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Title: THE IMPACT OF AUDIO STREAMING AND INSTANT MESSAGING FEATURES ON EMOTIONAL CONFIDENCE EXHIBITED BY CONSUMERS IN THEIR USE OF WEB-BASED RETAIL PURCHASE CHANNELS IN THE UK

 

Contents

Literature Review and Identification of Research Gap. 2

Research Questions. 3

Theoretical framework. 3

Research Method. 4

References. 5

 

Literature Review and Identification of Research Gap

The issue of web-based retail purchase channels has become dominant mainly because of the emergence of the internet. According to Cheng (2009), customers use the internet as a retail channel because of perceived value. These customers perceive this value in terms of functional, emotional, social, and epistemic values (Cheng, 2009). This view is shared by Yen & Gwinner (2003), who point out that web-based channels offer the benefit of self-service, higher confidence levels, as well as greater satisfaction and customer loyalty.

No study has been done to address emotional factors influencing the choice of the internet as a purchase channel. In many cases, focus is on a combination of functional and aesthetic (emotional) aspects or purely on functional attributes. In other instances, focus is on multi-channel platforms as a retailing option for consumers (Kim, Park & Pookulangara, 2005; Balasubramanian, 2005; Choi & Park, 2006; Kwon, 2009). Apart from the internet, the other channels discussed in these studies are catalogs and brick-and-mortar retail stores (Kim, Park & Pookulangara, 2005; Mathwick, Malhotra & Rigdon, 2002). In this regard, choice of channel is influenced by personal security, convenience, and privacy (Miyazaki & Fernandez, 2001; O’Cass & Fenech, 2003). According to (Kim, Park & Pookulangara (2005),  further research should be conducted on web-based purchase channels with a view to determine their managerial implications for retailers.

Emotions play a critical role in the choice of a retail purchase channel. Lii & Sy (2009) argue that online retailers continue exploited customers’ emotional aspects to capture both sales and profits mainly through differential pricing. Some common tactics involve appeal to emotion, use of multiple advertising channels and buyer identification. A study on Taiwanese students showed that customers’ behavioral responses in online retail purchase channels were significantly related to their emotional states (Lii & Sy, 2009). Lii & Sy (2009) suggest internet pricing strategies should be reoriented to reflect differences in the emotional confidence of different consumers who use online purchase channels.

First impressions play a vital role in internet purchase channels (Basso, 2001). According to Basso (2001), both cognitive and emotional factors come into play in the choice of tactics aimed at creating first impressions. The shopping experience that is associated with The World Wide Web is different from the one associated with brick-and-mortar retail stores (Andreu & Bigné, 2006). At the same time, different websites offer different shopping experiences depending on how their interfaces have been designed. For example, audio capabilities and real-time communication enhances the shopping experience and by extension the emotional responses. Similarly, web interfaces that contain Instant Messaging capabilities are likely to attract more buyers. In Basso’s (2001), the implications of these enhancements for e-commerce have not been fully addressed in research.

Given the virtual nature of web-based purchase channels, customers are continually looking for enhancements that help them purchase decisions, thereby improving their shopping experience. With the current advancements in technology, the opportunities for the adoption of new online marketing and communication platforms are virtually endless. To do this, the sellers need to understand why customers use the internet as a shopping platform (Gupta, Su & Walter, 2004; Park, 2003). Customers go online to obtain both epistemic and functional values (Keen, 2004). They seek to obtain these benefits in the process of collecting information and placing an order (Cheng, 2009). Cheng (2009) points out that emotional value significantly influences order placement but does not significantly influence information collection.

Based on this review of literature, research gaps emerge in four main areas. The first one relates to emotional factors influencing the choice of the internet as a purchase channel. The second area of research involves the managerial implications of web-based purchase channels for retailers. Thirdly, further research should be conducted on  ways of reorienting internet pricing strategies to reflect differences in the emotional confidence of different consumers who use online purchase channels. The last area of study is on the specific technological features (such as audio streaming and instant messaging) that can transform emotional attributes exhibited by consumers. This last area of focus warrants further investigation in this research paper for two reasons. Firstly, it exhibits a high degree of thematic specificity, such that it is possible to draw a clear line of focus for future researchers. Secondly, it provides a clear opportunity for an in-depth examination of the impact of retail channel attributes and emotional responses exhibited by customers.

Research Questions

  1. How does the characteristics of a web-based retail purchase channel influence customers’ purchase decisions?
  2. How do audio prompts and Instant Messaging features influence emotional confidence among consumers?
  3. How do audio capabilities and the Instant Messaging feature determine customers’ decision to make purchase decisions?

Theoretical framework

The overarching objective in this paper is to contribute to a theory that defines how consumers make buying decisions. In online purchase channels trust plays a critical role particularly in the context of repeat purchase decisions. The internet is a relatively new technological platform. Any customer who chooses it to purchase a product must have developed some trust in it. This explains the choice of the trust-based customer buying model for use in the present paper.

The trust-based customer buying model has been supported in numerous studies (Bramall, Schoefer & McKechnie, 2004). Kim, Ferrin & Rao (2008) view it as a tool that can be used to measure customer perceptions, meaning that it can provide excellent pointer to aspects of emotional confidence. Pavlou (2003) views this model in the context of two theories: theory of reasoned action (TRA) and technology acceptance model (TAM). According to Pavlou (2003), these two theories are essential for the obtainment of an in-depth understanding of consumer confidence in technology-driven environments. This perspective is shared by Lee & Turban (2001), who reiterates the need to examine the reasons for the success of e-commerce particularly in the business-to-consumer segment.

