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Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing

Consumer behavior in the online context


Shannon Cummins, James W. Peltier, John A. Schibrowsky, Alexander Nill,
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Consumer behavior in the Consumer


behavior in the
online context online context
Shannon Cummins
Department of Marketing, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater,
Whitewater, Wisconsin, USA
169
James W. Peltier Received 3 April 2013
Department of Marketing, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Revised 3 June 2013
Whitewater, Wisconsin, USA, and Accepted 8 August 2013
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John A. Schibrowsky and Alexander Nill


Department of Marketing and International Business,
University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

Abstract
Purpose – The purpose of this article is to review the consumer behavior and social network theory
literature related to the online and e-commerce context.
Design/methodology/approach – To conduct the review, the authors draw on a sample of 942
articles published from 1993 to 2012 addressing consumer behavior or social network issues in the
online or social media context. The sample is analyzed by both era (incubation, expansion and
explosion) and primary topic.
Findings – Eight categories of online consumer behavior research are described. In the order from
largest to smallest, these are: cognitive issues, user-generated content, Internet demographics and
segmentation, online usage, cross cultural, online communities and networks, strategic use and
outcomes and consumer Internet search.
Originality/value – The literature has been summarized in each category and research opportunities
have been offered for consumer behavior and social network scholars interested in exploring the online
context.
Keywords Online marketing, Strategic marketing, Social networks, Online advertising,
Online consumer behavior, Online metrics
Paper type Literature review

Introduction
Over the past 20 years, the intersection of consumer behavior and interactive marketing
has received a steady stream of conceptual and empirical attention (Darley et al., 2010;
Limbu et al., 2012). In their review of the marketing literature, Pomirleanu et al. (2013)
found that 26 per cent of all Internet marketing articles from 1993-2012 focused on the
application of consumer behavior theory and practices. The authors note that social
networks, arguably a consumer behavior topic, made up 12 per cent of the articles and 17
per cent since 2005. In response to the growth of Internet marketing research in Journal of Research in Interactive
consumer behavior and social media, this special issue of the Journal of Research in Marketing
Vol. 8 No. 3, 2014
Interactive Marketing offers research that provides an understanding of how pp. 169-202
psychological and social network theories contribute to our understanding of effective © Emerald Group Publishing Limited
2040-7122
Web sites. As a review piece, the findings provide academics and practitioners a DOI 10.1108/JRIM-04-2013-0019
JRIM historical perspective of how consumer behavior-related Internet research has evolved
over time, and, importantly, given the theme of this special issue, offers future research
8,3 opportunities needed to help understand effective Web site design.
Psychological and social network theory offers considerable promise for enhancing
our understanding of Internet marketing along a number of dimensions. First, the
Internet is a medium through which consumers interact, communicate and respond (Cho
170 and Khang, 2006). Psychological and social network theory thus provides an important
framework for linking internal and social decision-making processes (Bagozzi and
Dholakia, 2002). Second, as a multi-channel platform, the Internet is complex and
requires an understanding of consumers’ existing attitudes, beliefs and social
interactions that are manifested and then transferred from in-store to their online
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experiences (Badrinarayanan et al., 2012). Third, because many shopping experiences


are affect-based, the Internet represents a composite of visual, individual and
interpersonal stimuli (Im et al., 2010). Finally, the Internet is increasingly a social
medium through which consumers seek and share information with others (Schultz and
Peltier, 2013). Understanding how word of mouth affects, and is affected by, cognitive,
attitudinal and behavioral consumer tendencies is thus key for forming and nurturing
strong customer relationships (El-Gohary, 2010; Kim and Song, 2010).
As an organizing framework in this article, we summarize consumer behavior and social
network theory research in Internet marketing from 1993 to 2012. As part of this review, and
consistent with the goals of the special issue, we offer future research opportunities relevant to
Web site effectiveness. Our research revealed eight key categorical areas:
(1) cognitive issues;
(2) user-generated content (UGC);
(3) Internet segmentation and demographics;
(4) online usage;
(5) cross cultural;
(6) online communities and networks;
(7) strategic use and outcomes; and
(8) consumer Internet search.

As would be expected, the field has moved away from more descriptive-based research
to how consumer behavior issues interact with advancing media technologies, social
and community networks and UGC.
In presenting this review, we first discuss the methodology used to organize the literature. We
then provide an overview of each of the major consumer behavior and social network categories,
paying special attention to key research opportunities specific to effective Web site design. We
conclude by identifying what we feel are “hot” consumer behavior and social network research
streams useful for advancing the Internet literature.

Methodology
Array of journals
Our analysis first searched all journals in the general marketing literature (Pomirleanu
et al., 2013). We then added general business journals such as, Journal of Business
Research, Business Horizons, Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Review,
California Management Review, The McKinsey Quarterly, etc. Our review also Consumer
contained Internet/interactive marketing journals such as The Journal of Research in
Interactive Marketing, Journal of Interactive Marketing, The Journal of Internet
behavior in the
Commerce, Electronic Commerce Research and Applications, International Journal of online context
Electronic Commerce Journal of Electronic Commerce Research, The International
Journal of Internet and Enterprise Management Internet Research and others. In total,
the review identified over 900 articles from more than 85 peer-reviewed journals. 171
To align with the early Internet categorization schemes by Ngai (2003) and
Schibrowsky et al. (2007), our review purposely excluded management, management
information systems and psychology journals. While we acknowledge that this
methodology excludes important work outside of the marketing discipline, it accurately
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represents the marketing literature. We also limited our review to scholarly publications
written in English. Finally, we incorporated the categorization schemes developed by
Gray et al. (2012) and Cummins et al. (2013) to describe each of our categories (see
Classification of articles below). To our knowledge, this is the most complete review of
the Internet marketing literature within the context of consumer behavior and social
networks.

Search process
The selection of appropriate search terms is critical to the validity and reliability of any
categorization scheme (Ngai, 2003). A “key word” approach was utilized for seeking out
Internet marketing articles within a consumer behavior or social media/networking
context. The database was queried for keywords appearing in the title, abstract or
keyword list. Maintaining consistency with past Internet reviews, beginning source
words were drawn from Schibrowsky et al. (2007), and more current terms not
represented in the prior literature were added. From the previous work, we included
terms such as Internet, online, web, e-mail, electronic commerce. We added newer terms
such as social networks, social media, viral, online communications, online brand
communications, user content, mobile, Facebook, Myspace and YouTube. Citations
from regular columns, book and software reviews, editorial comments and other
non-referred articles were removed from consideration. Each abstract was evaluated to
determine fit, and a direct link was made to that article in the online database for further
review.

