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The antecedents and consequents of relationship quality in internet shopping


Ki-Han Chung and Jae-Ik Shin
Department of Business Administration, Gyeongsang National University, Jinju, South Korea
Abstract
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to highlight the significance of relationship quality factors (customer satisfaction, e-trust, and e-commitment) on positive word of mouth (WOM) in online retailing. Design/methodology/approach The relative importance of site characteristics in online retailing on customer satisfaction was examined and the relationship among customer satisfaction, trust, and commitment in offline was identified. This paper then proposes a conceptual model of the relationship among site characteristics, relationship quality, and WOM in online retailing. AMOS 5.0 was used to test for the hypothesized relationships. Findings All of site characteristics in online retailing have a positive influence on customer satisfaction. Communication of site characteristics has a positive effect on customer satisfaction more than the other factors (shopping convenience, site design, informativeness, and security). Customer satisfaction affects positively e-commitment more than it does e-trust. E-commitment affects positively WOM more than it does e-trust. This paper identifies the causal relationship among site characteristics, relationship quality, and WOM. Further, the relative importance of customer satisfaction in relationship quality of online retailing is examined. Originality/value Results provide important insights into the impact of site characteristics in online retailing on customer satisfaction compared to other previous researches. In addition, e-trust and e-commitment are identified as important antecedents of e-WOM. Keywords Customer satisfaction, Customer relations, South Korea, Electronic commerce Paper type Research paper

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Received February Revised September April June Accepted July 2009 2009 2010 2010 2010

Introduction In todays highly competitive environment, losing customers is very costly. Customer retention and loyalty have become possible through the development of long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with customers (Athanasopoulou, 2009). The goals of a relationship marketing strategy are to get and keep valuable customers. Just to maintain ones block of business it is necessary to generate new customers because some existing customers will be lost (Macintosh, 2007). In online retailing, word of mouth (WOM) can frequently have a significant impact, both positively and negatively, on the acquisition of new customers. Therefore, WOM can be one key online relationship outcome. Considering the importance of WOM in online retailing, internet shopping mall should implement specific strategies to foster WOM. Online WOM is becoming an important marketing tool for retailers these days (Hahn and Kim, 2009). Online WOM is much more powerful than offline WOM because it affects many people over a short period of time (Emergence Marketing, 2007). Marketers no longer want to merely satisfy customers, they seek relationships with them. The notion that relationships are more profitable than individual transactions is well founded (Hess and Story, 2005). A relationship model will not only further embed relationship-based constructs in marketing practice (e.g. trust, commitment), but also reposition classic marketing concepts into appropriate supporting roles (e.g. loyalty,

Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics Vol. 22 No. 4, 2010 pp. 473-491 # Emerald Group Publishing Limited 1355-5855 DOI 10.1108/13555851011090510

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satisfaction, equity). Satisfactions role in relationship has been recognized in the literature (Sirdeshmukh et al., 2002; Burnham et al., 2003; Ndubisi, 2007; Athanasopoulou, 2009). Hess and Story (2005) suggest that in the trust-commitment model satisfaction and trust develop from a series of discrete encounters. Successful development of satisfaction and trust may then lead to the formation of personal and functional connections (commitment) between the customers and the brand. Recently, in line with the rise in e-commerce, questions of satisfaction, trust, and loyalty have also increased in importance in the online context. There is a tremendous growth in the number of online retailers, which can potentially provide consumers with a vast array of alternatives and new sources of information. It is precisely this potential increase in consumer sovereignty that would also lead to increased role of trust and commitment in online retailing (Balto, 2000; Mukherjee and Nath, 2007). During online shopping, trust can be a vital factor for consumers to make purchase decision since consumers often perceive risks involved in online transactions such as financial risk, product risk, and concern for privacy and security (Winch and Joyce, 2006; Bart et al., 2005; Connolly and Bannister, 2008). According to Mukherjee and Nath (2007), a critical complement of trust in exchange relationship is commitment and the trust-commitment interaction has also been demonstrated by Gounaris (2005), MacMillan et al. (2005), and Eastlick et al. (2006). However, there is more or less lack of empirical research in relationship quality of online retailing in the Korean context. A few focus on customer satisfaction and trust in relationship quality of online shopping but do not include commitment (Kim, 2002; Yoo and Park, 2005; Choi et al., 2007). The roles of customer satisfaction and trust in online shopping are very important factors but commitment is also the same. Trust and commitment in online shopping are complementary relation. Therefore, it is meaningful to identify the relationship among customer satisfaction, trust, and commitment of online shopping in Korea. Even when the same information technology is introduced, its adoption and application depends on unique traits of the society. Korean internet shoppers prefer big and noted shopping malls where they feel more secure. Internet usage time is greater in Korea, but that usage is not related to internet buying, implies that Koreans use the internet for social (e.g. virtual communities) and recreational (e.g. network game) purposes. There were significant difference in internet usage, innovativeness, and perceived risks of internet shopping, but no significant differences in online shopping experience and internet buying intention between Korean internet users and American internet users (Park and Jun, 2003). This difference could be due to cultural differences: the Korean culture tends to reflect collectivism while the American culture tends to reflect individualism (Lee et al., 2007). In this paper, we extend the study of relationship quality by redefining relational constructs, discriminating between similar constructs, and positioning these relational constructs within the sphere of internet marketing. The research model we propose and test enhances our understanding of relationship quality and the impact on online WOM. This theory is based on the premise that the customers evaluation of site characteristics has a significant impact on the customers continued transaction with online retailing. A second body of research focusing on relationship quality also recognizes the hierarchical relation among customer satisfaction, e-trust, and e-commitment. South Korea has recently experienced a rapid growth of B2C internet shopping but internet shopping malls face a challenge of fierce competition and survival. Hence, results of this study will provide internet shopping malls with constructive alternatives.

