Mental models and online consumer behavior
Internet usage has been on the rise in recent years, and consequently is the increase in the number of online consumers. This research explores the attitudes, behaviors, and motivations of this new type of consumer in the market. The online consumer behavior has been considered for over 2 decades and will undoubtedly make a contribution to many future researches as internet consumerism expands. This paper will be guided by the following research question: (1) how previously researched factors influence the purchasing adaptive skills of online consumers and (2) what are the important consumer behaviors that affect internet consumerism while considering both the positive and negative side? People are known to shop online for experimental reasons, goal-oriented and instrumental reasons. Research methodology will include administering questionnaires randomly to respondents both face-to-face and through emails, interviews and gathering information from selected internet sites that provide different goods and services. Data collected will be qualitative and quantitative. Identification of these factors and variables, new strategies can be formulated. Both the consumer and supplier can gain knowledge and understanding existing behaviors. The significance of the study is to put together different researched information and form conclusions to how consumer ideas, motivational behavior and attitudes influence online consumption, hence construct a wide framework of analysis to investigate.
Research on online consumerism
Online consumerism refers to the act of ordering goods or services over the internet. The Internet has been publicly accessible for over two decades. With its introduction, it has been popular among people of different categories. The emergence of online shopping into our everyday life has conveniently linked people to the capitalistic culture that exists allowing people to make purchases when and where they want and giving them the opportunity to imagine themselves doing online shopping. Ever since the introduction of the internet, people have developed an interest in the value of conducting the business. Though criticized in the beginning, online consumerism has been on the rise and so are the consequences of positive and negative behavior. In 2006 the E-commerce sales totaled to about 6% of product sales in the U.S. The first online book store was set up in 1992 by Charles Stuck known as Books Stack Unlimited. Online purchases include a variety of items including online stock trading, clothing, groceries, cars, homes, jewelry, toys and even ammunition.
This research tries to understand how online consumerism is affected by individual behavior. Consumer behavior refers to the investigation of an individual, group or organization and the strategies they use to select, buy, utilize and order of experiences, services, products or ideas to satisfy their needs and wants and the impacts that these strategies have on the society at large and the individual consumer (Phillips, 2001). Identification of behaviors that sustain online consumerism and those which do not, businesses will have an added advantage to increase profits and competition in the industry. This is so because E- commerce will in the near future out do the traditional buying method.
To have clear cut factors that affect the behavior of online consumers, we have to consider a number of variables. The three main things that affect consumer behavior include motivations such as price and convenience, attitude towards E- commerce and information obtained when products are searched online (Vasquez & Xu, 2009). When a person has a positive attitude towards online shopping, this experience will influence of the results of purchasing goods using the internet. Special offers, prices and easily accessible information on the internet will enable consumers feel more in control of their transaction activities. The consumers feel motivated and stand in a distinct position to make rational decisions about different products.
Other variables to consider in online consumer behavior include the internet access place, experience of shopping online and gender preference. The results reflected that most people prefer to access the internet in their homes or employment places rather than cyber cafes. Consumers with internet browsing experience were comfortable to navigate it and finally based on gender, the research showed that the number of heterosexuals who shopped online was lower compared to bisexuals. This may be as a result of subjective ideas against this section of the population in the current society. Supporting data of this survey research was conducted by Georgia Institute of Technology. In conclusion, “This research clearly identified that both the key place to access the Internet and sexual preference had very important positive effects on online shopping” (Phillips, 2001).
Online shopping has varied positive advantages with the most outstanding trait being the ability to have bidirectional communication. Online shoppers are able to effectively exchange information with those they are buying from through e-mails and bulletins. This process creates an idea of personalized assistance. On the contrary, shopping in a store on site is disadvantaged because of the fact that we are losing our ability to maintain good customer service. This is because those employed to perform that function seem to be just filling the spot rather than disseminate information about what they are selling (Ammeter & Kim, 2008).
