Dr Valentina Pitardi

Senior Lecturer in Marketing
+44 (0)1483 686132
04 MS 03
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Academic and research departments

Department of Marketing.


Affiliations and memberships

ACR- Association of Consumer Research
EMAC- European Academy of Marketing
AMS- Academy of Marketing Science


Research interests


Valentina Pitardi, Jochen Wirtz, Stefanie Paluch, Werner Kunz (2024)Metaperception benefits of service robots in uncomfortable service encounters, In: Tourism Management105104939 Elsevier

Uncomfortable service interactions are ubiquitous in tourism and hospitality settings (e.g., returning a dish in a restaurant, ordering room service late at night, and complaining about noisy others in a hotel). Across five experimental studies, we show that service robots reduce consumers' metaperception processing and as a consequence can mitigate customer discomfort. Specifically, we demonstrate that service robots' perceived low level of mind leads to reduced or even eliminated metaperception processing (i.e., customers do not think about the perceptions robots may have about them). Consumer outcomes include more favorable attitudinal and behavioral responses (e.g., satisfaction, engagement, and revisit intentions). Moreover, we find that the degree of anthropomorphic robot appearance does not affect metaperception. Taken together, these findings provide theoretical and practical insights for the successful deployment of service robots into otherwise potentially uncomfortable service encounters.

Nima Heirati, Valentina Pitardi, Mohamed Hassan (2024)When the recipe is more important than the ingredients: Unveiling the complexity of consumer use of voice assistants, In: Psychology & marketing Wiley

The widespread use of voice assistants (VAs) creates a pressing need to understand what drives consumers to use different VAs. Existing studies have commonly focused on the net effects of antecedents that explain why consumers adopt or continue using VAs, ignoring the complexity of consumer behavior and the combinatorial effects of multiple antecedents. Our study proposes that consumer intention to continue using VAs does not depend on a single characteristic of products or consumers but on specific configurations of such characteristics. By integrating human–technology interaction and media richness theories, we suggest that consumers with distinct psychometric profiles and learning styles may evaluate humanlike and technological attributes of VAs differently. Our study shows that the complex interconnectedness between different VA attributes and consumer characteristics can provide a holistic understanding of why some consumers continue or stop using VAs. The results advance the media richness literature by offering novel insights into multi-modality in consumer–technology interactions by examining consumer evaluations of single- and multi-modal VAs (e.g., smart speakers vs. touchscreen smart speakers). Our study provides templates for managers to effectively design VAs aligned with their segmentation and targeting strategies.

Valentina Pitardi (2023)Personalized and Contextual Artificial Intelligence-Based Services Experience, In: Artificial Intelligence in Customer Service The Next Frontier for Personalized Engagementpp. 101-122 Palgrave Macmillan, Cham

Artificial intelligent (AI) service applications are becoming increasingly pervasive in our everyday life. We use them to find places to go, to choose what to watch, and to decide what to buy. At the same time, companies are adopting technology like chatbots, robots, and conversational assistants to offer customer services and support in various settings. Yet, it still needs to be determined which are the conditions under which AI-based services may improve the overall customer experience. This chapter offers a three-way framework to interpret and evaluate the AI-based service customer experience. It identifies relevant contextual, personal, and technological characteristics that can affect the AI-service delivery. The proposed framework allows marketers to identify the best fit between the context, the technology configuration, and customer characteristics, providing companies with practical and actionable suggestions to enhance the customer experience.

Hannah R. Marriott, Valentina Pitardi (2023)One is the loneliest number… Two can be as bad as one. The influence of AI Friendship Apps on users' well‐being and addiction, In: Psychology & marketing41(1)pp. 86-101 Wiley

Although technology advancements provide opportunities for social interactions, reports show that people have never felt so alone and are increasingly adopting AI friendship and therapy‐related well‐being apps. By adopting a mixed‐method approach (i.e., netnography and quantitative survey), we investigate the extent AI friendship apps enhance users' well‐being—and to what extent they further exacerbate issues of using technology for social needs. Findings show that users of AI friendship apps report well‐being benefits from the relationship with the AI friend and, at the same time, find themselves being addicted to using the app. Specifically, we show that users' loneliness and fear of judgment, together with AI sentience and perceived well‐being gained, increase addiction to the app, while AI ubiquity and warmth reduce it. Taken together, the results show that despite the intended positive purpose of the apps, the negative effects that AI friendship apps have on well‐being may be much greater.

