Rules of (household) engagement: technology as manager, assistant and intern

Kate Letheren, Rebekah Russell-Bennett, Rory Francis Mulcahy, Ryan McAndrew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Practitioners need to understand how households will engage with connected-home technologies or risk the failure of these innovations. Current theory does not offer sufficient explanation for how households will engage; hence, this paper aims to address an important gap by examining how households set “rules of engagement” for connected-home technologies in the context of electricity use and monitoring. Design/methodology/approach: A review of the extant psychology, technology and engagement literature is conducted and yields two research questions for exploration. The research questions are addressed via 43 in-depth household interviews. Analysis includes thematic analysis and computerized text analysis. Findings: The results include a typology of technology engagement (the “PIP typology”) and discuss three main roles for technology in assisting households: intern, assistant and manager. Key contributions are as follows: consumers in household settings may experience “compromised engagement” where the perceived middle option is selected even if no-one selected that option originally; households open to using connected-home technologies are often taking advantage of their ability to “delegate” engagement to technology, and because consumers humanize technology, they also expect technology to follow social roles and boundaries. Research limitations/implications: Future research may examine the PIP typology quantitatively and/or in different contexts and would benefit from a longitudinal study to examine how household technology engagement evolves. Four research propositions are provided, which may form the basis for future research. Practical implications: Recommendations for practitioners are presented regarding the benefits of keeping consumers at the heart of connected-home technology goods and services. Specific design principles are provided. Originality/value: This paper fulfills the need to understand how households will engage with connected-home technologies and the roles this technology may fulfill in the complex household service system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1934-1961
Number of pages28
JournalEuropean Journal of Marketing
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 20 Sept 2019
Externally publishedYes


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