Special Session Summary Determinants of Online Consumer Behavior: a Comparative Perspective


Hairong Li (2002) ,"Special Session Summary Determinants of Online Consumer Behavior: a Comparative Perspective", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, eds. Ramizwick and Tu Ping, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 154-155.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, 2002      Pages 154-155



Hairong Li, Michigan State University, U.S.A.

The objectives of this session are threefold: (1) develop a theoretical framework of online consumer behavior that consists of concepts and their relations around three entitiesCthe Internet, consumers, and products; (2) explore characteristics of each of the three entities and their impact on consumer shopping and buying behavior in e-commerce, and (3) address these issues from comparative perspectivesCthe U.S. vs. China, mainland vs. Taiwan, and academia vs. business.

Limited research has been conducted on online consumer behavior in China although the population of the Internet users has increased to 26.5 million in June 2001, according to China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC). Knowledge of online consumer behavior becomes imperative as e-commerce companies in China reposition themselves after a shakeout to better serve their consumers and China enters the WTO to open its electronic market to the world. Therefore, a better understanding of online consumers is intriguing to both consumer researchers and practitioners in the U.S. and China. The unique composition of the participants in this session advances our knowledge from different perspectives and help set a research agenda and possible future academic-industry collaborations in the U.S. and China.




Curtis Haugtvedt, The Ohio State University, USA

This presentation includes an overview of successful products and services on the Internet with particular focus on social and consumer psychology principles exemplified by these successful companies. Research methods needed to understand potentially unique aspects of the customer-computer interaction and the integration of traditional shopping with online shopping is described and an agenda for important future research issues is outlined.

While the news media and investors tend to talk about the "dot.com" era as a historical time, researchers interested in consumer behavior and adoption of new technologies point out that the internet has changed and will continue to change the way people and companies communicate and influence one another. In addition to the convenience of any anytime and nearly anywhere access, consumers are learning that detailed information, product updates, comparative information, and so on, are at their finger tips. All of this has the potential to change the content and style of promotional messages. This, combined with the ability to track responses to particular messages makes the Internet one big behavioral laboratory.

Along with brief descriptions of e-commerce models, Professor Haugtvedt discusses important methodological considerations in the conduct of consumer behavior research on the topic of e-commerce, focusing especially on consumer information processing of web site information, interactivity, and other potentially unique features of the e-environment. He urges academic and practitioners to move beyond "descriptive" type research toward "inferential" research to begin to understand how and why consumers respond to e-commerce offerings in a positive or negative manner. Drawing on the Elaboration Likelihood Model (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986) and other theoretical frameworks, he also discusses factors associated with the development and maintenance of persistent positive attitudes and behaviors as they relate to web site visits and online purchase activities.



Cheng Kuo, National Chengchi University, Taiwan

The growth of the Internet as a shopping and marketing communication channel has been significant as the population of Internet users in Taiwan has tripled in the past few years. According the Internet Yearbook of Taiwan of 2001, the penetration of computers with Internet assess was 35% among Taiwanese by the end of 2001. The adoption of ADSL and cable modems among Internet users has been increasing steadily during the past year.

Studies have reported that Taiwanese consumers were generally more inclined to use the internet as a channel in search for product information and bargain prices rather than for product purchases, partly due to the fact that the highly urbanized island has so many conveniently located retail outlets. Nevertheless, the Web has been playing an important part in marketing communication campaigns. On one hand, many advertisers considered the Web an alternative advertising medium for some particular types of products/services in addition to more traditional advertising media; on the other hand, some advertisers still held different opinions about the effectiveness of Internet advertising, especially since the click-through rates of popular banner advertisements dropped significantly.

This presentation reports findings from two studies. An online survey and an online experiment is introduced with answers to the following two research questions: (1). What are the significant factorsCdemographics, user’s Internet literacy, evaluation of channel utilities, and shopping orientationsCthat may have influenced these online shoppers’ use of the Internet for acquiring product information and product purchases? (2). Whether do banner advertisements with different types of monetary incentives and varying levels of brand familiarity have different effects on Internet shoppers’ evaluation of banner ads and advertised brands?

These two studies were supported by research grants from National Science Commission in Taiwan. The research group collaborated with, Yam.com, one of the largest ISPs in Taiwan in executing the two studies. Findings of the studies indicate the following trends.

Taiwanese Internet shoppers consider the Web to be superior to retail stores and catalogues on the dimensions of convenience and communication; nevertheless, they admit that retail stores are the most frequently used channel for the purchase of most products and services except for the certain types of products such as theatre tickets and computer software. Some shopping orientations such as convenience, pre-purchase inspection, and recreation play a significant role in either enhancing or hindering their use of the Internet for shopping. The level of familiarity with the Internet contributes positively to users’ propensity of online shopping.

As for the effectiveness of banner advertising with different types of monetary incentives, findings of the study support the elaboration likelihood model (ELM) hypotheses. Internet users who are low in product involvement tend to give a better evaluation of banner ads with incentives (periphery cues) than those high in product involvement. In addition, a high level of product involvement in general is likely to lead to more favorable attitude toward banner ads and elevated purchase intension. The study also finds that online shoppers can still get the message from a banner advertisement with an attractive element (e.g., incentives) even though they do not click on it.



Simon Cao, SoftwareCenter.com.cn, China

Frank Jiang, Smith Kline and French Labs, China

The number of Internet users reached 26.5 million in June 2001 and approximately ten percent of them have bought products and services on the Internet, according to CNNIC surveys. Most Chinese online consumers are those of 18-35 years old, well educated, with high income. Geographically, they are more likely to concentrate in eastern cities of China. Male consumers are a majority of online consumers although the number of female online consumers is increasing at an annual rate of approximately 200 percent in recent years.

Surveys indicate that online consumers prefer to buy books, software, branded food items, household electronic applicants, and tickets whose quality can be easily judged by consumers’ personal experience or a brand’s appearance. Offline studies also indicate that branding, convenience and safety, and function are three key drivers for Chinese online shopping. Among them, effective branding includes reliability, recommendation, and personal use experience. Chinese consumers concern about value for money, packaging, and promotion. Chinese online consumers as well as traditional shoppers prefer to touch products and product packages when they inspect them. Online shoppers tend to buy products through the Internet during night or holiday. Most online consumers often select a small number of national or local large e-retailers because they are confident in the quality of goods and services at these online stores. Among most important considerations for online shopping are convenience, saving time, and money. A majority of Internet users often search information and compare prices on the Internet and then buy selected brands offline.

At present, most Chinese consumers still feel buying online is not as easy for them as expected, largely due to slow Internet access, narrow assortment of brands, limited payment options, and often delayed delivery. In addition, most active Internet users are young and college students. Their relatively low income limits their actual buying power for electronic retailing although they are influential in terms of online product branding, category selection, price sensitiveness, and promotion. However, many of these issues will be overcome as the e-commerce infrastructures are advanced in China and we have seen some great progress recently.



Hairong Li, Michigan State University, U.S.A.


AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5 | 2002

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