Consumer Reactions to Electronic Shopping on the World Wide Web

Sirrka L. Jarvenpaa and Peter A. Todd
International Journal of Electronic Commerce
Volume 1, Number 2, Winter 1996-97, pp. 59-88.

Abstract: Much fascination and speculation surrounds the impact of the World Wide Web on consumer shopping behavior. At the same time, there is little empirical evidence underlying all this speculation. This article provides one such data set. It reports on factors that consumers found salient as they browsed through selected electronic malls on the World Wide Web. We gathered consumers’ reactions via an open-ended survey using a sample of 220 shoppers. We related the reactions to the factors of product perceptions, shopping experience, customer service, and perceived consumer risk, which we had identified from the existing literature on retail patronage behavior. This study translated these factors to the World Wide Web context and explored their relative salience. With respect to product perceptions, consumers were impressed by the breadth of stores on the World Wide Web but disappointed with the depth of a merchant’s offerings. The shopping experience was reported to be generally enjoyable, but at the same time frustrating. Consumers also reported that they could perceive the potential for time savings and reduced effort compared with traditional forms of shopping, but that, at present, goal-directed shopping was difficult. Nearly everyone in the sample had something negative to say about customer service on the World Wide Web, judging that the sites were not designed to be responsive to their needs and that the presentation of goods and services seemed intangible. Risk was cited as a barrier to shopping on the World Wide Web, but was not as salient to our sample as product perceptions, shopping experience, and customer service. Overall, the results suggest that World Wide Web merchants need to think more about how they perform on the factors known to affect consumer behavior; namely, product perceptions, shopping experience, and customer service. We offer advice for enhancing the design of World Wide Web retail sites.

Key Words and Phrases: attitudes and intentions to shop on the Internet, consumer perceptions, electronic retailing, Internet consumer behavior, marketing on the World Wide Web, retail patronage in on-line stores.