Jochen Wirtz, Valentina Pitardi (2023)How intelligent automation, service robots, and AI will reshape service products and their delivery, In: Italian Journal of Marketing2023pp. 289-300 Springer International Publishing

Intelligent Automation in form of robots, smart self-service technologies, wearable technologies, software and systems such as machine learning, generative artificial intelligence (AI) such as ChatGPT, and the metaverse are increasingly adopted in a wide range of customer-facing service settings. The shift toward robot- and AI-powered services will lead to improved customer experiences, service quality, and productivity all at the same time. However, these also carry ethical, fairness, and privacy risks for customers and society. In this opinion piece, we discuss the implications of the service revolution for service firms, their marketing, and their customers, and provide avenues for future research opportunities.

Valentina Pitardi, Laurence Dessart (2018)The Effect of Narrative on Advertising Persuasiveness: The Moderating Role of Concreteness Language: An Abstract, In: Boundary Blurred: A Seamless Customer Experience in Virtual and Real Spacespp. 1-2 Springer International Publishing

Several studies have demonstrated how narrative ads can be effective in persuading consumers’ attitudes and behaviours (Adval and Wyler 1998; Green and Brock 2000; Escalas 2004; Shank and Abelson 1995; Woodside 2010). While much has been said about the “why” aspects of narrative, less is known about the ways in which narrative ad “tell” stories. Still no research, to the best of the researchers’ knowledge, has investigated whether the type of language used in narrative ads influences the persuasiveness of the advertising. The present study wants to address this gap by investigating how the degree of concreteness/abstractness of language in a narrative ad can influence consumer’s willingness to recommend the brand featured in the ad. In order to explore this interplay, the research applies the Linguistic Category Model (LCM) framework to narrative ads (Semin and Fiedler 1988, 1991). Recommendation is a persuasive form of word of mouth (Peluso et al. 2017), and the consumers’ willingness to recommend represents an influential behavioural intention. Previous studies on financial disclosures have demonstrated that communications written in concrete language facilitate visualization compared to abstract stimuli, resulting in behaviours (Johnson and Kisielius 1985; Paivio 1969). Narrative ads, too, can be very effective in eliciting attitude and behavioural changes (Deighton et al. 1989; Van Laer et al. 2014). Congruently, we expect that narrative ads might lead consumers to increase their willingness to recommend the brand featured in the story, especially when the ad is written in concrete language. Two laboratory experiments in the context of hospitality service were conducted. Findings of the two studies revealed a significant main effect of narrative structure on willingness to recommend (Study 1, F (1119) = 3.79, p = .05; Study 2, F (1181) = 4.416, p 

Valentina Pitardi, Boris Bartikowski, Victoria-Sophie Osburg, Vignesh Yoganathan (2022)Effects of gender congruity in human-robot service interactions: The moderating role of masculinity, In: International Journal of Information Management102489 Elsevier

Despite humanoid service robots having attracted considerable research attention, it remains unclear how consumers respond to some specific human characteristics of robots. Drawing from theories on social catego-rization and identification, we study the role of consumer perceived control as a psychological mechanism to explain how human-robot gender congruity alters consumers' affective reactions (feelings of comfort in the service encounter and service brand attitudes). We also consider that such gender congruity effects may be contingent on the individual cultural value of masculinity. We demonstrate experimentally that human-robot gender congruity (vs. incongruity) elicits more positive affect, while masculinity moderates some of these effects. Moreover, perceived control mediates effects of gender congruity on affective reactions only for consumers high on masculinity. We offer three major theoretical contributions as we 1) focus on social identity theory to shed light on how human-robot gender congruity affects consumer behavior in service encounters, 2) demonstrate the role of perceptions of control as a psychological process variable to explain these effects, and 3) provide insights into the role of the cultural value of masculinity as a factor that shapes human-robot gender congruity effects.

