Virtual Stores on the Internet: Design of Emotional Online Shopping Offers on the Internet From a Behavioral Point of View



Citation:

Sandra Diehl (2001) ,"Virtual Stores on the Internet: Design of Emotional Online Shopping Offers on the Internet From a Behavioral Point of View", in E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, eds. Andrea Groeppel-Klien and Frank-Rudolf Esch, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 115-119.

European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, 2001      Pages 115-119

VIRTUAL STORES ON THE INTERNET: DESIGN OF EMOTIONAL ONLINE SHOPPING OFFERS ON THE INTERNET FROM A BEHAVIORAL POINT OF VIEW

Sandra Diehl, Saarland University, Germany

1. INTRODUCTION

In spite of the growing importance of electronic commerce for retailing, a behaviorally founded analysis of e-commerce offers is not yet available. Presently, technical aspects of web site-design are predominant. Consumers’ and thus the users’ needs regarding shopping offers on the internet are being neglected. These are the reasons for this contribution dealing with a theoretically and empirically founded analysis of online shopping offers from a behavioral point of view. A behavior model for virtual stores is developed (for details, cf. Diehl, 2001).

For the development of this behavior model, the author follows a two-step process: In a first step, findings of real store design are being tested with regard to their transferability to virtual internet stores. The second step will consider specific internet characteristics of virtual store design.

2. TRANSFERABILITY OF THE FINDINGS OF REAL STORE DESIGN TO VIRTUAL STORE DESIGN

The behvior model is based upon the psychological environment model by Mehrabian and Russel which will be fundamentally enhanced and modified in this contribution (c.f. Figure 1).

At first, it has to be ascertained whether or not results of the reliable research findings of real store design can be transferred to virtual stores. A transferability of these psychological environmental findings to a virtual store can be assumed for various reasons. The consumer constructs his/her own reality on the basis of real experiences and experiences conveyed by the media. Frequently, he/she is not able to distinguish between experienced and media environments (cf. Kroeber-Riel/Weinberg, 1999, p. 409). Furthermore, the sources of consumer experiences are becoming blurred sooner or later since contents are not linked to the source of the message any more ("Sleeper Effect", cf. McGuire, 1985, p. 290ff.). Virtual three dimensional stores enable the viewer to make three-dimensional movements. Due to increasing possibilities of immersion and interaction, the immersion into virtual worlds is being facilitated and is connected with a growing real three-dimensional experience. Likewise, the practical linguistic usage with expressions as "data highway", "cyberspace" and "surfing in the internet" also suggests a transferability of the psychological environmental findings (for details, cf. Diehl, 2001, p. 94f.).

In the following, the enhancements of the classic psychological environment model will be discussed (for details, cf. Diehl, 2001, p. 93ff.).

The psychological environment model by Mehrabian and Russell attributable to the emotional approach of environmental psychology leaves cognitive variables unconsidered. This contribution integrates the cognitive variable easy orientation to the model from which an important influence upon the liking of the environment is anticipated.

Results in lifestyle research are also tested with regard to their contribution for virtual store-design. It is anticipated that the match-up, which the consumer perceives between his lifestyle and the store is of high importance for the consumer’s preferences for a certain store. The lifestyle in form of the match-up between the consumer and the store will be integrated into the behavior model for real and virtual stores. Positive implications on the liking of the store are anticipated from the perceived match-up. This contribution concurs with the criticism of the personality variable as used by Mehrabian/Russel (cf. Terlutter in this Volume)Bin the behavior model the personality variable is replaced by the lifestyle of the consumers.

A further research approach tested is the involvement research. Here, the consumer’s involvement before entering a store is of interest from which a positive effect on the consumer’s activation and intended environmental approach is expected. Involvement is also integrated into the behavior model.

A general behavior model for real and virtual stores is developed from the hypotheses derived from environmental psychology, lifestyle and involvement research (cf. figure 2).

The general behavior model was empirically tested in

- real stores in Germany, USA and France and in

- the virtual store.

All in all, 943 consumers were interviewed during these four surveys.

The virtual store was specially designed for this test and is based on the concept of one of the tested real stores. According to the theoretical analyses, a three-dimensional representation was chosen for the virtual store which allowed the test persons extensive interactive possibilities. In addition, they were able to move through the virtual store in real time causing high reality proximity. Furthermore, the virtual store has a multi-sensual design. In summary, this is a highly innovative concept of store design for internet shops.

By causal analysis, the behavior model for real and virtual stores was confirmed both for real stores in Germany, France, and the US and for the virtual store. The degree to which the causal model fits the empirical data was extensively tested. The model showed high fit measures (cf. Diehl, 2001, p. 190ff.).

The concept achieved in all stores comparable effects among consumers. Causal analytical multi-group analyses showed that there is hardly any difference between the three countries indicating a confirmation of the thesis of convergence as discussed in literature. Thus, a standardized design concept for stores can be used in these three countries. Since, according to Hofstede (1997) these three are countries representing different cultural clusters a standardizability of the concept is probable in other countries of the particular cluster.

Since the general behavior model could also be confirmed for the data set of the virtual store design, this implies that the behavior model is valid both for real and for virtual stores. Thus, findings of the real store design can be transferred to the design of virtual stores.

Repeated multi-group causal analyses hardly showed any differences between the real stores and the virtual store; as a result, it may be assumed that the virtual store can be applied as standard in other countries as well.

FIGURE 1

CLASSIC ENVIRONMENT MODEL BY MEHRABIAN AND RUSSELL (1974, p.8)

FIGURE 2

GENERAL BEHAVIOR MODEL FOR REAL AND VIRTUAL STORES

3. CONSIDERATIONS AS TO SPECIFIC INTERNET CHARACTERISTICS IN AN ENHANCED BEHAVIOR MODEL FOR VIRTUAL STORES

With regard to virtual stores, the general behavior model for real and virtual stores will be additionally specified. The objective is to consider the characteristics of the internet in the design of virtual stores.