Site characteristics of online retailing Customers today perceive fewer real product differences and show less brand loyalty, and they are becoming more price and quality sensitive in their search for value. Pressed for time, consumers are likely to prefer more online shopping. When consumers purchase some products by online retailing, they can compare site characteristics of others. Hence, site characteristics of online retailing can play a key role in online transactions. The issue of what online consumers want has captured the attention of research firms as well as scholars. Several research firms have developed methodologies that attempt to measure customer satisfaction (Bansal et al., 2004) and/or overall web site quality (Yang and Fang, 2004; Zeithaml et al., 2002; Loiacono et al., 2002; Wolfinbarger and Gilly, 2003; Cristobal et al., 2007). Interviewing both consumers and web site designers and using undergraduates to rate e-commerce sites, Loiacono et al. (2002) identify 12 dimensions of web site quality which they claim have sufficient discriminate validity: informational fit-to-task, interactivity, trust, response time, ease of understanding, intuitive operations, visual appeal, innovativeness, flow/emotional appeal, consistent image, online completeness, and better than alternative channels. Another scale that measures the web site interface is SITEQUAL (Yoo and Donthu, 2001). They find a mere four rather than 12 dimensions: ease of use, esthetic design (site creativity with multi-media and color graphics), processing speed (promptness of online processing and interactive responsiveness to consumer requests), and security of personal and financial information. There are also many previous studies focusing on the attributes or characteristics of online sites perceived by consumers (Chung and Shin, 2008; Finn et al., 2009). Bizrate includes an overall score for online retailers, and ratings on the attributes of ease of ordering, product selection, product information, price, on-time delivery, product representation, customer support, privacy policies, shipping, and handling (Tam, 2002). Results of the online survey with 602 Korean customers of online bookstores indicate that information quality, user interface quality, and security perceptions affect information satisfaction and relational benefit that, in turn, are significantly related to each consumers site commitment and actual purchase behavior (Park and Kim, 2003). Bansal et al. (2004) suggest that through using a sample of 145 predominantly multi-channel retail firms, Web site characteristics (ease of use, information available, product selection, price, transaction duration, customer service, and shipping and handling) have a significant impact overall web site satisfaction. Kim et al. (2009) suggest that convenience, web appearance and entertainment of buying environment characteristics have a direct effect on e-satisfaction but information, communication, and customization do not have. Researchers have developed attributes to predict intention to return to the web site (Taylor and Strutton, 2009), satisfaction with a web site (Alpar, 2001) and intentions to buy from the web site (Loiacono et al., 2002). Szymanski and Hise (2000) suggest four factors are important in e-satisfaction with consumer perceptions of convenience, merchandizing (including product offerings and product information), site design and financial security. Srinivansan et al. (2002) identify eight factors (customization, contact interactivity, care, community, convenience, cultivation, choice, and character) that potentially impact e-loyalty and develop scale to measure these factors. Francis and White (2002) suggest six factors (web store functionality, product attribute description, ownership conditions, delivered products, customer service, and security) as the antecedents of behavior intentions. In summary, online attributes investigated by various researchers are divided into the customers of interface with web site and/or online retail site. The results of

