This brief review points to the different theories that may be employed in identifying the determinants of the purchase decision in online shopping. The theories pertain to the rationale, behaviour and experiences of the online shopper and how they result in a tangible purchase of online goods or services…
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The same study quoted the definition of an e-market as “an interorganisational information system that allows the participating buyers and sellers to exchange information about prices and product offerings” (Bakos, 1991, p.295). An e-market was also described as “a way of conducting business by companies and customers performing electronic transactions through computer networks (Liu and Arnett, 2000, p. 34). Also, it is “a virtual realm where products and services exist as digital information and can be delivered through information-based channels” (Meuter, et al., 2000, p. 50). These various definitions of online/internet shopping/retailing as the more concrete media, system, or network, to the more abstract “virtual realm” is testament to the various levels this phenomenon affects the psyche and actions of the buying public. It begs the question, “What factors significantly influence shoppers to buy products over the internet?”
From a cursory scan of academic literature, it appears that studies on what influences the online purchase decision may be categorized into three general sets of theories: behavioural, rational, and experiential. Based on this observation, this researcher shall classify the theories gathered from the survey of literature and discuss them in groups, then thereafter compare the groups of theories as this researcher perceived them.
The rationale to the inquiry as to customers’ purchase intentions, rather than their attitudes or tendencies to patronize internet shopping, is based on the theory of reasoned action by Ajzen and Fishbein (1980) which states that rational intention is a more powerful or compelling force compared to attitude or behaviour on the decision to purchase, and that the antecedents of intention are shopping orientations, online trust and prior online purchase experience.
In determining customers’ attitudes towards internet shopping, early studies tended to touch on a wide range of factors including income, involvement, home shopping versus internet shopping experience, even attitude towards the retailers’ brand and attitude towards retailers’ websites. Along this line, Balabanis and Vassileiou (1999) found that high income favours internet shopping from retailers with strong brand names, and that high involvement with a product category affects adversely shopping from retailers’ sites with weak brands. Furthermore, it was determined that customers’ extensive home-shopping experience and positive attitudes towards a retailer’s web site both had positive effects on the shopper’s buying intentions, whether the product had a strong or weak brand (p. 361). Ling, Chai and Piew (2010) had likewise adopted the same approach to test multiple aspects of online shopping over a broad range of market segments to determine any general considerations of the decision to purchase online. Findings showed that such factors as impulse purchase intention, quality orientation, brand orientation, online trust, and prior online purchase experience all positively related to the customers’ intention to purchase online (p. 63). Behavioural The theories that adhere to the behavioural factors propose that customers tend to buy online because certain attitudes, values, and personality traits beyond the scope of reason compel the desire to do so. The result is that the purchase is not so much arrived at as a rational decision but a feeling that the purchase is desirable. Online shoppers’ actions are determined by three elements, namely affect (emotional feelings), intentions (desires), and behaviours, where behaviour is the product of two dimensions: internal
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