Classification of articles
Three reviewers performed the abstract content analysis used to form our categories.
Each consumer behavior/social network article was classified by its primary topic
specified by Schibrowsky et al. (2007) and Pomirleanu et al. (2013). Any disagreement
was resolved through a majority vote and new subcategories were created as needed.
Based on article counts and observed article topics, we formed three eras: Incubation
(1993-2004), Exploration (2005-2008) and Explosion (2009-2012). The time frames were
labeled eras to reflect both the marked change in academic attention and publication
between years and the change in topics across years. After reviewing the abstracts and
counts, the authors agreed that the spans of time represented by each era showed a clear
change in the research and publication practices of marketing scholars. Table I shows
the categorical scheme used to classify the consumer behavior/social network articles,
along with a description of subtopics. Table II shows the number and per cent of articles
JRIM Categories Associated topics
8,3
Cognitive issues Information processing, learning, memory and motivation:
Consumer online learning, information processing and memory (Web site
navigation perceptions, impact of banner advertisements and animation,
components of perceived interactivity, need for sensation and visual
identity)
172 Perceptions of risk, tangibility, knowledge, time and inconvenience in
online activity and self-service adoption
Psychological processing of and consumer reactions to marketers’ online
innovations on consumers (e-sponsors, e-coupons, product placement,
search tools and information load, order effects, purchase cycles and sales)
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Consumer motivation to search, browse and buy online


Attitude:
Consumer attitudes toward Internet marketing, social media marketing,
advertising interactive digital advertisements and online product
categories; differences among children’s response to online advertising
E-shopping behavior, intention, enjoyment and acceptance models
including the difference among types of goods and charities
Decision models and other constructs:
Consumer decision-making models reflecting the online decision
environment and multiple typologies of goods
Internet socialization and social inclusion/identity online (cognition, trust
loneliness, values, psychological distance, self-efficacy and flow online)
Negative online outcomes (compulsivity and impulsivity in online
shopping, online procrastination, herd behavior and online regulation)
Trust in online information (including reviews, recommendations,
information marketplaces and relationships)
Impact of online trust (on online participation, brand/product/channel
adoption and dissolution and motivation to produce content)
User-generated Generation of online content:
content Evolution and perception of online reviews, recommendations, blogs and
email forwarding
Recommendation agents/engines:
Impact on consumer evaluation and strategic business use, causes for
contribution and types of contributing agents
Trust in online content and processes
Impact of online trust on consumer behavior
Internet segmentation Demographics:
and demographics Characteristics of Internet and social network adopters (online experience,
gender geographical location, income, time and price-sensitivity)
Segmentation:
Market segmentation, targeting and micro-niches in online channels
Online usage Anthropologies of consumer use, acceptance and response
Usage behavior studies across platforms and product categories
Consumer adoption and usage profiles: barriers and contributing factors
Table I. Profiles of unique user groups (i.e. teens, college students, mature, disabled,
Categories and associated rural, island, sophisticated and resistant consumers)
topics (continued)
Categories Associated topics
Consumer
behavior in the
Cross-cultural Collectivist vs non-collectivist cultures:
Consumer perceptual and behavioral differences between cultures online context
Geographically based comparisons:
Studies of online firm and consumer behavior and outcomes in other
countries or across countries
Online networks and Exchange relationships:
173
communities Consumer development of exchange relationships within peer-to-peer
networks and e-communities (online discussion groups, social networks
and brand communities)
Perceptions and responses:
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To advertising, viral campaigns and social media marketing in


communities
Use to management:
Of online networks and communities for product development,
distribution development of brand commitment and brand relationships
and leader identification
Outcomes for marketing:
Firm outcomes such as purchase intentions, engagement, brand advocacy
and eWOM
Positive consumer outcomes such as gratification, information source
socialization and equity; negative outcomes including objectification
overspending, price discrimination, boycotts and rumors
Strategic use and Strategic use of Internet:
outcomes Marketers use of Internet as platforms, for diffusion of content and
promotion
Strategic use of social media:
Marketers use of social media including virtual agents, seeding, platforms
diffusion of content and controversy management
Strategic outcomes:
Outcomes of social media and online participation and promotion
(consumer satisfaction, loyalty, return and complaint behavior, return
intentions, customer lifetime value)
Consumer Internet Browsing and search cost:
search Impact of product category, gender, headlines on search and search costs
Search engine, keywords and shopper intentions:
Impact of search engines, key words, shopper intention on search
Models of online consumer search and navigation behavior and paid search
advertising Table I.

across the three eras. Note that our framework considers social networks as a
component of consumer behavior. This is based on our belief that most social networks/
media are a subset of consumer behavior and not a separate topic area. Although we
acknowledge that our categorization scheme is imperfect and our article classification
would not be identical if the process was begun anew, our process is consistent with the
past reviews we noted and serves as a starting point for describing the consumer
behavior and social network articles in the Internet marketing literature. In the next
section, we review our findings, first with an examination of aggregated results followed
JRIM Incubation Exploration Explosion era Total
8,3 era 1993-2004 era 2005-2008 2009-2012 1993-2012
Era Era Era Total
Category n (%) n (%) n (%) n (%)

Cognitive issues 65 30.0 86 29.6 103 23.7 254 27.0


User-generated content 6 2.8 41 14.1 95 21.9 142 15.1
174 Internet segmentation and
demographics 27 12.4 44 15.1 51 11.8 122 12.9
Online usage 37 17.1 32 11.0 32 7.4 101 10.7
Cross-cultural 28 12.9 29 10.0 37 8.5 94 10.0
Online communities and
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networks 17 7.8 21 7.2 42 9.7 80 8.5


Table II. Strategic use and
Number and percentage of outcomes 15 6.9 27 9.3 35 8.1 77 8.2
articles by category, era Consumer Internet search 22 10.1 11 3.8 39 9.0 72 7.6
and overall Total 217 100.0 291 100.0 434 100.0 942 100

by cross-era comparisons. We then present a summary of key findings within each


topical category.

General summary of results by category 1993-2012


As shown in Table II, we present the number and per cent of articles by category, era and
overall. Because the number of published articles grows dramatically across the three
eras, “per cent of articles” per era is used to compare topical coverage across eras. At the
aggregate level, research on cognitive issues was the predominant theoretical
perspective within the Internet marketing literature (254 articles; 27 per cent of total).
This is in line with more general research in consumer behavior. This was followed by
research investigating UGC (142; 15.1 per cent), Internet segmentation and
demographics (122; 12.9 per cent), online usage (101; 10.7 per cent), cross cultural (94; 10
per cent), online communities and networks (80; 8.5 per cent), strategic use and outcomes
(77; 8.2 per cent) and consumer Internet search (72; 7.6 per cent).