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researchers have differed quite widely; these differences arise in part from the fact that investigators have had somewhat different foci. Moreover, the methodological approaches have varied greatly, often with limited attention given to generating items carefully and balancing coverage of different concepts likely to be important to consumers (Wolfinbarger and Gilly, 2003). Our research reviews the previous studies and identifies attributes important to consumers as follows: shopping convenience, site design, informativeness, security, and communication. In general, shopping convenience is one of the reasons that many shoppers enjoy online shopping. Site design serves as a physical environment of store, which has a positive effect on consumers shopping. Before consumers purchase some products, they try to search for information on the products. Thus, informativeness can be very important factor when online shoppers visit online retail site. The security of online transaction systems and the protection of privacy are important to increase online purchasing, but many Koreans have stopped online when the security systems were not good. In addition, when consumers visit online retail site to buy some products, online attributes compared to other sites can be considered as an important factor. Because Korean online shoppers who tend to be collectivism prefer to build community through internet usage, communication factor is included as an online attribute. Relationship quality The concept of relationship quality arises from theory and research in the field of relationship marketing in which the ultimate goal is to strengthen already strong relationships and to convert indifferent customers into loyal ones (Rauyruen and Miller, 2007). Although previous research into relationship quality has discussed and tested the concept of relationship quality in various research contexts, the definition and operationalization of relationship quality differs from research project to research project (Ulaga and Eggert, 2006; Chen et al., 2008; Holmlund, 2008; Athanasopoulou, 2008, 2009; Moliner, 2009). Nevertheless, these authors agree that the concept of relationship quality is a higher-order construct consisting of several distinct but related components or dimensions (e.g. opportunism, customer orientation, conflict, trust, satisfaction, commitment, and perceived quality). Based on previous research, this study proposes that relationship quality of online retailing comprises of three different but related dimensions, which are customer satisfaction, e-trust, and e-commitment. Customer satisfaction Satisfaction plays a particularly important role in competitive environments of e-commerce because of its impact on customer loyalty. It is not surprizing that many practical and theoretical models of customer retention have considered satisfaction as a key determinant in consumer decisions to continue/discontinue their relationship with a given product or service. When considerable research has investigated the drivers of service quality and satisfaction in the offline environment (Storbacka et al., 1994; Zeithaml, 2000; Roberts et al., 2003), a small, but growing body of research has examined the drivers in the online environment (Cristobal et al., 2007; Liu et al., 2008; Sahadev and Purani, 2008; Herington and Weaven, 2009; Kim et al., 2009). E-service quality and esatisfaction or site characteristics and customer satisfaction are in the revitalization stage as theory and empirical investigations. The ability to easily navigate a web site and its perceived value (e.g. shopping convenience, design, informativeness, security, communication) will affect both transaction frequency and satisfaction. Customer

satisfaction in online environment may also be driven by consumer benefits in using selfservice technologies. This implies that the drivers of web satisfaction may include web site characteristics, the specific webs value, and its relative value (Bansal et al., 2004). The studies on the relationship between online attributes and customer satisfaction have been progressed in several years. They were as follows: there was the effect of shopping convenience on customer satisfaction (Balasubramanian and Mahajan, 2001; Srinivansan et al., 2002). There was the effect of site design on customer satisfaction (Page and Lepkowska-White, 2002; Ranganathan and Ganapathy, 2002; Szymanski and Hise, 2000; Lohse and Spiller, 1998). There was the effect of informativeness on customer satisfaction ( Jun and Chung, 2006; Girard et al., 2002). There was the effect of security on customer satisfaction (Udo, 2001; Hoffman and Novak, 2000; Reichheld and Schefter, 2000). There was the effect of communication on customer satisfaction (Barlow et al., 2004). In Korean online context, it is very meaningful to identify which factors of site characteristics having the most positive effect on customer satisfaction. A customers decision to be loyal or defect is the sum of many small encounters with online shopping. If customers are satisfied with many small encounters, they will be loyal. According to sample characteristics of individual countries, the results may be different. In this paper shopping convenience, site design, informativeness, security, and communication are selected as site characteristics because when consumers visit an online shopping site, the five factors can be important encounters. Thus, the following hypotheses are provided to investigate the effects of the five factors (shopping convenience, site design, informativeness, security, and communication) on customer satisfaction. H1. H2. H3. H4. H5. The shopping convenience of online retailing will have a positive effect on customer satisfaction. The site design of online retailing will have a positive effect on customer satisfaction. The informativeness of online retailing will have a positive effect on customer satisfaction. The security of online retailing will have a positive effect on customer satisfaction. The communication of online retailing will have a positive effect on customer satisfaction.

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E-trust E-trust is considered as one of the most important prerequisites for e-commerce success. Online transactions and exchange relationships are not only characterized by uncertainty, but also by anonymity, lack of control and potential opportunism, making risk, and trust crucial elements of e-commerce (Grabner-Krauter and Kaluscha, 2003). There is also a tremendous growth in the number of online retailers, which can potentially provide consumers with a vast array of alternatives and new sources of information. It is precisely this potential increase in consumer sovereignty that would also lead to increased role of e-trust in online retailing (Mukherjee and Nath, 2007). Hence, it is difficult to imagine that consumers would transact with online retailing without having put their basic trust in a specific vendor (Pang et al., 2007). Trust, i.e. confidence in reliability and integrity of an exchange partner, is considered central to

