Enhancing Virtual Presence in E-Tail: Dynamics of Cue Multiplicity

Eun-Jung Lee and Jihye Park
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 18, Number 4, Summer 2014, pp. 117-146.

Abstract: Visual simulation is currently the primary technique used to optimize virtual presence in e tailing, but it entails high costs. For e tail companies with limited financial resources, customer–company communications, instead of using visual simulation, are based mostly on text (e.g., product attributes, company information). This study explores the influence of text-based e tail content on virtual presence and the mechanism underlying this influence by testing (1) the effect of cue multiplicity on telepresence and social presence and (2) the dynamics of how presence perceptions affect decision affirmation. A total of 407 participants in the main experiment were exposed to a fictitious e tail Web site, and the cue multiplicity of the text-based e tail content was manipulated. The results supported all the hypotheses but one. First, a greater number of cues led to greater perception of telepresence and social presence, providing support for the hypothesized effect of cue multiplicity in text-based e tail content on virtual presence. Second, telepresence increased Web site trust, ultimately contributing to shoppers’ decision affirmation; however, the effect of telepresence on e shopping enjoyment was not confirmed. Finally, social presence significantly improved Web site trust, e shopping enjoyment, and social affirmation, all of which improved decision affirmation. The findings illuminate the role of cue multiplicity in e tail text as a crucial antecedent to virtual presence and decision affirmation. A strategic manipulation of e tail text should be further considered by managers of various virtual marketplaces as a cost-efficient and effective way of helping the shopper’s decision process.

Key Words and Phrases: Cue multiplicity, decision affirmation, e shopping enjoyment, e tail presence, social approval, social presence, text-based e tail content, trust, virtual presence, Web site trust.