Shifts in Online Consumer Behavior: A Preliminary Investigation of the Net Generation

By Kim, Donghyun; Ammeter, Anthony P. | Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research, January 2018 | Go to article overview

Shifts in Online Consumer Behavior: A Preliminary Investigation of the Net Generation


Kim, Donghyun, Ammeter, Anthony P., Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research


1Introduction

The continuous growth of consumer retailing over the Internet has drawn considerable attention to electronic commerce (e-commerce). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, e-commerce sales have increased by 214 percent from 2006 to 2015. U.S. retail e-commerce sales for 2015 totaled $ 341.7 billion, an increase of 14.6 percent from the prior year. Retail e-commerce sales in the United States are projected to grow to 548 billion US dollars by 2019. A related phenomenon involves the Net generation (referred to hereafter as Net-geners) that has grown up during this time frame: this is the first generation to mature from adolescence surrounded by digital media and the Internet [99]. In this paper we argue that this generation perceives aspects of the Internet such as the online shopping mall differently from those born prior to this generation. We examine the research question: What factors affect the online purchasing behavior of Net-geners? We believe that shifts in factors affecting online consumer behavior in the Net generation, if they exist and if we can identify them, can help us design appropriate technology for this emerging class of consumers. Given the size of their cohort, Net-geners will grow to become a powerful buying group [73].

Accordingly, e-commerce has begun to be researched extensively, most commonly in these three distinct areas: perspectives of web design [13], [20], [52], [64], [98], price and products [30], [31], [96], and consumer behavior [7], [8], [14], [101]. Examples include looking at web site usability and design [77], studying the factors for intentions to purchase [28], unplanned purchases and intention to return [57], and the development of measures of factors that influence the success of online shopping [101].

Studies in the information systems discipline that specifically look at a consumer's behavior in the online environment have examined dynamic pricing [37], the investigation of relative advantage of e-commerce based on the innovation diffusion theory [17], and the negative effect of product uncertainty and retailer visibility on customer satisfaction [64]. In addition, a review of relevant prior research has suggested that online shopping experience [51], trust, reputation, and website quality [87], and cognitive evaluations, attitudes, and behavioral factors [16] have the positive impact on online purchase intention. Moreover, the theories have extended through the study of gender difference in online trust [89], the impact of socio-economic status on behavioral intention and actual behavior [40], the examination of online purchase intention through a technology-oriented and a trust-oriented perspective [105], and the empirical study of online community self-disclosure using social exchange theory and social penetration theory [84].

While online consumer behavior has been the subject of considerable research in the last few years, limited scholarly attention has been devoted to understanding consumers and empirically validating a research model that investigates the potential differences in the factors that influence online purchase behavior among the different consumer generations. Most studies have investigated factors affecting online consumer behavior without considering that variability often exists among online consumers in terms of their a priori preferences/attitude regarding a technology. Further, prior studies may have provided limited insight into the turbulence of ICT because they occurred prior to a shift in online consumer demographics. From the end of 1990 to early 2010, research on consumer behavior in ecommerce was frequently conducted. For these studies, target subjects were born before 1980. The online market was a new innovation for them so they were less familiar with online shopping. However, the Net generation is the first generation to grow up surrounded by digital media and the Internet [99] and perceives the online shopping mall as another part of their environment because they were born using computers and the Internet. …

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