Academic journal article International Journal of Cyber Society and Education

Channel Characteristics' Influence on Physical vs. Virtual Channel Choice for Information Search and Purchase - the Case of Polish Young Consumers

Academic journal article International Journal of Cyber Society and Education

Channel Characteristics' Influence on Physical vs. Virtual Channel Choice for Information Search and Purchase - the Case of Polish Young Consumers

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This research investigates the influence of selected channel characteristics on young consumers' choices of physical or virtual channels for information searching and purchasing. Since internet shopping, as well as multi-channel shopping, became popular, finding factors that influence channel choice is important to understanding these behaviors. Situations of channel lock-in during mentioned phases of the buying process are described and their antecedents investigated. Perceived channel characteristics include general attitude toward a particular channel or some sub-dimensions of perceived advantages and risks of that channel. Structural equation modeling has been used to analyze the data.

Keywords: Internet Shopping, Physical Retail, Information Search, Channel Choice

INTRODUCTION

Virtualization of Consumer Behavior

The increasing Internet usage among firms and consumers extensively virtualized marketing activities; it also heavily influenced behavior of consumers, as suggests Mazurek (2011).

The usage of the Internet, being a superior information source and facilitator of social media, gives the consumer possibilities to collect, compare and spread shopping information regarding products and sellers. It is typically much easier to find, compare and choose products with certain features online, while offline information searches using physical channel sources and personal contacts requires more effort. The easily interpretable information reduces the perceived complexity of several products, such as consumer electronics items. Information gathered online is perceived as more definite (e.g. prices), more detailed (e.g. product descriptions) and in many cases more reliable, so it is widely used in purchase decision processes by consumers. These features are treated as important since an early study by Lynch and Ariely (2000).

Jarvelainen (2003) and M^cik and M^cik (2008) argue that many consumers easily adopted buying through virtual channels, perceiving them as more comfortable and typically cheaper than conventional retail in a physical environment. Lower transaction costs and transparent prices imply that electronic markets are more effective, as suggested in an article by Kauffman and Walden (2009), as well as by Grover and Ramanlal (1999). Obviously, online shopping can also be faster than buying in physical store or by phone order. Those advantages are easily overcoming substantial disadvantages of online shopping - for instance: lack of physical contact with product one is considering purchasing, several financial and personal risks - as described in Kim, Kim, and Lennon (2006).

Generally, better opinions about the Internet as an information source than as a shopping channel can lead to shopping channel change during the consumer decision making process - for instance seeking information through the online channel and then buying through a physical retail outlet (avoiding the wait for delivery and its costs). The converse situation - an offline information search (i.e. to try on clothes or "feel" the keyboard on a laptop) - followed with online shopping is also possible and quite popular. These cases of so-called "cross-channel buying" are not directly assessed in this paper.

Paper Goal

The main goal of this paper is to investigate factors influencing young consumers' choices of physical or virtual channels for an information search and buying in the cases of clothing and consumer electronics. In analyzing examples of physical channels, we are dealing with different formats of physical retail outlets. Virtual channels include websites commonly used to get information about products, including reviews, personal recommendations and price comparison tools, as well as Internet stores and auctions used by consumers to gather information and to buy; in all cases, these formats are accessible via computers and/or mobile devices (through web browser or specialized application). …

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