Cross-era comparisons
It is first important to note that consumer behavior research in the Internet context
shows a steady stream of increased activity over the past 20 years. It is also important
to point out the sustained interest across categories. Even in situations in which there is
a drop in the percentage of categorical coverage from the incubation era to the explosion
era, the total number of articles is higher in the explosion era in all cases except for online
usage. This suggests that although hot topics might vary, there is still interest in
virtually all of the noted areas. Over the 12-year span representing the incubation era
(1993-2004), a total of 217 consumer behavior Internet articles were published,
averaging about 19 per year. Over the next four years representing the exploration era
(2008-2008), a total of 291 articles were published, with an average of approximately 73
articles per year. Finally, in the past four years, which we label the explosion era, the
number of articles jumps to 434, a yearly average of 109 articles.
As expected, there was a shift in the focus across the three eras. For the incubation
era, cognitive issues made up 30 per cent of the articles. Although cognitive issues had
the highest per cent in each era, the era percentages have dropped (30, 29.6 and 23.7 per Consumer
cent). There has also been a decrease in articles related to online usage, (17.1, 11 and 7.4
per cent) and cross cultural (12.9, 10 and 8.5 per cent) as authors have moved away from
behavior in the
descriptive research. Conversely, topical coverage has increased in areas targeting online context
social network research such as UGC (2.8, 14.1 and 21.9 per cent) and online communities
and networks (7.8, 7.2 and 9.7 per cent).
175
Summary of cognitive issues research
More than 25 per cent of the articles represent studies of consumer cognitions when
engaging with e-commerce. While the number of cognitive articles has increased over
the eras, the percentage within each era has declined. This category represents a broad
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swath of the broader consumer behavior literature including:


• psychological approaches to information processing, learning and memory;
• attitudinal studies; and
• decision models including other cognitive variables related to e-commerce
engagement and enjoyment.

Information processing, learning, memory and motivation. The study of Internet


cognitive issues is rooted in psychological models of consumer learning and information
processing. Strategically, articles detail how consumers process and respond to online
tactics such as e-sponsorships (Eckler et al., 2009), banner ads (Mitchell and Valenzuela,
2002) and e-coupons (Kang et al., 2006). Operationally, the literature describes
consumers’ cognitive perception and psychological reaction to visual cues such as Web
site navigation options (Luna et al., 2002) and animation speed (Sundar and
Kalyanaraman, 2004). In addition, investigated are the importance and need for
sensation (Martin et al., 2005), visual versus verbal cues (Joy et al., 2009),
three-dimensional imaging (Li et al., 2002) and perceived online interactivity (McMillan
and Hwang, 2002). Implementable advice for web designers abounds from these studies.
As an example, McMillian and Hwang (2002) detail how consumers’ perceived level of
interactivity and psychological state is impacted through manipulation of online timing,
the origination of communication and user control. Another intriguing example
discusses embodied knowledge or information elements that are generated and
maintained outside the brain cavity and how improvements in mapping, monitoring
and enabling use can drive e-commerce objectives (Rosa and Malter, 2003).
Motivation is another established psychological construct that is explored across
eras. Studies investigate motivation from different goal perspectives, as well as across
specific types of online engagement. Examples of goals include incubation era study of
hedonic versus utilitarian approaches (Childers et al., 2001) and exploration era studies
of risk-reduction strategies (Van Noort et al., 2008). Motivational studies of specific
online activities range from the initial motivation to use the Internet within the
incubation era (Joines et al., 2003) to the production of online content more recently
(Daugherty et al., 2008). For a more comprehensive review of online motivation, see
Rohm and Swaminathan’s (2004) typology of online motivation.
The differences between motivations of casual browsing and intent searching are
explored by many authors within the incubation era and within more recent works by Ono
et al. (2012) and Vinitzky and Mazursky (2011). Additionally, many studies explore the
online marketer’s Holy Grail, the motivation to buy online (Wang et al., 2012). One interesting
JRIM example suggests that the inclusion of online visual cues can motivate consumers to achieve
goals that align with those of the firm, such as persisting through a delay to resolve a
8,3 customer service issue (Cheema and Bagchi, 2011). Also of potential use to online marketers
from the recent Explosion era work is a study detailing consumer motivations for shopping
cart use and abandonment by Kukar-Kinney and Close (2012).
Attitude. Attitudinal studies are another mainstay of the consumer behavior and
176 advertising literature bases (Lwin and Phau, 2013). Incubation era studies established a
baseline for understanding consumer attitudes toward Internet-based direct marketing
channels (Mehta and Sivadas, 1995) and online advertising (Schlosser and Shavitt,
1999). Building on this work, exploration era studies provide the link from consumer’s
attitudes to measurable outcome variables for marketers. One example by Wu (2006)
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shows how attitude can be used as an online advertising performance measure through
purchase intention. Others connect attitude toward the Web site to attitude toward the
brand (Ruiz and Reynolds, 2006). Of interest to web designers are studies of Web site
interactivity on attitudes and persuasion. Two such examples connect Web site
interactivity with improved consumer persuasion effects (Sundar and Kim, 2011) and
enhanced attitude toward the viewed advertisement (Tung et al., 2006). Also prominent
within the exploration era are studies detailing attitudes toward specific online product
categories and attitudinal differences and determinants among consumers who switch
from a brick and mortar to an online channel (Friedman and Gould, 2007).
Online marketers will be interested in explosion era work that connects consumer
attitudes to web-designed components and features. Cheng et al. (2009) explore valence
toward four types of digital advertising. Among other findings, the study shows that
consumers are most irritated by e-mail and SMS advertisements, and least upset when
viewing online and MMS advertisements. Akar and Topçu (2011) study factors influencing
attitudes toward social media marketing, a digital marketing application area that is
increasingly alluring and confusing. The impact on consumer attitudes of Web site
personalization (Vlasic and Kesic, 2007) and Web site congruity with retailer’s brick and
mortar stores (Wang et al., 2009) are also explored. Finally, a recent study sheds light on
precursors to consumer attitudes toward self-service technologies, and may inform
e-commerce planners when implementing self-service Web site features (Liu et al., 2012).
Decision models and other constructs. Research has used a wide array of modeling
techniques for understanding cognitive processes at both the individual and social
levels. Individual-level cognitions studied include product involvement and flow (Tung
et al., 2006), locus of control (Hoffman et al., 2003), values and beliefs (Punj, 2011),
psychological distance (Edwards et al., 2006), self-efficacy (Dash and Saji, 2007) and
consumer online experience (Soopramanien, 2011). More socially oriented cognitive
constructs include online consumer socialization and identity (Johnson, 2007) and social
inclusion (Wang et al., 2012). Both positive and negative cognitive relationships with
online activity are shown, including trust and loneliness (Limbu et al., 2012). Some of the
more noteworthy negative cognitive and behavioral relationships are procrastination
(Mzoughi et al., 2007), impulsivity (Zhang et al., 2007), compulsivity (Kukar-Kinney
et al., 2009) and herd behavior (Hanson and Putler, 1996).
Future research. Despite being the largest category of study, application of
established psychological constructs to the e-commerce realm has only scratched the
surface (Kim and Lennon, 2013). With the explosion of online channels, research into
consumers’ perceptions and reactions to ethical and legal issues in interactive marketing
is needed. How should web designers approach sensitive product categories and storage Consumer
and use of sensitive social media-generated information? Do consumers expect different
treatment from public or non-profit based firms? Should web designers for these
behavior in the
organizations create different models for consumer interaction than for-profit firms? At online context
a broader level, current cognition research should be expanded to address longitudinal
concerns. What can digital marketers learn from traditional channel development of
customer loyalty and existing customer relationships models? Are new approaches to 177
developing and maintaining customer relationships online needed? Finally, continued
exploration of the dark side of interactive and multi-channel marketing is warranted.
More broadly, information processing has and should continue to be a hot topic
within Internet marketing research. How consumers process, evaluate and respond to
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informational stimuli they are exposed to have important theoretical and applied
implications for web designers and users. Research that examines information
processing, learning and attitude formation in the context of mobile communications,
multi-channel and integrated marketing communications and social media and
user-generated content is especially warranted.