Research Method

The researcher will seek access to the customer catalogues of the two leading online retailers in the United Kingdom: Amazon UK (Amazon.co.uk) and Argos (Argos.co.uk) (Digital Strategy Consulting, 2012). Five customers from each catalogue will be randomly selected. The researcher will initiate telephone conversations, briefing the customers regarding the objective of the study. These conversations will take the form of Computer-Assisted Telephone Conversations (CATI) (Kim, Park & Pookulangara, 2005). In this conversation, the researcher will obtain information regarding the customers’ preferences in terms of audio and Instant Messaging features during their past online shopping experiences. The objective will be to determine how their choice of the web-based retail purchase channel and purchase decisions was influenced by the presence (or absence) of these features. This research method is justified because Kim, Park & Pookulangara (2005) used it satisfactorily to derive valid findings on how perceived retail attributes by consumers in multi-channel contexts influence their intentions to purchase clothing products. In this study, consumers with higher cost perceptions tended to rely on the Internet and catalogs when making purchases.

 

References

Andreu, L & Bigné, E 2006, ‘How does the perceived retail environment influence consumers’ emotional experience? Evidence from two retail settings’, The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research, vol. 16, no. 5, pp. 559-578.

Balasubramanian, S 2005, ‘Consumers in a multichannel environment: Product utility, process utility, and channel choice’, Journal of Interactive Marketing, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 12–30.

Basso, A 2001, First impressions: Emotional and cognitive factors underlying judgments of trust e-commerce, EC ’01 Proceedings of the 3rd ACM conference on Electronic Commerce, pp. 137-143.

Bramall, C, Schoefer, K & McKechnie, S 2004, ‘The determinants and consequences of consumer trust in e-retailing: A conceptual framework’, Irish Marketing Review, vol.  17, no. 1, pp. 13-22.

Cheng, J 2009, ‘Why do customers utilize the internet as a retailing platform?: A view from consumer perceived value’, Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics, vol. 21, no. 1, pp.144 – 160.

Choi, J & Park, J 2006, ‘Multichannel retailing in Korea: Effects of shopping orientations and information seeking patterns on channel choice behavior’, International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, vol. 34, no. 8, pp. 577 – 596.

Digital Strategy Consulting, 2012, Top 50 online retailers in the UK: Argos reclaims second place from Apple, 23 February 2012, retrieved from http://www.digitalstrategyconsulting.com/intelligence/2012/02/top_50_online_retailers_in_the_2.php  on June 23, 2014.

Gupta, A, Su, B & Walter, Z 2004, ‘An Empirical Study of Consumer Switching from Traditional to Electronic Channels: A Purchase-Decision Process Perspective’, International Journal of Electronic Commerce, vol. 8, no. 3, pp. 131 – 161.

Keen, C 2004, ‘E-tailers versus retailers: Which factors determine consumer preferences’, Journal of Business Research, vol. 57, no. 7, pp. 685–695.

Kim, D, Ferrin, D & Rao, R 2008, ‘A trust-based consumer decision-making model in electronic commerce: The role of trust, perceived risk, and their antecedents’, Decision Support Systems, vol. 44, no. 2, pp. 544–564.

Kim, Y, Park, S & Pookulangara, S 2005, ‘Effects of Multi-Channel Consumers’ Perceived Retail Attributes on Purchase Intentions of Clothing Products’, Journal of Marketing Channels, vol. 12, no. 4, pp. 23-43.

Kwon, K 2009, ‘Multichannel Shopping Through Nontraditional Retail Formats: Variety-Seeking Behavior With Hedonic and Utilitarian Motivations’, Journal of Marketing Channels, vol. 16, no. 2, pp. 149-168.

Lee, M & Turban, E 2001, ‘A Trust Model for Consumer Internet Shopping’, International Journal of Electronic Commerce, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 75 – 91.

Lii, Y & Sy, E 2009, ‘Internet differential pricing: Effects on consumer price perception, emotions, and behavioral responses’, Computers in Human Behavior, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 770–777.

Mathwick, C, Malhotra, N & Rigdon, E  2002, ‘The effect of dynamic retail experiences on experiential perceptions of value: an internet and catalog comparison’, Journal of Retailing, vol. 78, no. 1, pp. 51–60.

Miyazaki, A & Fernandez, A  2001, ‘Consumer Perceptions of Privacy and Security Risks for Online Shopping’, Journal of Consumer Affairs, vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 27–44.

O’Cass, A & Fenech, T 2003, ‘Web retailing adoption: exploring the nature of internet users Web retailing behavior’, Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 81–94.

Park, C 2003, ‘Identifying key factors affecting consumer purchase behavior in an online shopping context’, International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, vol. 31, no. 1, pp. 16 – 29.

Pavlou, T 2003, ‘Consumer Acceptance of Electronic Commerce: Integrating Trust and Risk with the Technology Acceptance Model’ International Journal of Electronic Commerce, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 101 – 134.

Yen, H & Gwinner, K 2003, ‘Internet retail customer loyalty: the mediating role of relational benefits’, International Journal of Service Industry Management, vol. 14, no. 5, pp. 483 – 500.

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