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B2B relationships. Recently, the role of e-trust in B2C exchanges has received more attention (Eastlick et al., 2006; Mukherjee and Nath, 2007; Pang et al., 2007; Jin et al., 2008; Horppu et al., 2008; Sahadev and Purani, 2008; Mejia et al., 2009). Trust has been defined in a variety of ways in the relationship marketing literature: as a willingness to rely on an exchange partner in whom one has confidence (Moorman et al., 1992) and as the belief that a partners word or promise is reliable and a party will fulfill his/her obligations in the relationship (Wong and Sohal, 2006). Trust, according to Mukherjee and Nath (2007), is so important to relational exchange that it is the cornerstone of the strategic partnership between the seller and the buyer. In a marketing context, it is impossible to completely detach trust from satisfaction. Trust and satisfaction are highly related constructs, and some conceptualizations of trust even include satisfaction as a component of trust (Sirdeshmukh et al., 2002; Sahadev and Purani, 2008). Ongoing satisfaction, which is required for trust to develop, results from consistent satisfaction with individual transactions over time (Hess and Story, 2005). However, there has been only a few of the researches on the research on the relationship between customer satisfaction, e-trust, and e-commitment compared to them of offline environment (Storbacka et al., 1994; Dorsch et al., 1998; Roberts et al., 2003). Horppu et al. (2008) suggest that web site satisfaction has a positive effect on web site trust. A high level of satisfaction with service received in previous online transactions is likely to increase propensity to trust (Choi et al., 2007; Wu et al., 2009). Thus, the following hypothesis is provided to investigate the effect of customer satisfaction on e-trust. H6. Customer satisfaction with five factors of online retailing will have a positive effect on e-trust.

E-commitment Many researchers have found commitment to be the key component of establishing and maintaining long-term relationships between business partners (Cater and Zabkar, 2008). Commitment, symbolizing the implicit or explicit assurance of service providers, refers to a willingness to develop and maintain a positive exchange relationship (Wu et al., 2009). Moorman et al. (1992) define commitment as an enduring desire to maintain a valued relationship. This implies a higher level of obligation to make a relationship succeed and to make it mutually satisfying and beneficial (Gundlach et al., 1995; Morgan and Hunt, 1994). Given the higher level of commitment among individuals who believe that they receive more value from a relationship, highly committed customers should be willing to reciprocate effort on behalf of a firm due to past benefits received (Wong and Sohal, 2006). Affective commitment is rooted in positive feelings and preferences, and often leads to long-term partnerships (Wu et al., 2009). Continuance commitment builds from costbased calculations and results in commitment because of a need to stay in the long-term relationship when no other comparable alternatives exists or the costs of switching to other options are too high (Meyer and Allen, 1997). However, the recognition of commitment as a multi-dimensional construct that includes an affective component and a continuance component is quiet recent (Fullerton, 2003; Evanschitzky et al., 2006). In online environment Mukherjee and Nath (2007) refer to commitment as nature of association and sense of belonging which are similar to affective commitment. They suggest that e-trust affect positively e-commitment and e-commitment has a positive effect on behavioral intentions (WOM, purchase intention, and continued interaction). Eastlick et al. (2006) also suggest that trust affect positively commitment and

commitment affect positively purchase intent in online B2C. These studies have focused on the relationship among e-trust, e-commitment, and behavioral intention. Together, trust and satisfaction combine to provide the conditions necessary for enduring customer-brand relationships characterized by relationship commitment (Bhattacharya and Sen, 2003; Fullerton, 2003; Morgan and Hunt, 1999; Parvatiyar and Sheth, 2001; Sirdeshmukh et al., 2002). Trust and satisfaction are the antecedents of relationship commitment (Li et al., 2006). Satisfaction with the interaction that begins at the outset of the relationship tends to lead the development of trust and continuous relationships (Ramaseshan et al., 2006). Likewise, web site satisfaction has a positive effect on web site trust (Horppu et al., 2008). Customer satisfaction with site characteristics of internet shopping will affect e-commitment because e-trust and e-commitment are interactive (Mukherjee and Nath, 2007). Thus, the following hypotheses are provided to investigate the effects of customer satisfaction and e-trust on e-commitment. H7. H8. Customer satisfaction will have a positive effect on e-commitment. E-trust will have a positive effect on e-commitment.

