Basic perspectives on consumers' Web-related communication and behavior: The concept of value expectations and interactive communication

Chulho Kim

Abstract

This dissertation investigates the effect of online consumers' value expectations and website interactivity on consumers' cognitive, affective and conative reactions. The study explores the question, "how do consumers value expectations and perceptions of interactivity contribute to positive consumer reactions, including better knowledge, more positive feelings and enhanced purchase probabilities?". As such, it offers a contribution to communications theory and practice. There are several points that distinguish this research. First, consumer value is treated as the value expectations of a consumption experience. Therefore, consumer value expectations represent the consumer's best guess of the amount and type of value he/she will receive from a web-based consumption experience. As a result, two dimensions of value expectations are operationalized. Hedonic value expectations (HVE), rooted strongly in the experiential paradigm, and utilitarian value expectations (UVE), more strongly rooted in the information processing paradigm, are used to capture value expectations. Also, interactivity is considered at both the objective and subjective level. Three interactivity components, subjective control (SC), perceived reciprocal communication (PRC) and perceived timeliness of response (PTR) are manipulated experimentally. A subjective interactivity measure assesses the effectiveness of those manipulations. Therefore, the study tests the effect of consumers' value expectations (HVE and UVE) and web site interactivity (SC, PRC and PTR) on consumers' knowledge and beliefs, consumer affect and attitude, and consumers' retail patronage intention. Based on this perspective, this study conducts an experiment and tests these relationships within a 2 (HVE/UVE) * 2 (Slow/Fast PTR) * 2 (Low/High PRC) * 2 (Low/High SC) between subjects factorial design. A pretest was used to develop and refine the study measures and manipulations. The manipulations were implemented within a retail web site created especially for this study. Shoppers were told to pretend they were shopping for a gift for a father who loves fishing. The website was set up as a retail fishing store. GLM-MANOVA and GLM-regression analyses were used to test most of the model hypotheses. The overall results include several highlights: (1) Both HVE and UVE are positively related to all key consumption outcomes: consumer knowledge, consumer beliefs, positive affect, attitudes and patronage intention. (2) The results also show that web site attitudes and affect are important drivers of patronage intentions. Indeed, they mediate the relationship between value expectations and outcomes like patronage intention. (3) The results also show that the interactivity dimensions did not produce the positive effects predicted. SC, PRC and PTR showed few positive relationships with study outcome variables. These results have important theoretical and practical implications. They help us understand better similarities and differences between virtual exchange and real face to face exchange, they suggest improved web-based communications and most importantly, they point to significant avenues for further research.