Summary of UGC research


One of the biggest changes concerning the use of the Internet by consumers has been the
shift from being consumers of online information to becoming providers of this content
in the form of evaluations, recommendations, opinions, instructions, facts and
experiences. According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (2008, p. 1),
Gone are the days when power rested in the hands of a few content creators and media
distributors. Gone are the days when marketers controlled the communication and path
between advertisement and consumer. Today’s model is collaborative, collective, customized
and shared.
At the time of this statement, the shift in the balance of power had already captured the
attention of marketing scholars. The result was 110 of the 142 (77 per cent) articles on
this subject being published in the past five years (Table II). In our classification scheme,
this category of Internet consumer behavior includes:
• the generation of online content such as reviews, recommendations, blogs,
opinions, instructions, facts and experiences using platforms such as Facebook,
YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Yelp;
• recommendation engines used by firms to recommend or suggest products;
• trust in online content and processes; and
• the impact of online trust on consumer behavior.

Generation of online content. This is largest topical area in the UGC category making up
approximately 50 per cent of the articles. These articles attempt to describe the UGC
process, motivations for providing content, its impact on other consumers and purchase
behavior. Many of the articles written on UGC investigate the processes and motivations
pertaining to the generation of online content. Topics include the reasons for blogging
(Seppa et al., 2011), posting reviews (Chen et al., 2011) and message propagation (Harvey
et al., 2011). Related work describes why consumers seek out UGC (Goldsmith and
Horowitz, 2006). Of recent interest is the motivation for posting complaints (Sparks and
Browning, 2010) or other negative information (Eckler and Bolls, 2011). This research is
JRIM important for online marketers who want to encourage consumers to both post and read
comments on their Web sites (Coyle et al., 2012).
8,3 The second focus for researchers is the impact of UGC on decision-making (Bronner
and de Hoog, 2010), product evaluations (Kim and Gupta, 2012) and sales (Dhar and
Chang, 2009; Zhu and Zhang, 2010). Researchers have also investigated the perceived
value and quality (Värlander, 2007), usefulness (Racherla and Friske, 2012) and
178 helpfulness (Pana and Zhang, 2011) of UGC. Credibility investigations of blogs
(Mack et al., 2008), online reviews (Lee and Ma, 2012) and online recommendations
(Simonsohn, 2011) have also been explored. As consumers use of UGC increases, the
accuracy and quality of recommendations, evaluations and opinions of past and current
customers will become even more important. Finally, electronic word of mouth (eWOM)
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has received considerable attention from researchers (Lin et al., 2012). Much of this
research has focused on two areas, the amount of eWOM generated (Okazaki, 2009) and
the effects of eWOM (Park et al., 2009; Riegner, 2007).
Recommendation agents/engines. Recommendation agents or engines produce a list
of recommendations based on either the user’s past behavior or based on the
characteristics of an item already selected. While recommendation engines have become
more common in recent years at many online Web sites, such as Amazon, Pandora Radio
and Netflix, this research area has seen little growth; fewer articles have been produced
in the past four years than in the previous four-year period. In total, this is the smallest
topical area in the UGC category making up only about 10 per cent of UGC articles.
Articles in this area tend to focus on the successfulness of engines (Punj and Moore,
2007), an area of great importance to online merchants that make a substantial number
of their sales directly through their own Web sites.
Trust in online content and processes. Trust continues to be one of the critical
consumer issues concerning Internet marketing. This is one of the most often studied
areas of UGC, especially in the areas of online content and processes. The research on
this topic tends to be concentrated in two areas, models of trust formation (building
trust) and the drivers of online trust. Trust-building research tends to be market specific,
with much of the research done in the travel (Austin et al., 2006) and banking
(Dimitriadis and Kyrezis, 2008) industries. Trust research suggests that drivers vary by
product category and type of Web site (Bart et al., 2005), Web site properties (Yoon, 2002)
and personal variables (Stewart and Malaga, 2009). This is a key area for Web designers
who need consumers to trust their products, Web sites and communications.
The impact of online trust on consumer behavior. While trust in web merchants has
improved, the impact of trust on online consumer behavior continues to be one of the
central issues facing online marketers. Research in this area is focused on two areas.
First is the impact of online trust on e-commerce usage (Morrison and Firmstone, 2000)
and online retailing (Mukherjee and Nath, 2007). These studies look at trust in firms’
web purchasing processes. The second area connects online trust with specific
consumer choices. Topics include the impact of online trust on selection of online
vendors (Chau et al., 2007), Web site loyalty (Gupta and Kabadayi, 2010), purchase
intention (Zhu et al., 2011) and viral marketing acceptance (Aghdaie et al., 2012).
Future research. Despite the meteoric increase in UGC research during the explosion
era, continued growth in the ways consumers can generate content indicates most of the
topical areas described merit continued research. Work focusing on managing the
amount and valence of UGC, including a better understanding of eWOM, is particularly
warranted (Lin et al., 2012). In this regard, consumer behavior (CB) research in the Consumer
context of strong and weak ties, marketing mavens and opinion leaders, positive and
negative eWOM and a host of public relations issues offer strong theoretical platforms
behavior in the
moving forward. Additional research dealing with the use and improvement of online context
recommendation agents/engines and study of available methods for building online
consumer trust in brands, Web sites and recommendations is needed. Improved
understanding of the impact of trust on online consumer activities is called for. As 179
consumers become more UGC savvy, managing the perceived accuracy and quality of
this content is imperative (Chen et al., 2013). A key research question is, thus, how
marketers can encourage positive UGC through effective Web site design and
management, especially as platforms continue to become more mobile. Because social
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media thought is in its infancy and marketers have not yet been able to adequately
monetize this interactive communication medium, research targeting how peer-to-peer
UGC sparked by electronic company-to-company communications enhances
engagement should receive high priority (Schultz and Peltier, 2013).