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E-WOM In recent years, a growing number of consumers publish product/service reviews on the internet. This new form of electronic WOM (e-WOM) has received increased attention from researchers. Prior studies examine what leads to e-WOM and how e-WOM affects the business bottom line, including product sales, customer value and loyalty, and the success of new product introductions (Zhang et al., 2010). Several studies investigate how e-WOM affects business performance, such as the impact of e-WOM on the adoption of online opinions (Cheung et al., 2008), service innovation and e-WOM (Andreassen and Streukens, 2009), and the impact of e-WOM on product consideration and quality of choice (Gupta and Harris, 2009). Park and Lee (2009) suggest that e-WOM effect is greater for negative e-WOM than for positive e-WOM, greater for established web site than for unestablished web site, and greater for experience goods than for search goods. Several studies examine what leads to e-WOM, including the impact of commitment on positive e-WOM (Lee et al., 2006; Byeon, 2008), the impact of satisfaction and web site usability on positive e-WOM (Casalo et al., 2008), and satisfaction, quality and value, and effects on positive e-WOM in B2B (Molinari et al., 2008). It is reasonable to expect that consumers who have greater search intention for product information via the online store are likely to have greater intention to recommend the online store to others, compared to ones who have lower search intention for product information via the online store (Hahn and Kim, 2009). Consumers often depend on WOM to reduce perceived risk and uncertainty related to decision making of service (Mangold et al., 1999). In particular, this can be applied to online retailing, where the buyer and the seller are physically separated, contingencies are difficult to predict and incorporate into contracts, relationships are difficult to monitor, and cyber-laws are not well defined. If trust and commitment are high, positive WOM communication is more likely (Mukherjee and Nath, 2007; Rauyruen and Miller, 2007; Cater and Zabkar, 2008). This study focuses on what leads to e-WOM than how e-WOM affects the business bottom line. Thus, the following hypotheses are provided to investigate the effects of e-trust and e-commitment on e-WOM. H9. H10. E-trust will have a positive effect on e-WOM. E-commitment will have a positive effect on e-WOM.

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Proposed model and methodology The conceptual model (Figure 1) includes relationship qualitys role in online B2C, such as the consequences of site characteristics and the antecedents of e-WOM. In online environment, the long-term bonds of consumers and e-retailers are a critical factor in survival and growth of e-retailers. The relationship among customer satisfaction, e-trust, and e-commitment, which can be hierarchical, is similar to those of offline B2B. For a positive e-WOM, relationship quality should be higher than other competitors should. The model that was tested has nine constructs, each having multiple items that are measured using a seven-point Likert scale (1 strongly disagree and 7 strongly agree). The survey instrument was developed based on a qualitative phase consisting of ten depthinterview, and then an extensive pilot testing (n 30, comprising 30 university students), leading to the adaption of existing scales wherever appropriate. Then, convenient sampling drew a sample of 300 university students who have experienced online retailing. For data collection purpose, personal interview technique was used at Gyeongnam province from May 1 to May 16, 2008 and of the 300 questionnaires, 85 questionnaires were eliminated due to missing data, resulting in a final sample of 215 students. Examination of demographic characteristics indicates the most common respondent to be female (54.4 percent female, 45.6 percent male), first year students (63.3 percent) who have experienced above seven times of online transactions within recent six months. The most respondents have used general online shopping mall (67 percent). All respondents have made at least one previous online purchase, qualifying them as having the experience and knowledge to evaluate the online service provided by their online shopping malls. Measures Shopping convenience was measured using four items developed by Szymanski and Hise (2000) and Srinivansan et al. (2002). Site design was measured using four items developed by Cristobal et al. (2007) and Kim et al. (2009). Informativeness was measured using four items developed by Tam (2002) and Bansal et al. (2004). Security was measured using four items developed by Park and Kim (2003) and Liu et al. (2008). Communication was measured using four items developed by Ha (2002) and Kim et al. (2009). Customer satisfaction was measured using three items developed by Sahadev and Purani (2008) and Ha and Fanda (2008). E-trust was measured using four items developed by Mukherjee and Nath (2007) and Wong and Sohal (2006). E-commitment was measured using four items developed by Mukherjee and Nath (2007) and Lee et al. (2006). E-WOM was measured using three items developed by Molinari et al. (2008) (see scale items in the Appendix).

Figure 1. Proposed model explaining the antecedents and consequents of relationship quality in online shopping

Validity and reliability of measures This study selected a two-step approach (Anderson and Gerbing, 1988) for the measurement model and structural model. Before testing the hypothesized relationship, the scales used to operationalize the constructs examined through the estimation of the measurement model (Anderson and Gerbing, 1988). Confirmatory factor analysis was used to assess the unidimensionality and validity of the constructs (Table I). The resulting measurement model 2/df was 418.147(307) and p 0.000. To determine reliability, the Cronbachs coefficient alpha was used to separately assess the reliability of scales adopted in this study. All reliabilities for the multi-item scales were above 0.743: shopping convenience (0.897), site design (0.819), informativeness (0.868), security (0.907), communication (0.743), customer satisfaction (0.843), e-trust (0.879), e-commitment (0.891), and e-WOM (0.868). In addition, all composite reliabilities for multi-item scales were above 0.951. All of the loadings in the model were significant. In Table II, correlation between constructs ranged from 0.08 to 0.678, with the correlations of no pair of measures exceeding the criterion (0.9 and above) (Hair et al., 1998). Empirical support thus exists for the discriminant validity of the measures.
Standard Standardized error estimates 0.048 0.054 0.053 0.105 0.109 0.069 0.074 0.053 0.050 0.055 0.110 0.072 0.074 0.067 0.067 0.054 0.058 0.059 0.059 0.861 0.829 0.922 0.819 0.610 0.701 0.732 0.885 0.859 0.705 0.833 0.864 0.926 0.873 0.629 0.895 0.805 0.842 0.744 0.860 0.850 0.795 0.862 0.860 0.878 0.755 0.963 0.796 Composite reliability Average

