Someone touching her phone

Touching over the Screen: Matching Haptic Rendering with Product Tactile Cues

Based on: Racat, M, Capelli, S and Lichy, J (2021) “New insights into ‘technologies of touch’: Information processing in product evaluation and purchase intention”, Technology Forecasting and Social Change.

The development of tactile interfaces such as tablets and smartphones has made touch a central sense for understanding information delivered over the Internet. Online navigation is done by touch and, although it is not directly related to what is displayed on the screen, research shows that the simple fact of using a touch interface and thus stimulating the sense of touch with the interface, changes the perception that consumers have of the product presented. Moreover, marketing academics have shown the importance of touch in physical and virtual environments: enabling touching products in-store, for instance, leads in general to higher purchase rates and consumers live better experiences. In online environments, stimulating touch tends to lead to the same results: consumers’ attitude and purchase intention increase whether the tactile stimulation relates to the product’s tactile properties or not.

In our newly published research into Technology Forecasting and Social Change with Sonia Capelli and Jessica Lichy, we conducted an exploratory study to investigate the effect of interface touch (i.e., haptic rendering stimulation) in relation to product tactile cues for consumer product evaluation and purchase intention. We first tested the effect of haptic rendering stimulation fit with the product tactile cues by manipulating the presence/absence of haptic rendering, with a design based on haptic imagery to help consumers visualize its properties and use. Second, we stimulated the respondents’ sense of touch through an interface rendering two distinct haptic stimulations; then compared situations in which the product texture matched or did not match the texture of the haptic rendering stimulation.

We show that haptic rendering stimulation enhances consumer purchase intention and augment perceived sensory similarity. Consumers also tend to process the texture of the screen as information for purchasing and technology becomes a source of information for decision-making. Finally, the instrumental need for touch moderates the effect of haptic rendering on perceived similarity, meaning that consumers relying more on their sense of touch for purchasing tend to discriminate better the different tactile stimulations offered via the interface.

This preliminary research was exploratory and used non-technology-based haptic rendering. Yet, the findings enable to envision future haptic applications for consumption especially for fashion and all product with intrinsic tactile properties as texture. Therefore in collaboration with Interhaptics and dr. Eric Vezzoli, we currently aim to extend these findings by actually testing haptic rendering techniques for texture aiming to related to a specific product texture. By doing so, we are implementing a set of experiments that will enable us to further investigate how consumers perceived virtual textures and if and how they actually connect them to the product they interact with virtually. We will run these experiments on commercial smartphones leveraging the technology present in everyone pocket to test our hypothesis. The objective is to measure the real impact of haptics rendering real world scenario.

Margot Racat holds a Ph.D. in Marketing from the University of Lyon. She is a professor at IDRAC Business School (France). Her research focuses mainly on issues related to sensory influence, especially touch, on information processing in marketing contexts (e.g. mediated environments, customer experience) and management (e.g. entrepreneurial decision making in extreme contexts). She particularly gives interest to computer-mediated (i.e., haptic interfaces) and virtual environments for consumption and knowledge transfer. She publishes her work as articles and books (Journal of Interactive Marketing, Management International, French Management Review, French Marketing Journal, Palgrave MacMillan, …).

Sonia Capelli holds a Ph.D. in marketing from Grenoble University and is a Full Professor at IAE Lyon — Magellan Research center, University of Lyon. Her research focuses on communication (business, social, politics, territorial, etc.) and consumer behavior (psychology, sensory research, etc.). She publishes her work in academic and managerial journals (Journal of Advertising Research, Journal of Product and Brand Management, Psychology and Marketing, Public Management Review, Research and Applications in Marketing…).

Jessica Lichy has an MBA and Ph.D. in online/digital consumer behavior, adopting an inter-generation and cross-cultural approach. She is employed as a research professor at IDRAC Business School (France) besides working at international partner universities as a research-active visiting professor. Her research interests include digital transformation from an end-user perspective. Research-in-progress includes tracing evolution in the consumption of social technologies and trends in technology-enhanced living.

Eric Vezzoli holds a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from Lille University. He designed the haptics architecture of Interhaptics, lead a team of engineers, and product-marketing to the launch of the Interhaptics Haptics Composer: the first multiplatform Haptics Design tool on the market.
 He co-founded Go Touch VR exploring skin indentation technologies for haptics applications in VR.

Eric was the CTO of Hap2u in charge of the software team designing the rendering stack to drive surface haptics technologies at full capabilities. He published 20 + scientific papers on haptics and human-machine interactions and deposed 5 patents on haptics technologies and applications.