Updated: Jan 18
With the prevalence of online retail, we may question what it was like before we could buy that book on Amazon or book that hotel on Hotels.com. the convenience that comes with the Internet and the plethora of e-commerce options available at our fingertips is almost unlimited. In this post, we will explore factors that come into play when we decide whether or not to purchase online, our motivations and barriers in doing so and the process we go through when making purchase decisions. To find out more just keep reading.
Buying online...how hard is it to do? will we find what we're looking for? do we even have the time to do it? let's find out.
Task complexity Like with any other task in life we always consider how hard it is going to be to do that task. Specifically, when we are discussing choosing to purchase online, we consider “the number of alternatives and the amount of information (that is available) for each alternative” (Schiffman and Wisenblit, 2015, p.370). We might consider how many stores sell a specific item or brand, price variations depending on the retailer and how much it will cost us in shipping. We might, for example, have to consider if its cheaper to buy on the brands own website or a third-party website or check if it can be shipped to the country, we want the item delivered to.
Information organisation We, humans, are quite lazy or impatient (you pick which one you prefer) and like to be able to find what we want quickly. The way that the website content is presented and content and what information is actually available to us (Schiffman and Wisenblit, 2015, p.370) has an impact on where we might choose to shop. If for example, it’s unclear what the total cost of the product is, we may decide to continue to search for alternatives. If it’s unclear what the specifications are for a technical product is, we might avoid purchasing it due to fears of incompatibility issues.
Time constraints We are more and more time poor and with so many competing demands on our time is it any wonder that we need to be able to make decisions quickly (Schiffman and Wisenblit, 2015, p.370). As mentioned above if the decision-making process is a complicated one and on top of that the content is not presented in a user-friendly manner, we decide it’s simply too hard. We may decide then that it’s just easier to pop into a physical store or choose a different but potentially lesser quality e-commerce vendor.
Motivations and barriers
So, what motivates us and creates barriers to us making purchasing decisions online?
The pros Shopping online has its strengths. Advantages like convenience and variety for one. We may not have certain stores or brands locally available to us. However, via e-commerce or e-retail we are able to purchase different sizes, colours, styles and types of products from stores in other suburbs, states or countries. When we want additional information, we can quickly and easily access it and we are made aware of special exclusive deals not available instore. Who doesn’t like an exclusive deal or a special online member discount code?
The cons Shopping online also has its weaknesses. Disadvantages like information security because websites can be hacked. Hacked websites mean potentially having our personal and financial information floating around and maybe getting into the hands of unscrupulous people. Shopping online implies a need to trust that the retailer does, in fact, have that item we want in stock, that it is a genuine not fake item and that we will, in fact, receive it. Haven’t we all heard horror stories of fraudulent charges to credit cards, huge shipping delays or sometimes the items not arriving at all?
Table: List of motivations and barriers (Chaparro-Peláez, Agudo-Peregrina, & Pascual-Miguel, F.J. 2016, p. 1278)
So, how do we even get to the point of deciding that a specific e-commerce store is risky or not? We first recognise that we need something.
The purchase process is made of several steps, but we will be focusing on five in this post. They are, need recognition, pre-purchase research, evaluation of alternatives, purchase and post-purchase evaluation.
Need Recognition We first realise that we are missing something. It might be something we can’t do without and be a real need or it might just be something we’d really like to have. An example might be needing a printer cartridge to print a business report versus needing the latest Tim Tam variety.
Pre-Purchase Research This might include racking our brain to remember past experience we have or recommendations from friends or family. We may do research online by Googling the brand or product or looking at customer reviews.
Evaluation of alternatives To evaluate our potential choices, we might have an evoked brand-set, inept brand-set, and an inert brand-set. If a brand or e-commerce retailer is in the first category it’s because we would consider buying from them (Schiffman and Wisenbilt, 2015, p. 370). If a brand or e-commerce retailer is in the second category it means we’d never consider buying from them (Schiffman and Wisenbilt, 2015, p. 370). If a brand or e-commerce retailer is in the second category it means we don’t really have any opinions about them (Schiffman and Wisenbilt, 2015, p. 370).
Figure: Customer decision-making process (Schiffman and Wisenblit, 2015, p. 368)
Figure: Brand-sets considered during evaluation (Shiffman and Wisenblit, 2015, p. 370)
We then make a purchase and based on that decision are able to evaluate the wisdome of our choice. It is then that we either decide or not to repurchase and give our trust and loyalty to that brand or e-commerce retailer.
Figure: Output of customer decision-making process (Schiffman and Wisenblit, 2015, p. 368)
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References: Chaparro-Peláez, J. Agudo-Peregrina, Á. F. and Pascual-Miguel, F.J. 2016, ‘Conjoint analysis of drivers and inhibitors of e-commerce adoption’, Journal of Business Research, vol. 69, iss. 4, pp. 1277-1282, viewed 01 April 2019, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2015.10.092
Schiffman, L. G., and Wisenblit, J.L. 2015, Consumer Behaviour Eleventh Edition, Pearson Education Limited, Essex.
With the convenience of the Internet and the plethora of e-commerce options available at our fingertips its worthwhile to ponder the what makes us decide to purchase online, what our motivations and barriers in doing so are and how we go about making those decisions. By thinking through things in this way we might decide that we are acting on a want rather than an actual need and we might save some cash.
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