Graeme McLean, Kofi Osei-Frimpong, Alan Wilson, VALENTINA PITARDI (2020)How live chat assistants drive travel consumers' attitudes, trust and purchase intentions The role of human touch, In: International journal of contemporary hospitality management32(5)pp. 1795-1812 Emerald

Purpose – By adopting a social presence theory perspective, this study aims investigate the influence of perceived usefulness of live chat services and of their unique human attributes on customer attitudes, beliefs and behaviours in the context of online travel shopping. Design/methodology/approach – Based on a cross-sectional survey research involving 8 travel provider websites and 631 travel consumers, this work applies structural equation modelling to analyse the data. Findings – The results illustrate that the perceived usefulness from the communication with a human live chat assistant positively influences customer attitudes and trust towards the website as well as increasing purchase intention. The findings further illustrate the role of the human social cues conveyed by live chat facilities, namely, human warmth, human assurance, human attentiveness and human customised content in positively moderating this effect. Research limitations/implications – The study is limited to specific human attributes. Future research could investigate the role of other human characteristics as well as assess the ability of artificial intelligent powered chatbots in replicating the human elements outlined in this research. Originality/value – The study provides a unique contribution to the travel literature by offering empirical insights and conceptual clarity into the usefulness of human operated live chat communication on travellers' attitudes, trust towards the website and purchase intentions.

VALENTINA PITARDI, Jochen Wirtz, Stefanie Paluch, Werner Kunz (2021)Service robots, agency and embarrassing service encounters, In: Journal of service management Emerald

Purpose – Extant research mainly focused on potentially negative customer responses to service robots. In contrast, this study is one of the first to explore a service context where service robots are likely to be the preferred service delivery mechanism over human frontline employees. Specifically, the authors examine how customers respond to service robots in the context of embarrassing service encounters. Design/methodology/approach – This study employs a mixed-method approach, whereby an in-depth qualitative study (study 1) is followed by two lab experiments (studies 2 and 3). Findings – Results show that interactions with service robots attenuated customers' anticipated embarrassment. Study 1 identifies a number of factors that can reduce embarrassment. These include the perception that service robots have reduced agency (e.g. are not able to make moral or social judgements) and emotions (e.g. are not able to have feelings). Study 2 tests the base model and shows that people feel less embarrassed during a potentially embarrassing encounter when interacting with service robots compared to frontline employees. Finally, Study 3 confirms that perceived agency, but not emotion, fully mediates frontline counterparty (employee vs robot) effects on anticipated embarrassment. Practical implications – Service robots can add value by reducing potential customer embarrassment because they are perceived to have less agency than service employees. This makes service robots the preferred service delivery mechanism for at least some customers in potentially embarrassing service encounters (e.g. in certain medical contexts). Originality/value – This study is one of the first to examine a context where service robots are the preferred service delivery mechanism over human employees.

G Di Domenico, Daniel Nunan, VALENTINA PITARDI (2022)Marketplaces of Misinformation: A Study of How Vaccine Misinformation Is Legitimized on Social Media, In: Journal of public policy & marketing SAGE Publications

Combating harmful misinformation about pharmaceuticals on social media is a growing challenge. The complexity of health information, the role of expert intermediaries in disseminating information, and the information dynamics of social media create an environment where harmful misinformation spreads rapidly. However, little is known about the origin of this misinformation. This article explores the processes through which health misinformation from online marketplaces is legitimized and spread. Specifically, across one content analysis and two experimental studies, the authors investigate the role of highly legitimized influencer content in spreading vaccine misinformation. By analyzing a data set of social media posts and the websites where this content originates, the authors identify the legitimation processes that spread and normalize discussions about vaccine hesitancy (Study 1). Study 2 shows that expert cues increase the perceived legitimacy of misinformation, particularly for individuals who generally have positive attitudes toward vaccines. Study 3 demonstrates the role of expert legitimacy in driving consumers’ sharing behavior on social media. This research addresses a gap in the understanding of how pharmaceutical misinformation originates and becomes legitimized. Given the importance of the effective communication of vaccine information, the authors present key challenges for policy makers.