Online consumerism is however not without disadvantages. Four consumer online concerns, identified include privacy, security, credibility, and virtual experience (Swinder, 2008). Each of these factors considered and have all shown to have negative influence on consumer purchasing. It is an easy process to access information about a consumer when he/she logs onto any given internet site. Information collected include name of the customer, address where he/she can be found, phone number and credit card data obtained through direct questioning or tracking devices. Some customers feel nervous about the disclosure of their personal information and would rather not be involved in taking the risk. Another issue arises when the credibility of the business or person being dealt with is put into question. Questions such as description of merchandise, shipment, returns, follow-up and trust come up, and this raises concerns that are valid. The overall result is that consumers begin to have a negative attitude towards online consumerism.
Kukar-Kinney (2009) add that, “Another negative behavioral pattern well-known is that of compulsive buying tendencies that have detrimental effects on the consumer, notably affecting monies, feelings, and relationships” (p. 56). This type of behavior is motivated by the same key ingredients of online consumerism. These motivations include; items may be purchased at any time as they are accessible, shopping can be done frequently, a broader variety exists hence a wide variety to choose from. “The purchases may be bought in private hence control of sociality, search costs, product assortment and price, brand equity, transaction costs, customer orientation, perceived quality, and social interaction” (Christy et al., 2008).
Goal directed buying is marked by the idea of freedom and control motivates the buyers to feel less pressure to buy online. They often shop in whatever moments they are free to look for information across multiple online sessions. The shoppers find the online shopping trips useful, interesting, informative and involving. Some customers describe online shopping as sociable, fun and enjoyable and will therefore engage in experiential browsing for bargain hunting that lead to great deals, ongoing hobby type-search in sites of interest and to participate in auction activities that lead to positive surprises. Goal oriented shopping is efficient, deliberate and rational. Browsing is done with a planned purchase in mind leading to reduced costs, receiving of more attractive sales promotion offers and saving of time (Christy & Kim, 2008, p. 32).
A key part of esthetics is how information is arranged and displayed on the web page. The information should not be too much to overwhelm the consumer or too little to decrease the consumers’ confidence. Online information presentation has failed in different ways. Simplicity is the key to achieve success in the business as consumers would want to navigate with the site without any hustle. “This research identified a mental model of consumers, which concluded that people wanted information presented in concise and understanding ways. The ability of online businesses to do this is vital because it leads to a more intuitive and compelling online experience” (Stibel, 2005). Because of their knowledge and their numbers of the computer literate generation, it is safe to say that business as usual is in for change. The progression of online consumerism has to aim high because as the older portion of the population dies out and new generations come up, this way of doing business will be well-known.
This study is to explore the buying behavior of online consumers. The respondents involved were chosen from the population with the condition of having browsing experience or purchasing items online as this is a sound form of measurement of the consumers’ internet experience in shopping online. The participants were of different age, gender, education and ethnic categories brought together to fulfill the purpose of giving findings for the research.
Research was conducted through a self-given online questionnaire given through e-mails and others that were self administered. Data collected concerned the scales of attitude, motivation and searches of information. The students were divided into three categories from the ages of 15-44. The first group was between the ages of 15-44, second group was 25-34 and the last group was between ages 35-44. The latter group ranked first in internet usage followed by the second group and lastly the younger group. The sample population included 200 students who were surveyed in person and 300 students who filled the email survey but 406 responded while the remaining did not participate. Data analysis used quantitative approach. Reliability analysis was formulated and used to test the obtained data. Howard (2004) argues that, “Canonical analysis was also used to help understand the data and build a framework around online consumer behavior” (p. 55).
The survey displayed that the survey had equal number of males and females. The group under age 24 accounted for a little less than two thirds of the total while the elder age group above 24 accounts for the rest.
The findings of each method was then presented and analyzed with easy to understand tables and terminology. The interpretations and conclusions made were hypothesized that compulsive buying strongly affected consumers’ decisions to make purchases using the Internet.
