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Robot Sales Assistants

By Gaia Rancati & Isabella Maggioni

The Impact of Immersion and Dwell Time

Advances in technology, tech-savvy consumers, and the new challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic are urging retailers to innovate and enhance the customer experience. In this setting, 服务机器人的应用正在多种类型的商店中迅速普及, from grocery stores to luxury ones, 执行更复杂的任务并与客户交互. 零售商正努力在机器人和人类销售助理之间找到正确的平衡, 同时想知道机器人如何影响店内消费者的行为. 本研究采用神经科学的方法,评估人与人的沉浸程度. robot-human in-store interactions across the stages of the selling process and how this affects store visit length.

The market of service robots is growing rapidly and robots are becoming more affordable and technologically advanced. 在零售业,机器人通常用于处理基本任务和库存. However, 最近,零售商开始使用服务机器人来创新顾客互动. Past research has focused on evaluating human-robot interactions (HRI) in the retail environment using qualitative methods, 从神经科学的角度来看,没有人关注.

In service intensive stores, the sales assistant-customer interaction follows the selling process that is a script of several consequent steps, 是什么产生了客户沉浸感并预测了客户的注意力和参与度. Immersion is a neurological and psychological process, related to narrative transportation, 当一个人经历对环境的深度关注和情感投入时会发生什么. 可以通过软件平台ImmersionNeuroTM进行测量, which captures in real-time neural signals associated with attention (increased heart rate and electrodermal activity) and vagal tone (increased heart rate variability).

In this study, we assessed how sales assistance mode, i.e. 人-机器人交互(HRI) vs人-人交互, affects the relationship between immersion and dwell time. 停留时间定义为顾客在店内停留的时间. Past research suggests that longer visits to a store increase the opportunity to interact with the store environment and merchandise, which in turn could lead to higher purchase intention, conversion rate and profitability (Newman et al. 2006; Mallapragada et al., 2016; Sorensen et al. 2016). Specifically, 我们专注于销售过程的四个不同阶段(欢迎光临), store introduction, brand storytelling, 我们通过连接到软件平台的可穿戴传感器来测量交互. We proposed that customers generally respond to the presence of a service robot by increasing their level of engagement in the shopping experience. However, we also hypothesized that the degree of immersion in the shopping experience would be significantly higher when interacting with a human sales assistant. Moreover, we posited that the impact of immersion on dwell time is weaker when interacting with a robot sales assistant compared to with a human sales assistant as customers have been found by previous studies to prefer human labor when examining products with higher symbolic value like fashion items (Granulo et al., 2020).


Participants (N=50, 28F, 22M, ages 18-65, average age 37.4)在一家意大利皮具零售店进行现场实验. 每个参与者得到20美元,并随机分配到一个实验条件,i.e. 与机器人销售助理和人类销售助理的交互. 生物特征信息通过可穿戴传感器收集并发送到软件平台.

During the experiment, we used the social robot, Jibo. Given that robots are only flexible within defined limits, 我们对机器人进行编码,使其在上述销售过程的四个阶段与客户进行交互. 因为服务机器人拥有系统化的知识和系统设置, we trained the sales assistant to memorize the service script and to reproduce the same words and behaviors of the robot. All interactions were recorded by an external HD camera positioned in the store and connected through a Bluetooth microphone and intercom placed on participants to record the voice and reduce the environmental noise during the recording; Participants were not given a specific length of time to complete the experience, but were left free to browse in-store. 每一次体验都被计时以获得停留时间数据,这些数据在这里以秒为单位报告. After completing the shopping experience, participants were presented with a survey collecting demographics and familiarity with Italian luxury brands. After the study, ECG artifacts were manually removed from data and R-R intervals were identified and extracted through ImmersionNeuroTM. Upon completion of the study, 销售过程阶段被编码,视频记录被配对并与生物特征数据同步. 数据通过方差分析和回归分析使用Hayes的PROCESS模型1与5,000 bootstrapping5.

Key findings

1. With reference to the entire shopping experience, 我们评估了两种实验条件下的沉浸感的显著差异(Mhuman= 4).62, Mrobot= 4.75, F=16.41, p<.001). We found that immersion was significantly higher in the robot condition during the surprise moment (Mhuman= 4.63, Mrobot= 4.90, F=12.59, p<.001),而在销售过程的其他时刻没有显著差异.