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Variables

Items

Estimates 0.901 0.920 1.000 0.883 0.788 1.000 0.923 0.998 1.000 0.836 0.839 1.000 0.968 0.953 0.736 1.000 0.946 1.000 0.884 1.000 0.973 0.946 0.930 0.997 1.000 0.833 1.000 0.891

CR 18.789 17.059

Shopping convenience Pc1 Pc2 Pc3 Pc4 Design Sd1 Sd2 Sd3 Informativeness Im1 Im2 Im3 Security Ss1 Ss2 Ss3 Ss4 Communication Com1 Com2 Customer Satisfaction Cs1 Cs2 Cs3 e-Trust Et1 Et2 Et3 e-Commitment Ei1 Ei2 Ei3 e-WOM Wom1 Wom2 Wom3

0.987 16.634 7.484 0.951 8.504 14.525 0.977 11.326 15.919 0.987 19.327 17.357 6.665 0.955 13.097 0.975 11.932 15.353 14.068 17.260 17.124 14.000 0.982 15.175 0.979 0.984

0.950 0.867 0.934 0.951

0.916 0.929 0.940 0.953 0.948

Notes: 2/df: 418.147(307), p: 0.000, CMIN/DF: 1.362, GFI: 0.882, AGFI: 0.844, NFI: 0.903, IFI: 0.972, TLI: 0.965, CFI: 0.972, RMSEA: 0.041

Table I.
Confirmatory factor analysis

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1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

Mean 5.423 4.637 4.575 3.431 4.272 4.461 4.205 3.333 4.076

Standard deviation 1.024 0.937 1.002 1.305 1.062 0.895 0.995 1.310 1.165

1 1.000 0.343 0.257 0.108 0.105 0.341 0.269 0.258 0.049

482

1.000 0.391 0.054 0.332 0.413 0.369 0.317 0.114

1.000 0.018 0.402 0.462 0.455 0.412 0.344

1.000 0.041 0.154 0.183 0.070 0.082

1.000 0.440 0.410 0.337 0.222

1.000 0.678 0.583 0.420

1.000 0.618 0.531

1.000 0.565

1.000

Table II. Correlation matrix

Notes: 1, shopping convenience; 2, site design; 3, informativeness; 4, security; 5, communication; 6, customer satisfaction; 7, e-trust; 8, e-commitment; 9, e-WOM

Path analysis and hypothesis testing Following measurement purification, the path relationships within the research model were analyzed by structural equation modeling (SEM) using AMOS 5.0. In this instance, AMOS 5.0 was used for data analysis as the proposed research model consists of a simultaneous system of equations having latent constructs and multiple indicators. The fit indices of the research model shown in Figure 2 are acceptable (2/ df 447.129(323), p 0.000, CMIN/DF 1.384, GFI 0.874, IFI 0.969, TLI 0.963, CFI 0.968, RMSEA 0.042). The results of the SEM shown in Table III provide support for ten hypotheses. Shopping convenience, site design, informativeness, security, and communication have a positive effect on customer satisfaction (H1 0.157 and t 2.248, H2 0.245 and t 2.489, H3 0.234 and t 2.887, H4 0.124 and t 2.055, H5 0.322 and t 3.454). Customer satisfaction has a positive effect on e-trust and commitment (H6 0.799 and t 11.098, H7 0.440 and t 3.825). E-trust has a positive effect on e-commitment (H8 0.350 and t 3.137). E-trust and commitment have a positive effect on e-WOM (H9 0.275 and t 2.942, H10 0.401, and t 4.327).

Figure 2. Structural model

Parameter Description H1 H2 H3 H4 H5 H6 H7 H8 H9 H10 Convenience Design Informativeness Security Communication Customer satisfaction Customer satisfaction e-trust e-trust e-commitment ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Customer satisfaction Customer satisfaction Customer satisfaction Customer satisfaction Customer satisfaction e-Trust e-Commitment e-Commitment e-WOM e-WOM
**

Standardized Standard estimate error t-value Result 0.157 0.245 0.234 0.124 0.322 0.799 0.440 0.350 0.275 0.401 0.056 0.094 0.070 0.038 0.078 0.082 0.173 0.147 0.117 0.088 2.248* 2.489* 2.887** 2.055* 3.454** 11.098** 3.825** 3.137** 2.942** 4.327** support support support support support support support support support support