Summary of Internet segmentation and demographics research


Nearly 13 per cent of the articles in the database address the following:
• demographic characteristics of Internet and social network adopters and
non-adopters; or
• market and consumer segmentation and targeting in online channels.

Due to the proliferation of Web sites, information and consumption opportunities online,
it is critical that web designers and digital marketers are able to differentiate their core
and profitable customers from those just browsing Web sites. Thus, consumer behavior
research illuminating who the online shoppers and virtual network members are, is not
only critical but also difficult in the online environment (Meyers and Morgan, 2013).
Studies from the incubation and exploration eras tend to focus more on Internet users,
while the explosion era authors explore the demographics of social networks.
Demographics. A majority of this work focuses on traditionally core components of
market demographics and segmentation including: gender, life stage, geographic
location and income. Incubation era gender studies of interest to e-marketers include an
investigation of the influence of gender stereotypes in online purchasing (Dholakia and
Chiang, 2003) and the description of gender-specific segments based on the situational
needs driving online consumer engagement (Smith and Whitlark, 2001). The later study
offers specific tactics for e-commerce marketers in designing online communication to
these groups. More recently, researchers have found that gender mediates reactions to
download delays (Dabholkar and Sheng, 2009). Men are more intolerant of download
delays, while women’s reactions to delays are based on perceived control in the
transaction. When designing Web sites conveying large files or complex virtual
interactions, designers may be well-served by the insights provided by this research.
Early life stage research focused on the adoption and usage purpose of the Internet by
groups ranging from teenagers (La Ferle et al., 2000) to the elderly (Eastman and Iyer,
2004). Of interest to digital marketers is a recent study on the millennial consumer.
Gauzente and Roy (2012) investigate keyword advertising among this group and find
that descriptive message content in keywords results in more “clicks” than commercial
content. Additionally, the authors find that price-consciousness appears to moderate the
JRIM relationship, with high price-conscious consumers being more influenced by descriptive
content than less price-conscious consumers.
8,3 A small group of studies address geographic location and its implications for online
consumer behavior and retail success. Examples include studies of willingness to pay
(Black, 2007) and opinions of direct advertising trustworthiness (Spake et al., 2009)
between rural and urban consumers. A model of geography’s impact on consumers’
180 online channel choice that can aid creation of online product mixes, sales predictions,
targeting, advertisements and cross-channel promotion is presented by Jank and
Kannan (2005). A recent study by Punj (2012) investigates differences in consumers’
interest in saving time versus saving money.
Segmentation. As demographic studies often lead to customer segmentation and
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targeting, it comes as no surprise that recent explosion era studies build on earlier
demographic work to suggest methods of carving up the vast online customer base
(Banerjee and Dholakia, 2012). Beyond studies exploring segmentation for specific
markets, which range from virtual supermarkets (Cristóbal et al., 2011) to pirated
movies (Ho and Weinberg, 2011), authors suggest multiple approaches and methods to
segment the online market. Among the recently explored approaches that may be of
interest to e-marketers are using corporate blogs as a tool for customer profiling and
segmentation (Ahuja and Medury, 2011), and a study of the loyalty impact of social
network segmentation (Xevelonakis and Som, 2012). Authors also discuss the
identification and development of micro-niches. Niche identification is suggested as an
outcome of resonance marketing used in conjunction with cause and/or multicultural
marketing (Friedman et al., 2007); a long-term approach to Web site communications is
put forth as a means of developing end-stage loyalty (Adams, 2006).
Future research. Lifestyle segmentation is often regarded as not only a staple, but a
gold standard, yet little research on how to utilize a lifestyle segmentation approach
online is apparent in the literature. A notable exception, and a good place to start for
e-commerce researchers, is Brengman et al.’s (2005) creation and validation of a web
usage-related lifestyle scale. Also needed are more studies of how specific online tools
can be used to better segment and target consumer groups (Oyedele and Minor, 2011).
While industry analysts have access to large proprietary consumer search, browsing
and purchase data, researchers need to instigate long-term studies where specific
approaches and hypotheses can be tested across a meaningful sample. While numerous
demographic studies of online adoption and usage exist, researchers and research
outlets will need to continue to focus on this area as increased global online adoption
makes existing research out-of-date and of little value to global e-marketers.
Segmentation issues and Web site design/management will become increasingly
important as more marketers adopt geo-targeting and location-specific initiatives.

Summary of online usage research


The main focus of articles in this category is to improve our understanding of consumers’
usage of, and engagement in, online activities with respect to four subcategories:
(1) anthropologies of consumer use;
(2) usage behavior studies across platforms and product categories;
(3) consumer adoption and usage profiles; and
(4) profiles of unique user groups.
Accordingly, the dominant methodological approach of these articles is descriptive, Consumer
with articles more prominent in the earlier eras of Internet research. While in the
incubation era more than 17 per cent of all articles were in this category, this percentage
behavior in the
fell to 11 and 7 per cent in the exploration and explosion eras, respectively (Table II). online context
This is the only category that produced fewer articles over time, suggesting that once
our basic knowledge of consumers’ online usage improved, researchers moved from
purely descriptive studies to more prescriptive approaches. 181
Anthropologies of use, acceptance and response. These articles explore the why and
how of consumer usage, with most of the articles appearing in the incubation era.
Hedonistic and utilitarian motives have been found as underlying reasons for
consumers’ web usage (Ricci and Cotte, 2001). Another descriptive study explored the
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responses and preferences of home Internet usage of different consumer segments


