Consumer Attitudes towards Multi-Channel Retailers' Web Sites: The Role of Involvement, Brand Attitude, Internet Knowledge and Visit Duration

Article excerpt

Abstract

The study examines how different consumers evaluate online shopping sites set up by bricks-and-mortar retailers. In particular, it examines how differences in consumers' information processing abilities and motivation as well as in their predispositions towards a site's material affect their attitudes towards that site and the amount of time they spend at the site. The postulated relationships are depicted in the form of a path diagram. The sites assessed were two electronic shopping sites belonging to well established casual wear multi-channel retailers. Findings suggested that attitudes towards a retailer's brand (predisposition) transfers to attitudes towards the retailer's shopping site. The characteristics of the web site were found to moderate the impact of involvement, Internet knowledge and Internet experience, on both attitudes towards a site and the visit duration.

Introduction

The revenue generated from Internet shopping is increasingly rapidly in terms of both its share of all retail sales and its overall value (Economist 2/26/00; 6/2/00). Sales from multi-channel retailers (catalogue and/or physical stores that also sell on-line) dominate this outlet, and they are expected to increase their dominance as the Internet matures (Economist 8/21/99). Businesses recognized, however, that use of the Internet should not be restricted to sales -- functions such as "building brand awareness" and "providing marketing information" are also relevant (www.yankeegroup.com). These trends and issues, alongside the changing nature of consumers' online shopping habits, reduce the importance of traditional distribution channels to retailers (e.g., Quelch & Klein, 1996; Hoffman, Novak & Catterjee, 1995; Hamill & Gregory, 1997).

The role of the Internet, in particular, of electronic commerce web sites, has been recognized as a marketing tool for attracting and maintaining customers (Dreze & Zufryden, 1997; Vrolijk, Huizingh & Hoekstra, 1998; McMurdo, 1998; Dholakia & Rego, 1998; Hofacher & Murphy, 1998; O'Keefe, O'Connor & Kung, 1998). Settles (1995) has claimed that one of the most important elements of a web site's value to customers is the provision of pre-purchase sales information. Web site technology can allow consumers to view different product features, assess possible product attribute combinations and/or compare competitive offerings. However, the attractiveness and appeal of a web site is not the same to all customers (Settles, 1995). Nevertheless, despite the emphasis placed on the marketing potential of the Internet and the need for well-designed web sites, very little is known of consumer differences regarding their attitudes towards a web site. Specifically, there is very little academic research on the impact of consumer behavior on online shopping at web sites set up by bricks-and-mortar retailers (Katros, 2000).

Based on the above, the main objective of this study is to examine consumers' attitudes towards a multi-channel retailer's web site. Drawing from research in psychology (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986; Chaiken, Liberman & Eagly, 1989) and advertising (MacInnis & Jaworski, 1989), the study concentrates mainly on the differences between individuals in terms of motivation, ability to process information and attitudes towards the brand.

Literature Review and Model Development

While consumer Internet research has considered the virtues of the medium and its potential uses (Berthon, Pitt & Watson, 1996), innovation diffusion and consumer Internet adoption (Gupta & Rabikar, 1997; Keeling & McGoldrick, 1997; Keeling, Fowler & McGoldrick, 1998; White, Abels & Murnane, 1998), and how, with certain product categories, consumer buying can be modeled (Liang & Huang, 1998), it is still limited in scope. A popular Internet research topic is web site effectiveness, where researchers have focussed on web site design features and content (Dreze & Zufryden, 1997; Vrolijk et al. …

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