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Table III.
Parameter estimates for the research model

Notes: Significance levels are denoted as

p < 0.01 and *p < 0.05

Discussion and conclusion As expected, site characteristics are found to be related to customer satisfaction and most of them are explained by consumers perceptions of online shopping experiences. However, this result is not expected as communication factor has the most positive effect on customer satisfaction than the other factors do. Previous research indicates that convenience has the most effect on e-satisfaction and communication does not have the least effect in US college students (Kim et al., 2009). Lee et al. (2007) suggest that American web sites provide specific information related to products and online purchase of products, while Korean web sites provide information related to consumers relationships to the larger community. Communication in Korean online context is vital because it helps consumer communicate their perception of the service quality to others (the firm and other customers via reviews, complaints, and blogs). Site design has the second effect on customer satisfaction. Web site features related to the appearance of a web site allow customers to use the web site easily as well as providing a hedonic value. For example, logos and background borders help consumers find information easily and provide a pleasurable shopping experience (Szymanski and Hise, 2000). Online shopping can satisfy customers when a web site has easy-to-find information, is fast, and is pleasurable. Security has the least effect on customer satisfaction. According to Yang and Fang (2004), consumers may pay less attention to security issues if they have never experienced problems with privacy and security. Wolfinbarger and Gilly (2003) indicated that a professional-looking web site and company reputation might have an impact on consumer trust in relation to security and privacy concerns. This means that because difficulty of use and lack of trust with respect to online payment privacy and customer service have been found to constitute a real psychological barrier to e-commerce. Satisfaction is one of the most important success measures in the B2C online environment. A survey indicates that 80 percent of highly satisfied online consumers would shop again within two months, and 90 percent would recommend internet retailers to others. However, 87 percent of dissatisfied consumers would permanently leave their internet retailers without any complaints. Customer satisfaction has more effect on e-trust than e-commitment. E-trust has more effect on e-commitment than eWOM. E-commitment has more effect on e-WOM than e-trust does. This implies that there can be the hierarchical relationship among customer satisfaction, e-trust, and ecommitment. Many previous studies have focused on the relationship between customer

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satisfaction and e-trust (Sahadev and Purani, 2008). However, although a critical component of trust in exchange relationship is commitment, few previous researches on the relationship among customer satisfaction, e-trust, and e-commitment of online shopping may have been. The importance of e-trust and e-commitment may enhance not only e-WOM and guide but also competitive pricing strategy. Customers with strong personal connections to an online shopping mall respond differently to premium pricing. Online shopping malls with mostly disconnected customers should rely heavily on competitive pricing and sales promotion. In an online environment, merchant ratings can be the source of interpersonal communication and are obtained from other consumers, not just friends and family. Positive e-WOM has considerable impact on repurchase intention. Thus, in order to develop positive e-WOM, online shopping malls should prioritize communication and design in site characteristics, and identify the needs of online customers (e.g. in terms of services offered). Research implications The increasing competitiveness in e-business is motivating an exponential growth in the number of studies that analyze site characteristics and the consequences. However, a lack of studies still investigates the role of relationship quality in Korean online shopping context. In the previous studies customer satisfaction is widely accepted as a strong predictor for behavioral variables such as trust, expansion and leave, repurchase intentions, WOM, or loyalty (Ulaga and Eggert, 2006). Meanwhile, there are a few of studies on customer satisfaction as the antecedent of e-trust and e-commitment (Kim, 2002; Yoo and Park, 2005; Choi et al., 2007). Although there are a few of studies that analyze the relationship of e-satisfaction and e-trust or e-trust and e-commitment, few of studies focus on the hierarchical relationship among customer satisfaction, etrust, and e-commitment. In addition, there are few of studies on the relationship of etrust, e-commitment, and e-WOM. E-WOM is becoming increasingly recognized as an important form of promotion, particularly within online shopping, where e-trust plays a critical role in consumers choices. Thus, it can be somewhat meaningful to identify the relationship among site characteristics, relationship quality, and e-WOM in Korean online shopping context. The research provides useful implications to online retailers concerning which site characteristics should be given closer attention to improve customer satisfaction, e-trust and e-commitment, and e-WOM. As online service-related studies have emphasized, product offering or price discounts are insufficient to retain customers or to ensure success in online retail business (Kim et al., 2009). As discussed in the Discussion section, communication and site design are the important keys in relation to customer satisfaction. That is, well-designed communication systems should be free to say about an idea or complaint and have a good FAQ system. According to Lee et al. (2007), Korean culture tends toward collectivism, while American culture tends toward individualism. This suggests that Koreans tend to exhibit high family integrity, small distance from ingroups, and high sociability and interdependence, while Americans tend to focus on competition, self-reliance, emotional distance from in-groups, and hedonism. In other words, Korean consumers decisions tend to be influenced more by reference groups than American consumers. Online retailers should be aware of the fact that if consumers have trouble communicating, they might go to different retail sites or quit shopping. Thus, it is imperative that online retailers improve communication systems related online service if they wish to enhance customer satisfaction.