(Sultan, 2002). Online store atmospherics have been found to play an important role in
creating positive reactions from shoppers and to have a significant impact on shopper
attitudes, satisfaction and various approach/avoidance behaviors as a result of the
emotions experienced during the shopping episode (Eroglu et al., 2003).
Usage behavior studies across platforms and products. This subcategory is mainly
concerned with describing and explaining how consumers engage in online activities
across platforms and product categories. While about the same number of articles have
been published in each of the eras, early work explored the factors that predict Internet
usage patterns such as frequent or heavy Internet use (Emmanouilides and Hammond,
2000). Later, the antecedents to Internet-based purchasing versus traditional shopping
were investigated. Results suggest a positive relationship between consumer usage and
experience of the Internet, and the likelihood of making online purchases. On the other
hand, the perceived risk of buying online has a negative effect on consumers’ purchase
likelihood (Kuhlmeier and Knight, 2005). Situational factors have a significant influence
on both the decision to shop online versus shop in a physical store and perceptions of
attributes that are crucial for that decision (Gehrt and Yan, 2004).
Consumer adoption and usage profiles: barriers and contributing factors. In the
incubation era, researching the factors that help or hinder the adoption of online usage
by consumers was a very important subject. Many of these studies focused on the
banking industry. For example, a study was conducted to develop an understanding of
consumers’ attitudes and adoption of Internet banking among sophisticated consumers
in developed countries (Akinci et al., 2004). Using a similar approach, Ching and Ellis
(2004) explored factors affecting the adoption of e-commerce among small- and
medium-sized enterprises. More recently, ways to overcome the resistance of older
consumers to embrace online shopping have been studied (Gilly et al., 2012).
Profiles of unique user groups. The demographic and psychographic makeup of
consumers engaging in online activities is the dominant topic of this subcategory, which
accounted for about 10 per cent of articles. Accordingly, the overwhelming majority are
descriptive in nature. For example, Moskowitz et al. (2003) explored the teen usage of
Internet magazines. In a more comprehensive study, the online shopping behavior of
college students across various product categories was described (Lester et al., 2005).
Another study looked at a sample of disabled consumers versus a nondisabled sample
with respect to attitudes toward web advertising, use of the Internet and desired features
found on Web sites (Burnett, 2006). Similarly, the engagement in online activities of the
elderly has been studied (Hough and Kobylanski, 2009), as well as people living in
JRIM remote or isolated locations (Freathy and Calderwood, 2012). While it is unsurprising
that the exploration of user profiles was an important topic in the early times of the
8,3 Internet, it is interesting to note that the ever changing character of the online world
leads to changing user profiles.
Future research. The deluge of articles in the online usage category is evidence that
we have come a long way in understanding consumers’ online usage. Still, as long as
182 technology keeps changing the character of online activities, there is a need for further
study (Yang and Lee, 2010). An underdeveloped area deals with issues related to
industry and government policies, as well as ethics in online marketing (Limbu et al.,
2011). Indeed, the advancements in modern communication technologies have ushered
in an era of fresh opportunities for online marketers and consumers alike but, at the
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same time, have led to hitherto unmatched possibilities for abuse (Nill and Aalberts,
2013). In addition to the growing fraud on the Internet, such as identity theft or phishing,
consumers have to deal increasingly with privacy concerns due to new marketing tools
such as online behavioral targeting (Spake et al., 2011). What are consumers’ attitudes
toward these new risks? What impact do these risks have on the usage adoption of
consumers in different segments? How do consumers respond to these new realities? As
information technologies advance, we encourage usage-based research offering web
designers methods for capturing consumer interest along the diffusion process of
emergent communication platforms.

Summary of cross-cultural research


As the Internet has developed into a global phenomenon, so too has the study of
cross-cultural research in the online environment (Kim and Kim, 2010). Ten per cent of
the database falls into this category, although contribution of these articles has steadily
decreased across eras. The literature covers the gamut of topics and methods. There are
cognitive studies of cultural differences in attitudes toward online purchasing and
advertising, beliefs and consumer socialization (Brettel and Spilker-Attig, 2010). Studies
detailing online usage, social networks, search and user-generated content can also be
found (Tsai and Men, 2012). These studies vary in their context, ranging from retail,
tourism and banking to dating, weight loss and social media. A few studies stand out as
being of interest to web designers. With the ability to customize Web sites based on
geographical access point, web designers are presented with the ever-present decision to
standardize or adapt content. Möller and Eisend (2010) address this quandary when
designing and deploying banner advertisements, and Chang (2009) addresses it in terms
of global promotional strategies.
Collectivist vs non-collectivist cultures. The comparison of collectivist and
non-collectivist cultures offers valuable insights. Two examples are differences in
uncertainty avoidance in online shopping (Lim et al., 2004) and perceptions of
interactivity (Ko et al., 2006). For web designers, choosing appropriate content and web
features across cultures is often viewed as more of an art than a science. A few authors
have attempted to provide research-based guidance. Examples include a content
analysis of cultural Web site adaptation (Singh and Matsuo, 2004) and the use of
interactive features in countries with high versus low power differences (Yun et al.,
2008).
Geographically based comparisons. When exploring the geographical dispersion of
e-commerce cross-cultural studies, we find that nearly half provide comparisons
between or across cultures rather than analyses within a single (non-US) culture. This is Consumer
a strong point of the literature, with some studies investigating as many as 12 countries
(Lynch, 2001). Additionally, one study of Web site globalization investigates not only
behavior in the
many countries but also many industries (Singh and Boughton, 2005). However, the online context
majority of these studies compare one or a few cultures/nations to the USA. Most
compare the USA and Asian countries, most often China, Japan and South Korea, which
is understandable due to these nations’ high level of development and economic 183
importance. In contrast, fewer comparison studies investigate the online environment,
market, or consumers in Europe, Canada or Australia. National comparison studies also
tend to have a narrow focus, investigating cultural differences within a particular group
(e.g. college students) or market (e.g. tourism web design) (Parker et al., 2012). It should
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be noted that the literature enjoys a wide array of China-based e-commerce articles;
however, only a dozen articles in our database explore cross-cultural online issues with
a focus on India or any South American country. Exceptions include an investigation of
Internet adoption (Adapa, 2008) and a comparison of offline and online ethnocentrism
(Kwak et al., 2006) within India, and a Chilean study of online risk, trust and purchase
behavior (Bianchi and Andrews, 2012). While there is a potentially huge and promising
market for e-commerce, only four studies in the database discuss the African continent.
Of these articles, two investigate culturally related attitudes of women toward online
shopping and promotion (Jacobs and De Klerk, 2010; Davis et al., 2011) and two describe
the state of e-commerce or Web site information in an African nation (Ayo, 2006; Hinson
et al., 2010).
Future research. As noted, there are very few articles that investigate the important
emerging economies of the world other than China. Additional studies of the world’s
Brazil, Russia, India And China (BRIC) economies (beyond China) and African cultures
would help e-marketers aid their company’s strategic moves into these promising
markets. Additionally, few studies investigate markets that may be representational of
a larger, understudied group of countries. For example, a handful of studies investigate
individual transition economies, mostly in Eastern Europe (Gurau, 2002). Studies of
multiple transition economies may provide general insights that web designers can
extend to the broader group of transition economies. Also understudied are cross
cultural differences in online behavior, access and attitude due to religious differences. A
starting point for future research in Muslim communities is a recent publication
addressing digital promotions in the Arab world (Kalliny, 2012). As an important
component of culture and behavior, studies of how religion impacts online preferences
and behavior would be widely applicable to Internet marketers and web designers.
Given the disparate technological competencies of regions around the world, research
addressing information infrastructures, mobile applications, social networks and other
exchange-based communications offer a wealth of opportunities for important
contributions.