Howard (2004) suggests that “This research acknowledges that one of its weaknesses was the sampling of consumers used and the subjects were relatively wealthy women, frequented expensive internet retailers hence this assessment represents a bias in the general population” (p. 57). According to Swinder (2008), “The research also only tracked the behavior of women as opposed to that of men yet compulsive online consumer behaviors are not gender specific and thus this research is obviously flawed” (p. 65). The factors associated with online purchases that appear to affect the emerging trend included privacy concerns which related to the decision to shop online. Sharing of personal key information such as card numbers and demographic information meant that this information could be shared without ones consent, one maybe overcharged from their credit card, purchased goods being delivered to someone else or misuse of the information by the sellers. For these reasons some consumers are reluctant to participate in online purchasing. It is upon the marketers to attract and retain their consumers by providing personalized and compelling content relevant to the consumers during the shopping activities. The other concern is reluctance to change whereby the buyers prefer the businesses around them as opposed to online purchasing where they don’t get to see the real product they are purchasing hence the mistrust factor and also the fear of the occurrence of virus transmission when purchasing online.
Online consumers also consider the quality concern factor whereby they find it hard to judge the quality of the product ordered and specifically perishable products cannot be purchased safely through the internet. For orders that are made overseas the taxes are high with no after sale services and the worry of doing business with disreputable business firms. The consumers are also concerned about the security and trust factors whereby the online businesses do not clearly give their information to enable the buyers contact them if need be and also they don’t have sales representatives or are limited leading to huge congestions and the difference in currencies doesn’t make the situation any better. Other factors associated with online purchases include non-disclosure of complete product information whereby the companies don’t give full information about their products making the buyers have doubts about the business. If the sellers acted otherwise, consumer awareness and willingness to participate in online shopping would be increased. The connection concern whereby the speed needs to be high in order to reduce the time taken to download information from any given business site and finally the payment factor whereby banking institutions do not provide opportunities for customers of different age groups to own credit cards and the long time it takes to process payments which is in turn represented by the long time it takes to deliver purchased goods.
The development of information technology and growth of communication has transformed local business networks and connected them to the international markets hence the emergence of new types of trade, new services and new innovative entrepreneurs and generally a new marketing system. The benefits of this system to its users include in-depth search, intelligent product comparisons, convenient and inexpensive evaluation of different offerings by different suppliers; it is fast and the availability of difficult to find goods and a greater selection of goods. The benefits both to the consumer and seller are affected by motivation and limitation factors. Measures to increase the confidence of the consumers and credibility of the sellers would mean that the consumers hope that trading online is safe and dependable and also expect good value for their money and the sellers in turn obtain increased sales.
The comprehensive list of motivation and concern may prove useful for further theoretical developments in the cross-cultural population; online marketers interested in exploring the market thereby win the confidence of the consumers and also understand potential visitors’ behavior. The local businesses may also be motivated to diversify their products and services through the internet and the online consumers may become smarter by collecting the required information before making purchases. The government should participate by giving priority in terms of increasing computer literacy through the provision of short courses, workshops, seminars and conferences on issues of internet and computer related technologies. These public education could help build consumers confidence to participate in online purchases as well as increase volume sales in the E-commerce sector (IFIP, 2007).
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Cuneyt, K., & Donald, L. (2003). E-commerce and consumer’s purchasing behavior. Journal of Applied Economics, 35(36), 721-726. Retrieved from http://ideas.repec.org/a/taf/applec/v35y2003i6p721-726.html
Delia, V., & Xingang, X. (2009). Investigation linkages between online purchase behavior. International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 10(1108/09590550910954900), 37(35), 408-419.
Howard, P.N., & Jones, S. (2004). Society online. California: Sage.
IFIP International Conference on E-Business, E.-S., and E-Society. (2007). Integration and innovation orient to e-society: Seventh IFIP International Conference on E-Business, E- Services, and E-Society (I3E2007). New York: Springer.
M, K.-K., & al, e. (2009). The relationship between consumers’ tendencies to buy compulsively and their motivations to shop and buy on the internet. Journal of Retailing: Consumer Behavior and Retailing, 10(1016/j.jretai.2009.05.002), 85(83), 298-307.
Phillips, D. (2001). Online public relations. London: Kogan Page.
Stibel, J.M. (2005). Mental models and online consumer behavior. Behavior Information Technology, 24(22), 147-150. Retrieved from http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/tandf/tbit/2005/00000024/00000002/art00007
Swinder, J. (2008). Does gender moderate the effect of online concerns on purchase likelihood? Journal of Internet Commerce, 10(1080/15332860802250401), 7(3), 339-358.
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