Marketing the Unfamiliar: The Role of Context and Item-Specific Information in Electronic Agent Recommendations
Authors: Alan D.J. Cooke, Harish Sujan, Mita Sujan, Barton A. Weitz
Electronic agents help consumers locate new products and generate demand by recommending products with which consumers may be unfamiliar. We explore the effects of these unfamiliar recommendations by addressing the following questions: (1) How do unfamiliar recommendations affect consumers' attitudes towards the agent? (2) How does information about familiar recommendations alter consumers' attitudes toward unfamiliar alternatives and toward the agent? (3) How does item-specific information about unfamiliar alternatives moderate the effect of familiar recommendations? Through three studies using simulated music CD shopping agents, we show that: (1) unfamiliar recommendations lower agent evaluations, (2) familiar recommendations create a context that can raise the attractiveness of unfamiliar recommendations and the agent, and (3) the effects of contextual recommendations can be reversed by item-specific information. Furthermore, we show a dissociation between recommendation and agent evaluations under some conditions. These results suggest ways to ameliorate the effects of unfamiliarity in Internet product search through the use of appropriate contextual cues.