74th International Atlantic Economic Conference

October 04 - 07, 2012 | Montréal, Canada

Consumer behavior in electronic and traditional channels: A comparative analysis

Sunday, October 7, 2012: 9:00 AM
Ana Sofia Branca, Ph.D. , Department of Engineering and Management, Technical University of Lisbon - IST/CEGIST, Lisboa, Portugal
Andreia Rodrigues , IST, Lisbon, Portugal
Consumer preferences’ fragmentation and technological advances on distribution channels have led more and more companies to opt for hybrid delivery channels, offering both an electronic channel and a traditional “bricks and mortar” channel. Online channels’ usage represents several positive and negative consequences, both to companies and consumers. The relationship between consumers and companies has consequently changed, demanding research on how and why consumers choose between delivery channels. Most of the existing research focuses on e-commerce and analyzes only one product. This paper intends to contribute to fill this gap, by comparing online and offline users and understanding if their buying behavior differs between goods and services. The services’ unique characteristics (‘IHIP’ characteristics) are usually considered responsible for specific consumer behavior patterns. However, some authors claim that, on the Internet, these unique aspects are less visible, changing the distinction among goods and services. This paper intends to explore the different consumer profiles and behaviors associated with traditional vs. online retail context and services vs. goods purchases. As such, consumers were differentiated based on demographic variables and on personality traits. The demographic variables comprised gender, age and income earned, while the personality traits analyzed included the individual desire for control, the hedonic value, the utilitarian value, individual risk aversion and uncertainty avoidance. The choice of the explaining variables derived from the literature. To test the hypothesized relationships, a questionnaire was developed and administered to a sample of consumers. The data collected were analyzed with t-tests, logistic regressions and cluster analysis. From the results it was concluded that age and hedonic value have a significant negative influence, while gender, hedonic value and utilitarian value have a significant positive influence on online purchase of goods. For the online purchasing of services, age, risk aversion and hedonic value have a significant negative influence, while gender and uncertainty avoidance influence significantly and positively the choice of the electronic channel.  The data analysis carried out also showed that a model explaining the online purchase of goods online should include only personality traits. On the other hand, a model explaining the online purchase of services should include both demographic and personality traits. The cluster analysis allowed the characterization of different consumer profiles regarding online/traditional commerce, and indicated two groups whose main differences were based on being or not an online consumer of services and/or goods. Findings also illustrated the aspects that determine channel choice and that can be used by practitioners to enhance the attractiveness of their sites and the effectiveness of their marketing strategies.