An important characteristic of the internet is the possibility to represent multimedia information. To ascertain results about the modality to represent information so that the process of consumers’ information processing is supported, results of learning with multimedia particularly considering Paivio’s dual coding theory (1991) and Engelkamp’s multi-modal memory theory (1991) are being analyzed. From learning psychology, the variable information gain is integrated into the enhanced behavior model.

Further relevant internet findings can be derived from the flow research (cf. Csikszentmihalyi, 1999, 2000). The flow sensation to be described as immersion into an activity in which the consumer loses the feeling for time and is all wrapped up in the activity is characterized as a very pleasant feeling which the immersing person wants to experience again and again. It is supposed that virtual internet stores may support the development of a flow sensation since, caused by the stimulus field limited by the display screen, a focusing on the virtual store is easily feasible. Diversions and disturbances through real environment are extensively excluded.

This contribution examines the time structure of the flow feeling. Differentiations are being made between the prerequisites supporting the development of a flow sensation, the immediate consequences of the flow sensation and the implications from the flow condition with regard to consumer behavior in virtual stores. It is anticipated that the flow sensation splits up into the components surfing fun and situational control triggering behavioral effects. In addition, situational control exerts a positive effect on the variable information gain representing a more cognitive variable.

Figure 3 shows the enhanced behavior model for virtual stores which considers the results of the flow research and learning psychology. The general behavior model for real and virtual stores is enhanced by the flow construct and its immediate consequences surfing fun and situational control. Furthermore, the variable information gain is integrated.

FIGURE 3

ENHANCED BEHAVIOR MODEL FOR VIRTUAL STORES AS SYNTHESIS OF THE FINDINGS OF REAL STORE DESIGN AND RESEARCH TRENDS RELEVANT FOR THE INTERNET

FIGURE 4

PATH DIAGRAM WITH ESTIMATES OF THE ENHANCED CAUSAL MODEL FOR VIRTUAL STORES

In a next step, the enhanced model for virtual stores is examined by a causal analysis. Figure 4 represents the model with all estimates.

The global fit measures (cf. Homburg/Giering, 1998) of the enhanced behavior model are represented in Table 1.

The values of Table 1 show a high fit of the causal model indicating a high quality of the model especially with regard to the complexity of the model.

Table 2 contains the local fit measures of the causal model. Every one of the estimated parameters was significant. [Ascertaining of local matching values requires at least two indicators per latent variable.]

With few exceptions, the requirements for the local fit measures are met by this model. Merely one single indicator reliability ( indicator x3) and the average variance ascertained for one factor (h6) do not meet the required values. Falling below a single local fit should not lead to the rejection of a model (cf. Homburg/Giering, 1998). Since this is a highly complex model and the other fit measures meet the requirements, a high quality of the measurement model can be assumed.

TABLE 1

GLOBAL FIT MEASURES OF THE ENHANCED CAUSAL MODEL FOR VIRTUAL STORES

The enhanced behavior model for virtual stores could be confirmed and proves that the flow sensation has a highly important influence upon the consumer’s behavior in virtual environments. This shows that the consumers’ feelings to control the situation were supported by an immediate feed back of the system, which, in turn, has a positive effect upon the number of the acquired information (information gain).

Accordingly, an extensive behavior model for virtual store design could be empirically confirmed representingBand thus predictingBthe consumers’ behavior in virtual environments.

TABLE 2

LOCAL FIT MEASURES OF THE ENHANCED CAUSAL MODEL FOR VIRTUAL STORES

REFERENCES

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1999): Das Flow-Erlebnis: Jenseits von Angst und Langeweile: Im Tun aufgehen, 7. Edition, Stuttgart.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000): Beyond Boredom and Anxiety: The Experience of Play in Work and Games, 2. Edition, San Francisco et al.

Diehl, S. (2001): Internetmarketing: Gestaltung erlebnisorientierter Onlineshopping-Angebote im Internet aus verhaltenswissenschaftlicher Perspektive, Dissertation at the University of the Saarland, Saarbrncken.

Engelkamp, J. (1991): Das menschliche GedSchtnis, 2. Edition, G÷ttingen.

Hofstede, G. (1997): Lokales Denken, globales Handeln: Kulturen, Zusammenarbeit und Management, Mnnchen.

Homburg, C.; Giering, A. (1998): Konzeptualisierung und Operationalisierung komplexer KonstrukteBEin Leitfaden fnr die Marketinforschung, in: Hildebrandt, L.; Homburg, C. (Eds.) (1998): Die KausalanalyseBEin Instrument der empirischen betriebswirtschaftlichen Forschung, Stuttgart, pp. 111-146.

Kroeber-Riel, W.; Weinberg, P. (1999): Konsumentenverhalten, 7. Edition, Mnnchen.

McGuire, W. J. (1985): Attitudes and Attitude Change, in: Lindzey, G.; Aronson, E. (Eds.) (1985): The Handbook of Social Psychology, 3. Edition, New York, pp. 233-346.

Mehrabian, A.; Russell, J. A. (1974): An Approach to Environmental Psychology, MIT Press Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Paivio, A. (1991): Images in mind: the evoluation of a theory, New York.

Terlutter, R. (2001): Using lifestyle in environmental psychology, in: Gr÷ppel-Klein, A.; Esch, F.-R. (Eds.) (2001): European Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 5.

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Authors

Sandra Diehl, Saarland University, Germany



Volume

E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5 | 2001



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