A website with search and interaction history can be just as engaging as chatting with an online human agent or robot helper, says a study led by an Indian-origin researcher.
“In the study, the users of an online movie database site that offered a list of past interactions considered the site just as responsive as one that offered chatbot or human helpers,” said S. Shyam Sundar, Co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory at Pennsylvania State University.
Businesses that design their websites with this type of history could generate the same level of user absorption as sites with robot and human chat, but without the big budget.
“Highly interactive browsing history can give the user this back-and-forth sense of dialogue that is almost the same as talking with an attentive customer agent,” said Sundar.
With clever design, you can give the sense of a conversation and the flow of information and that could translate to higher user engagement.
Browsing history can show users what pages they have recently visited. “When you go to Google, for example, and just type in a few words, it automatically fills out a number of possible search options based on your past searching,” said Sundar”.
“It’s a way of communicating that it might know where you are going with your search. That’s another way of conveying contingency by the system,” he noted in a paper appeared in the journal Communication Research.
Participants rated the sites with a live chat system as more interactive but this perception did not affect their attitudes toward the site.
“What mattered more is their perception of contingency,” Sundar added.
The findings indicate that interaction history could enhance intelligent assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Echo, that are becoming more available on smartphones and in homes.
“If Siri, for example, could tell you a little bit about your interaction history with her, some of the clunkiness in the chat could be overcome because it makes for more of a conversation between the user and the device,” said Sundar.
More than just looking and sounding like a human, devices should convey to users that they are listening, he added.
“The most human thing that a machine can do is show that it is listening to you,” said Sundar.