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Digital or human touchpoints? Insights from consumer-facing in-store services

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Prior research highlights the extent to which consumers largely appreciate the possibility to choose among different digital touchpoints during the in-store experience, which results in a pervasive introduction of digital touchpoints as the first point of contact between retailers and consumers. However, consumers also give value to the human interactions in the service channels. The previous studies do not conclusively indicate the best balance of digital and human services. The purpose of this paper is to understand consumer-facing in-store services in new technology-enriched retail settings.


A qualitative approach involving face-to-face semi structured interviews was applied. To this end, the authors recruited 26 participants in Northern Italy between October and November 2017.


Results reveal motivations, preferences and discouraging factors leading consumers’ interactions with digital or human touchpoints. Findings ultimately provide useful guidelines to managers on understanding consumers’ attitudes toward digital vs human touchpoints phenomenon.


By identifying the key drivers of either digital and human touchpoints selection in offline retail settings, the present study figured out the attributes playing the crucial role in determining consumers’ preference regarding the in-store alternatives. Findings allow a further greater clarification of the practical issues, with emphasis on the new of human–machine integration.
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Keywords: Consumer behaviour; Digital touchpoints; Human touchpoints; Human–computer interaction; Retailing

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Economics and Management, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy 2: School of Management, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

Publication date: April 8, 2019

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