2. To evaluate the impact of immersion on dwell time, we conducted a multiple regression analysis including age, gender, and familiarity with Italian brands as control variables. 沉浸感对停留时间有显著的正向影响(ß=.178, p<.001). 这证实了之前的研究,因为更多的消费者参与到购物体验中, the more likely they are to spend more time in-store.


3. 通过适度分析,我们评估了与人类互动的效果. 机器人销售助理关于沉浸感与停留时间的关系. 沉浸感与销售辅助模式之间的互动(人vs. robot) is statistically significant in the welcome (F= 18.65, p<.001), store and merchandise introduction (F= 19.56, p<.001), brand storytelling (F= 10.82, p=.001), and surprise (F= 8.14, p=.004) moments. Participants exposed to a robot sales assistant generally reported a shorter dwell time compared to those who interacted with a human sales assistant (Figure 1). Thus, the positive effect of immersion on store visit length is weakened by the introduction of a service robot sales assistant.


The results demonstrate that there are important differences between human-robot interactions (HRI) and human-human interactions in a retail store. We generally observed that the presence of a robot increased the level of immersion in a shopping experience. Customers also showed a deeper connection and higher level of engagement with the shopping experience when interacting with a robot. 人们在互动中的注意力水平会提高, 这反过来又提高了购物体验的整体乐趣. 这种效应在突袭阶段尤其显著, 在这个活动中,向顾客提供了一份意想不到的小礼物, who showed a higher degree of engagement when a robot was performing this specific task compared to a human sales assistant.

这项研究的另一个相关发现与沉浸感和停留时间之间的关系有关. Dwell time is an important metric to monitor in retail spaces as an increase in customer dwell time could lead to a higher purchase likelihood and positively affect impulse buying behavior. 我们的研究证实,沉浸感对停留时间有积极影响. In other words, 就会有更多的顾客深度参与到购物体验中, 他们在店里待的时间就越长. However, we observed that this relationship is significantly stronger when customers are interacting with a human sales assistant compared to a service robot. Those who showed high levels of immersion and were interacting with a human sales assistant during the brand storytelling moment stayed in-store longer (18 min 16 sec), 其次是由售货员介绍到店里的人(17分39秒). 与机器人销售助理互动时停留时间明显较低, with the longest visits recorded for those who were deeply immersed in the experience and interacted with the robot in the brand storytelling (13 min 17 sec) stage and those who showed low immersion and were introduced to the store by the robot (12 min 41 sec).

Potential applications in retail

1. 在服务遭遇过程中,机器人的存在对顾客有积极的影响. Although the communications are artificial, customers enjoy having a conversation with service robots and reward it with higher levels of attention and engagement. Therefore, we recommend retailers to consider the introduction of conversation robot types in the store to enhance the service experience.

2. However, 人类销售助理的角色仍然是增加停留时间和保持顾客在店内的关键, increasing their likelihood to purchase or impulse buying. 这个结果可以用人际关系中社会成分的重要性来解释, rather than the simple transactional element. Hence, the presence of a human sales assistant is still necessary for developing a healthy relationship with customers.

3. 沉浸感增加了欢迎和品牌故事的停留时间, highlighting the convergence of retail and neuroscience. 因为零售商强调在服务过程中欢迎和讲品牌故事的重要性, biosensors show that activity in the peripheral physiology occurs in response to emotional and persuasive stages of the selling process. Both stages can be facilitated by humans or robots, but only humans generate higher permanence in the store.

4. High immersion levels during the surprise moment demonstrate that when sales assistants engage in “extraordinary behaviors”, 购物者提高了他们的情绪激发和购物乐趣. 从机器人那里得到惊喜会让你更深地沉浸在体验中. 之所以会出现这种情况,是因为人们普遍认为技术是遵循脚本的. 因此,零售商可以考虑在他们的惊喜策略中更广泛地应用机器人.

About the authors:
Gaia Rancati,意大利阿勒格尼学院和IULM大学市场营销和神经营销学教授. 伊莎贝拉·马吉奥尼(Isabella Maggioni)是ESCP商学院的营销学教授.

This was originally published in Insights Magazine, NMSBA的成员可以获得关于神经营销的季刊的完整档案. Interested in joining? Check the options.