Academic journal article Journal of Electronic Commerce Research

Multi-Channel Consumer Perceptions1

Academic journal article Journal of Electronic Commerce Research

Multi-Channel Consumer Perceptions1

Article excerpt


We present a structural model of consumer trust in a multi-channel retailer. The model was developed on a sample of 1048 consumers who responded to a questionnaire linked to the website of a large German multi-channel retailer. The study identifies perceived privacy concerns as the strongest influence on trust in the e-shop, followed by perceived reputation and perceived size of the offline stores. We further differentiate between respondent groups based on their familiarity with the retailer's e-shop and stores. In general, trust increases over familiarity with the retailer whereas the influence of perceived privacy has the same importance over different levels of familiarity. This research may be of interest to multi-channel retailers, who could use the findings to better align their offline and online marketing strategy. In particular, the results could be used to improve the website design and the delivery options of a multi-channel retailer. Internet-only retailers may consider an increase of marketing efforts in the offline domain.

Keywords: multi-channel retailing, trust, privacy, e-commerce

1. Introduction

The distribution of products across multiple sales channels - often referred to as multi-channel retailing - is the norm today. According to a recent survey, multi-channel retailers in the US increased their online market share from 52 % in 1999 to 75 % in 2003 - in contrast to Internet-only retailers, who lost market share correspondingly [ and Forrester Research 2004]. For some pure Internet retailers, changes towards multi-channel retailing can be observed2. The increasing prevalence of multi-channel retailing calls for empirical research on the reasons for consumers' appreciation of that business model. The main research question of this paper is to find out whether the perception of a retailer's physical stores has an influence on consumers' trust in the retailer's e-shop, which may ultimately lead to increased sales. Moreover, this paper aims at quantifying the strength of influence of the three antecedents of consumer trust perceived store size, perceived store reputation and perceived privacy of the e-shop.

2. Related Work

A number of surveys suggest that the Internet has a distinct influence on offline sales. In a series of studies conducted by the research consultancy Forrester, retailers claimed that about 24 % of their offline sales in 2003 were influenced by the Web, which is up from 15 % in 2002 [ and Forrester Research 2004]. A further study estimates that about half of the 60 million consumers in Europe with an Internet connection bought products offline after having investigated prices and details online [Markillie 2004]. A study by Doyle et al. [2003] analyzed the influence of store perception on online sales. 64.7 % of Internet users in 2002 claimed to sometimes or often look at traditional retail stores and then buy online - up from 50.3 percent in 2001. The surveys indicate that there are distinct cross-channel effects between online and offline retailing. Theoretical contributions discuss multi-channel retailing and demand further empirical work to analyze how the use of multiple channels affect a firm and its customers [Gallaugher 2002, Goersch 2003, Gulati and Garino 2000, Steinfield 2002, Stone, Hobbs and Khaleeli 2002].

Numerous empirical studies suggest trust as one of the most decisive antecedents of consumers' purchase intentions at Internet-only retailers [Grabner-Kräuter and Kaluscha 2003]. We refer to trust as "individual-level internalization of norms of reciprocity, which facilitates collective action by allowing people to take risks and to trust that fellow citizens will not take advantage of them" [Grabner-Kräuter and Kaluscha 2003, p. 672]. Using multivariate models, the studies suggest how the perception of certain variables influences consumers' trust and willingness to buy at Internet-only retailers. …

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