Millennials' attitude toward chatbots: an experimental study in a social relationship perspective

Roberta de Cicco*, Susana Costa e Silva, Francesca Romana Alparone

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Chatbots represent an innovative channel for retailers to meet young customers' needs anywhere and at any time. Being an emergent technology, however, it is important to investigate more thoroughly how users perceive it, and which are the variables that enhance a positive attitude towards this technology. On this premise, this study applies a social relationship perspective to the design of chatbots addressed to younger consumers. Design/methodology/approach: The study adopts a between-participants factorial design to investigate the effects of visual cues (avatar presence vs avatar absence) and interaction styles (social-oriented vs task-oriented) on social presence and how this, in turn, enhances millennials' perceived enjoyment, trust and, ultimately, attitude towards the chatbot. A survey experiment was employed to conduct the study on data collected from 193 Italian millennials. Findings: The results show that applying a social-oriented interaction style increases users' perception of social presence, while an insignificant effect was found for avatar presence. The partial least square structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM) analysis further confirms the hypothesised model. Originality/value: The adoption of new digital technologies such as chatbots is likely to have a far reaching effect on retailers, consumers, employees and society. For this reason, a broad understanding of the phenomenon is needed. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to provide results from an experimental design in which both interaction style (social- vs task-oriented) and avatar (presence vs absence) of a chatbot are manipulated to directly explore social presence and its effect on trust, perceived enjoyment and millennials' attitude towards a chatbot applied for retailing purposes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1213-1233
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Retail and Distribution Management
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 10 Oct 2020


  • Attitude
  • Avatar
  • Chatbot
  • Enjoyment
  • Interaction style
  • Social presence
  • Trust


Dive into the research topics of 'Millennials' attitude toward chatbots: an experimental study in a social relationship perspective'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this