Why are some self-service technologies (SSTs) more successful than others in attracting consumers to try a new technology? Research has frequently posed this question; however, a generally accepted answer still eludes researchers. The inclusion of self-service methods in firms is motivated through the efficiencies that are created by allowing consumers to serve themselves. Firms have embraced SSTs to improve consistency in service provision and reduce costs. Consequently, there has been an explosion of this service method throughout service industries. Implementation of SSTs is commonly a 'one size fits all' approach (Gritt and Schelmetic, 2005). Consequently, important considerations such as: (1) differences between consumers, (2) consumers attitudes toward other aspects of the firm, (3) external marketing messages, and (4) the strength of the brand, have been ignored. As a result of this naive approach to the implementation of SSTs, some consumers are slow to adopt the self-service method.
Meuter, Bitner, Ostrom and Brown's (2005) Journal of Marketing article provides an important foundation for the current understanding of consumer responses to firms offering self-service devices. This foundational article describes that in order to adopt these technologies consumers must be ready and willing prior to the occurrence of actual behaviour. The concept of readiness attempts to extend consumer perceptions relying on Diffusion of Innovations literature (Meuter et al. 2005). However, there are constructs which have not been included in their model of the Key Predictors of Consumer Trial of Self-Service Technologies. Consequently, the relationship among constructs within their model requires further examination.
The aim of this thesis is to analyse and extend the Meuter et al. (2005) conceptualisation to develop a more comprehensive model. Relying on the outcomes of depth interviews and extant literature this thesis posits an alternative role for consumer brand attitudes and consumer readiness. The investigation of brand attitudes and judgements is the key contribution of this research. It is hypothesised that brand attitudes enhance or mitigate overall perceptions toward the technology. If consumers positively associate with a brand, then they may have a more positive attitude toward the uptake of the SST. Further, given the importance placed on consumer ability, motivation and role clarity, a second contribution of this thesis is to respecify how these characteristics influence consumer perceptions toward, and attitudes about, SSTs.
The thesis empirically examines consumer brand attitudes and related constructs by testing three alternative models using consumer panel data supplied by a commercial market research firm. Initially, the quantitative component of this thesis acknowledges Meuter et al's. (2005) Foundational Model and seeks to replicate the results in the alternative context of grocery store self-scanners. Given this research is the first to conceptualise that brand attitudes influence consumer adoption, an alternative view is initially posited based on including brand attitudes to Meuter et aI's. (2005) model. This thesis provides limited support for both the Foundational and Alternative Models. The empirical results provide a link between characteristics of use and perceptions of utility, suggesting motivation and ability influence consumer characteristics in different ways. The results also provide support for the inclusion of consumer brand attitudes within SST research identifying that brand attitudes increase consumers' perceived advantage, thus increasing the likelihood of trial.
The implications of this research for managers are significant. Strong consumer brand attitudes will assist in influencing overall perceptions (e.g., perceptions of relative advantage) of complex technologies. Thus, the likelihood of trial will be increased. Further, consumer motivation specifically increases the propensity for consumers to use the device by increasing the relative advantages perceived and decreasing the psychological risks felt. This thesis identifies the complex nature of consumer adoption of SSTs and provides an initial foundation and direction for future research to further investigate the link between SSTs and consumer reliance upon brand awareness and associations.