Summary of online networks and communities


As outlined in Table II, with less than 10 per cent of all articles, this category has been
surprisingly stable over all three eras. The category is mainly concerned with consumer
behavior issues in relation to online communities. Of the 80 articles, about 28 per cent
dealt with consumer development of exchange relationships within peer-to-peer
networks and e-communities, about 19 per cent involved perceptions and responses to
JRIM advertising, viral campaigns and social media marketing in communities, 24 per cent
were viewed as being of primary use to management, and the remaining 29 per cent
8,3 detailed outcomes for marketing and consumers.
Exchange relationships. Not surprisingly, articles discussing exchange relationships
in peer-to-peer networks and e-communities were relatively more frequent in the
incubation and exploration eras. That is, from an online marketer’s perspective,
184 improving our understanding of how consumers form relationships in and through
social networks is an important first step for using these new media for marketing and
communication purposes. Most of these articles describe or explain the phenomena
germane to exchange relationships in online communities.
The analysis and description of UseNet groups and online communities was the
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focus of articles in the Incubation area (Okieshen and Grossbart, 1998). Online
communities, recommendation sites and customer review sections allow consumers to
overcome geographic boundaries and to communicate based on mutual interests. In the
exploration era, online word of mouth was recognized as persuasive despite the
promotional activity by competing firms (Mayzlin, 2006). Current understandings of
social media exchange relationships have recognized the increasing global prevalence of
peer-to-peer networks and e-communities is more the result of its convenience and the
“connectedness” to others it makes consumers feel and seemingly less to do with
traditional marketing mix variables (Plouffe, 2008).
Perceptions and responses. Understanding consumers’ reactions to advertising and
viral campaigns in social media is an increasingly important topic for online marketers
trying to design effective campaigns in and beyond the explosion era. What are the
factors that lead to positive or negative responses from consumers exposed to this type
of online marketing? For example, Van Noort et al. (2012) show the importance of the
social connection between the sender and the receiver of a viral social media campaign
for its effectiveness and persuasiveness. Viral campaigns tend to be more effective and
create more powerful eWOM when opinion leaders in the online community are targeted
first (Yang et al., 2012).
Use to management. How can the use of social media be beneficial for online
marketers? Articles in this subcategory try to give answers to various aspects of this
question. Online brand communities are effective tools for influencing sales, regardless
of whether these communities reside on company-owned or independently owned Web
sites. Further, online brand communities are effective customer retention tools for both
experienced and novice customers (Adjei et al., 2010) and can be used as a tool to
improve the marketing and distribution of products over the Internet (Flavián and
Guinalíu, 2005). Providing more, and more relevant and timely information to online
communities can help to increase the trust and confidence consumers have in the online
marketer (Adjei et al., 2012). Due to the positive relationship between commitment to a
social network online community and information-seeking behavior at the community,
online marketers might want to develop an online community representing company
brands. By providing active and enjoyable interactions among the community members
through unique and creative communication methods, fun experiences and diverse
offline events, the members’ psychological attachment and commitment to an online
brand community can be increased (Park and Cho, 2012).
Outcomes for marketing and consumers. The articles in this subcategory are mainly
concerned with the consequences – both positive and negative – of online communities
and networks for online marketers and consumers. For example, Kim and Ko (2012) Consumer
found a positive relationship between purchase intention and customer equity of social
media activities. Consumers’ interactive experience within online brand communities
behavior in the
often leads to value co-creation among community participants. Consumers who are online context
engaged in these online brand communities tend to be more loyal customers and be more
satisfied with, and more trusting toward, the brand owner (Brodie et al., 2013). Unique
groups of consumers are found to engage for differing reasons. Young consumers have 185
been reported to participate in online communities to seek gratification and personal
aims such as identity creation and management (Dunne et al., 2010).
The Internet in general and online communities in particular, increase the power of
consumers and potentially lead to market equalization. As a result, digitally empowered
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consumers can now easily generate and organize anti-consumption movements and
change the dynamics of the consumption markets (Kucuk, 2012). While some studies
show that consumer boycotts launched in online communities have largely no
immediate impact on the stock price of affected companies (Koku, 2012), boycotts still
have many detrimental consequences for online marketers in the long run.
Future research. The overall message of this research for online marketers is that
after rapid growth over the past two decades, online communities are here to stay.
Online marketers can benefit greatly by incorporating online communities and
networks in their marketing and communication strategies. The possibilities range from
creating online communities about online marketers’ brands and using viral campaigns
and advertising through online communities, to silently and often anonymously
participating in those communities with the intent to influence members to benefit the
brand. While online communities provide fresh opportunities for online marketers, very
few studies measure the effectiveness of marketing activities within online
communities. More research attention also needs to be focused at the integration of firm
communication in online communities and networks with the overall interactive
marketing strategy of the firm.