VALENTINA PITARDI, Hannah R Marriott (2021)Alexa, she's not human but… Unveiling the drivers of consumers' trust in voice‐based artificial intelligence, In: Psychology & Marketing38(4)pp. 626-642 Wiley

With the development of deep connections between humans and Artificial Intelligence voice‐based assistants (VAs), human and machine relationships have transformed. For relationships to work it is essential for trust to be established. Although the capabilities of VAs offer retailers and consumers enhanced opportunities, building trust with machines is inherently challenging. In this paper, we propose integrating Human–Computer Interaction Theories and Para‐Social Relationship Theory to develop insight into how trust and attitudes toward VAs are established. By adopting a mixed‐method approach, first, we quantitatively examine the proposed model using Covariance‐Based Structural Equation Modeling on 466 respondents; based on the findings of this study, a second qualitative study is employed to reveal four main themes. Findings show that while functional elements drive users' attitude toward using VAs, the social attributes, being social presence and social cognition, are the unique antecedents for developing trust. Additionally, the research illustrates a peculiar dynamic between privacy and trust and it shows how users distinguish two different sources of trustworthiness in their interactions with VAs, identifying the brand producers as the data collector. Taken together, these results reinforce the idea that individuals interact with VAs treating them as social entities and employing human social rules, thus supporting the adoption of a para‐social perspective.

G Di Domenico, Daniel Nunan, J Sit, Valentina Pitardi (2021)Free but fake speech: When giving primacy to the source decreases misinformation sharing on social media, In: Psychology & Marketing38(10)pp. 1700-1711 Wiley

Social media platforms are facing increasing tensions in balancing the desire to maintain freedom of expression with limiting the spread of fake news and misinformation. This study investigates whether giving primacy to the source of misinformation on Facebook influences users' sharing behaviour. Two experimental studies show that when fake news is presented in a source‐primacy format, users are less likely to share the post because of reduced trust in the message and increased perceptions of deceptive intent. Additionally, this effect persists only when the person sharing the fake news has a weak interpersonal relationship with the receiver. The study extends current understanding of how misinformation is shared and provides insights into how presentation formats can be used to limit the spread of fake news without restricting freedom of speech.

Diego Rinallo, Valentina Pitardi (2019)Open conflict as differentiation strategy in geographical indications: the Bitto Rebels case, In: British Food Journal121(12)pp. 3102-3118 Emerald

Purpose The purpose of this paper is to investigate how open, mediatised conflict in geographical indications (GIs) can provide the basis for differentiation strategies for heritage producers based on both functional and symbolic benefits. Design/methodology/approach Longitudinal case study based on multiple data sources, which reconstructs the history of the Bitto GIs and the conflict between the Protected Designation of Origin Bitto Consortium and a small number of heritage Bitto producers. Findings The paper highlights how the mediatised narration of conflict can contribute to raise consumer awareness, differentiate products and result in symbolic value creation. Research limitations/implications Extreme case study design purposively chosen as characterised by conditions likely to accentuate conflict. Practical implications The paper develops a conceptual framework that permits to identify the potential for conflict inside GIs. It also contributes to a better understanding of the image of products protected by GIs and the role played by heritage producers. It also offers practical advice on two promotional tools, namely, trade fair participations and experiential showcases. Social implications The paper offers practical advice on the safeguarding of small producers localised in cultural epicentres inside GIs. Originality/value The authors introduce the notions, such as competitive wars and secession, that contribute to a better understanding of centripetal/centrifugal forces inside GIs. The authors also propose a better understanding of image creation of GIs, grounded in cultural work in marketing and consumer research.

Laurence Dessart, VALENTINA PITARDI (2019)How stories generate consumer engagement: An exploratory study, In: Journal of business research104pp. 183-195 Elsevier Inc

Understanding how branded storytelling content impacts consumer engagement (CE) is needed to advance research in this topical field and better calibrate story elements. This paper aims to understand the interplay between branded storytelling content and CE, considering the different features of stories and the multidimensional nature of engagement. It takes a netnographic approach to a collection of consumer responses − close to 1000 rich comments offered in four languages − to digital videos posted on YouTube by the brand Dove. Findings reveal that story plot, characters, and verisimilitude trigger consumer engagement by activating cognitive, emotional, and behavioral responses in a certain sequence and with variable intensities and valences. The results, as well, show the important interactive aspect of story-based engagement. The paper contributes to CE research by offering a framework linking branded storytelling with CE, which is applicable by managers to design effective storytelling content.

Luca Carrubbo, Francesca Iandolo, VALENTINA PITARDI, Mario Calabrese (2017)The viable decision maker for CAS survival: how to change and adapt through fitting process, In: Journal of service theory and practice27(5)pp. 1006-1023 Emerald