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The attribute structure of Internet shopping: What is important and what tradeoffs are possible between Internet, retail, and catalog formats?

Purdue University
Publication Date
  • Business Administration
  • Marketing|Psychology
  • Behavioral|Economics
  • Commerce-Business|Mass Communications
  • Design
  • Social Sciences


The growth of Internet technology and electronic commerce has not been matched by theoretically-guided social science research. Well-developed consumer research is needed to illustrate the nature and possible scope of the Internet retail choice in the marketplace. ^ The primary purpose of this study was to examine and identify the attribute structure for consumers' behavioral intentions to use available retail formats—stores, catalogs, and the Internet. By identifying key behavioral characteristics of why consumers choose a particular retail alternative, this research is designed to illuminate understanding of consumer choice of Internet/electronic formats. ^ Key elements from two extensions of the theory of reasoned action were used to identify behavioral intentions of consumers' use of particular retail formats: (1) subjective norms, (2) attitude, (3) perceived behavioral control, (4) ease of use, and (5) price. ^ Conjoint analysis was used to assess the structure of the decision and the importance of the five attributes in the decision. The conjoint technique uniquely allows this determination as well as a look how Internet retailers may pull from store and/or catalog shopping. Conjoint analysis also identifies the trade-offs that are made to increase the attractiveness of Internet alternatives to store and catalog shoppers. ^ Using a sample of college students and mall shoppers, the research showed that, as predicted, price and prior experience had the greatest importance in the structure of the decision about where to shop. Ease of use, control, and subjective norm were predicted and found to be secondary influences. The results showed that the Internet will likely pull market share from the catalog industry. Therefore, traditional brick and mortar stores have less to be concerned about than cataloguers do with this new retail alternative. ^ The findings fill a large vacuum in that theoretically-guided research has not been a part of the Internet revolution. Clear and well designed consumer research using other research tools and techniques at our disposal (rather than simply conjoint) is needed to describe, explain, predict, and integrate what we know about the consumer in the Internet age and what will happen to this changing landscape. ^

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