Along with the communication systems related online service, this paper also indicates that site design has a significance effect on customer satisfaction. Site design should be visually appealing, professional, and have good selection. A satisfied online shopper is more likely to revisit the same retailer. Therefore, online retailers should make their web sites appealing and pleasurable to attract online shoppers to their web sites. In addition, security has the lowest impact on customer satisfaction. Security includes online transactions safety, the protection of privacy, and personal information. This may be due to recent advancement in security technology that has led to changes in consumers perception about the online security. Customer satisfaction is importantly related to e-trust and e-commitment. When customers are satisfied with the offerings, purchases, and products of online shopping, the levels of e-trust and e-commitment are higher. The higher the levels of e-trust and e-commitment, the more positive the e-WOM. The suggestion here is that customer satisfaction provides a starting point and it is supported by customers desire to have a personal relationship then followed by an online transaction. Thus, online retailers should improve customer satisfaction related to site characteristics. E-commitment has a positive effect on e-WOM more than e-trust does. According to Mukherjee and Nath (2007), e-trust has a positive effect on behavioral intentions (e-WOM, purchase intention, and continued interaction) more than e-commitment does. In addition, according to Morgan and Hunt (1994), there is not a positive relationship between trust, commitment, and behavioral intentions. WOM has been shown in situations to be more effective than the traditional marketing tools of personal selling and various types of advertising. If customers trust an online shopping, they feel the site as a friend and a part of living. Further, they are willing to say a positive thing about the site and recommend. Thus, online retailers should enhance e-trust through improving customer satisfaction related to site characteristics. Future research This study has some limitations. First, the sample employed in this study was a nonrandom sample of university students, mostly first year students (over 60 percent). In addition, the participants were from western Gyeongnam province of Korea. Regardless the effort of collecting samples, the findings may not be representative of the general population of online shoppers. To generalize the findings of this study, more diversified random samples across gender and age are suggested. Second, in this paper intention to revisit the web site after e-WOM was not presented. Previous studies support that e-WOM has a significant effect on online behavioral intentions. E-WOM is becoming increasingly recognized as an important form of promotion but few studies have addressed how effective the promotion of e-WOM is. Thus, future research could explore the effect size of WOM on online behavioral intention. Third, very few studies have addressed how familiarity with a web site affects consumer evaluation of site characteristics in relation to customer satisfaction. Future research, therefore, could explore consumers familiarity with web sites in relation to the evaluation of site characteristics.
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Scale Shopping convenience Items Pc1. This website is very convenient to use Pc2. It takes a short time to shop at this website Pc3. This website provides ease procedures of ordering Pc4. A first time buyer can make a purchase from this website without much help Sd1. The website is visually appealing Sd2. This website has good selection Sd3. The websites appearance is professional Sd4. It is quick and easy to complete a transaction at this website (continued)

Site design Table AI. Scale items

Scale Informativeness

Items Im1. This website provides the rich information on features and quality of the products Im2. This website provides the accurate information on features and quality of the products Im3. This website provides various kinds of peripheral information (payment, delivery, and return) Im4. This website provides the good information of products Ss1. I feel safe in my transactions with this website Ss2. I feel like my privacy is protected at this site Ss3. I trust this site will not misuse my personal information Ss4. I trust that this site will not give my information to other sites without my permission Com1. Consumers can free to say about an idea/or complaint at this site Com2. This website has good FAQ system Com3. Customers can actively review products of this site Com4. This site provides free to exchange opinions between customers Cs1. I am satisfied with the offerings at this website Cs2. I am satisfied with the purchases at this website Cs3. I am satisfied with the products at this website Et1. I trust the information that this site provides Et2. I trust the promise that this site makes Et3. I trust the products that this site provides Et4. I trust the delivery of products that this site makes Ei1. I feel this site as a friend Ei2. I feel this site as a part of living Ei3. I am attached to this site Ei4. I feel a sense of belonging to this site that I transaction with Wom1. I say positive thing about this website to other people Wom2. I recommend this website to anyone who seeks my advice Wom3. I say positive thing about products of this website

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Security

Communication

Customer satisfaction e-trust

e-commitment

e-WOM

Table AI.

About the authors Ki-Han Chung is a Professor in the Department of Business Administration at Gyeongsang National University. His research area covers marketing channel, internet marketing, market orientation, internal marketing, and service marketing. Ki-Han Chung is the corresponding author and can be contacted at: khchung@gnu.ac.kr Jae-Ik Shin is a Research Professor of Brain Korea 21 at Gyeongsang National University. His research area covers internet marketing, tourism marketing, corporate social responsibility, and service marketing.

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