. Click here for the full article.

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