Not-so Easy Listening: Roots and Repercussions of Auditory Choice Difficulty in Voice Commerce

"Not-so Easy Listening: Roots and Repercussions of Auditory Choice Difficulty in Voice Commerce," by Kurt Munz and Vicki Morwitz. Invited revision at Journal of Consumer Research.

  2018 Center for Global Economy and Business Grant

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In the context of voice shopping, fifteen experiments demonstrate that information presented by voice can be more difficult to process than the same information presented in writing. Consequently, auditory consumers who shop by voice are less able to differentiate between choice options, leading them to choose recommended items more often, but also defer choice at higher rates compared to when the options are presented visually. This auditory choice difficulty stems from greater difficulty comparing auditory options and is related to an increased burden on working memory. Because the difficulty is related to making comparisons, a joint-evaluation—where an option is considered in the context of others—is more likely to be impacted by voice presentation than a separate-evaluation, and joint versus separate preference reversals are less likely by voice. However, voice presentation can negatively affect the evaluation of even a single item when a consumer compares it against a remembered item, a common scenario in the actual marketplace for tasks such as re-orders. Describing choice options in a way that reduces the burden on memory for auditory consumers can reduce processing difficulty and its downstream consequences.