Summary of strategic use and outcomes research


This category deals with marketers’ use of Internet strategies to impact their bottom line
and the outcomes of social media and online participation. It is important to note that
while the majority of CB Internet articles have strategic ramifications, in this section, we
focus on those articles that had strategy as its “primary” focus. While this topical area is
comparatively small, it is likely to become one of the most interesting and challenging
moving forward, as most organizations have established an online presence and are now
trying to improve their strategic use of this media. In this section, we summarize each of
the strategic use and outcome areas of e-commerce research, detail representative
studies applicable to improving Web site effectiveness and behavioral response, and
offer avenues for future cognition research in e-commerce.
Strategic use of the Internet. In the incubation era, scholars focused on cataloging and
understanding firm strategies for entering, and capitalizing on, the online channel.
Scholars discussed web marketers need for, and sources of, consumer analytics. Web
logfiles, e-mail integration with media and operational systems, and calls for real-time
database analysis were common (Sen et al., 1998; Walk and Kooge, 2001). Other early
studies discussed strategies for improving online retail quality perceptions
(Wolfinbarger and Gilly, 2003). Organizational approaches to online marketing strategy
JRIM included a benchmark study that suggested four avenues to improve the marketing
department’s web adoption and Internet marketing effectiveness (Lynn et al., 2002).
8,3 Recent web strategy work has provided a connection between actions and outcomes.
An example measures the lifetime value of customers acquired through online
advertising, considering the effect of both on- and offline purchases (Chan et al., 2011). Of
interest to web designers is a study of the characteristics of firm-generated virtual
186 agents and the response of consumers (Chattaraman et al., 2011). The study found that
a mismatch exists between firms’ online offerings and mature consumers’ desires. The
authors’ recommendations for developing future virtual agents may help guide web
designers who cater to mature consumers. Recent work also shows how even the
smallest entrepreneurs recognize that effective web-based marketing strategy is now an
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imperative (Gautam, 2012).


Strategic use of social media. This topical area consists of articles primarily focused
on the identification and execution of specific social media-related strategies. These
articles focus on strategic decisions made by organizations to improve their online
presence. Some of these articles are general in nature, focusing on topics like the
changing nature of cyber-marketing strategies (Ranchhod, 2004), management of social
interactions (Godes et al., 2005) and reviewing best practices (Kunz and Hackworth,
2011). While these articles have conclusions that have implications for web marketing,
other articles consider more specific strategic topics. For example, researchers have
looked at the collection of online data to determine the value of customers (Chan et al.,
2011). Other articles have investigated the strategies associated with e-service delivery
(Chen, 2012; Johnson et al., 2008; Salmen and Muir, 2003). Of course, encouraging use of
social media also invites complaints. As a result, a number of researchers have begun to
study online complaint and controversy management from the organization’s perspective.
This includes work focused on managing online feedback forums (Lee and Lee, 2006) along
with research pertaining to controversy management (Van Noort and Willemsen, 2012).
This research area is of particular importance to web developers and managers, as much of
this activity takes place on Web site-based feedback forums provided by the organization
(Kucuk, 2008). Future research concerning the use of online analytics, the design and
management of e-services and complaint and controversy management is needed.
Strategic outcomes. In addition to identifying strategic options and solutions,
researchers have also investigated the effectiveness of specific strategies to manage
consumer satisfaction, loyalty and service recovery. Research pertaining to online
customer satisfaction has focused on measures of online satisfaction (Braunsberger and
Gates, 2009), determinants of satisfaction (Ha and Janda, 2008) and the impact of
satisfaction on other relevant outcomes such as trust (Sanchez-Franco, 2009), loyalty
(Shankar et al., 2003), commitment to a Web site (Jaiswal et al., 2010) and repeat purchase
intentions (Abdul-Muhmin, 2010). The study of e-loyalty is closely related to
e-satisfaction with research investigating determinants of e-loyalty (Srinivasan et al.,
2002) and the impact of loyalty on other relevant outcomes such as online shopping
(Chang and Wang, 2008) and trust (Kuivalainen et al., 2008). The final group of papers
deals with the outcomes of complaint management (Lee and Cude, 2012), service
recovery issues (Harrison-Walker, 2001) and returns (Jiang and Rosenbloom, 2005) in
the online environment.
Future research. As marketing research with actionable management implications is
always valued in both the literature and in practice, there continue to be avenues for
future research. First, research should concern the impact of Web site analytics on Consumer
loyalty, satisfaction and repeat purchase behaviors. Additionally, studies of the
integration of these online strategies into the mobile environment via applications and
behavior in the
mobile Web sites are warranted. Third, researchers need to study the design and online context
management of e-services and complaint and controversy management to improve not
only customer experiences but also management objectives and firm outcomes.
Organizational scholars could improve strategic firm outcomes by studying how 187
current organizational competencies can be leveraged in an interactive context. The
bottom line is that research offering strategic and tactical insight is likely to be in high
demand for practitioners and academics alike given the evolving nature of Internet
communications and the ongoing launch, growth and maturation of informational
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platforms and the need to identify how to best capture the benefits of emergent
technologies (Pomirleanu et al., 2013).

Summary of consumer Internet search research


Information search in an offline setting has been a mainstay of consumer behavior
research (Moorthy et al., 1997). A key element of this research is how knowledge
requirements, availability and search costs impact consumers’ information-seeking
behaviors (Levav et al., 2012). Although the smallest of our categories (7.6 per cent
overall), online consumer search has seen a resurgence in the explosion era. As shown in
Table II, we organized consumer Internet search by:
• browsing and search costs;
• search engine, keywords and shopper intentions; and
• models of online search, navigation and paid search.

As a note, the Internet search articles categorized here relied on core consumer behavior
principles such as convenience seeking, information needs for planned and unplanned
purchases and information search modeling.
Browsing and search cost. Browsing and search costs reflect the time and money
allocated to finding products and services at an acceptable price point (Kwak, 2001).
Initial research focused on how search behavior differed for traditional and online media
(Lokken et al., 2000). Although researchers initially felt that online shoppers are
motivated by convenience, Brown et al. (2003) offered evidence that the Internet is not
merely a convenience medium and requires a more holistic approach for studying its
use. Examining gender effects, Park et al. (2009) found that females are more
comprehensive information seekers online. Moe and Yang (2009) investigated how
search behavior is impacted by new competitors, and found that market disruption
affects search by disturbing established habits and increases the likelihood of defection,
putting pressure on incumbents to alter their web efforts. To simplify search costs,
Drozdenko et al. (2012) noted that consumers prefer to use the retailer’s Web site when
seeking product information as a means of increasing their return on investment for
online search and purchasing. More recent research pertinent to web design has focused
on crowdsourcing (Ghose et al., 2012) and generational cohort groups (Maity et al., 2012).
Search engine, keywords and shopper intentions. Although search engine
optimization is receiving considerable attention, consumer online search is less about
technology and more about use. Exploring “favorite bars”, Thakor et al. (2004) provided
evidence that they play an important role in browsing and searching behavior, and
JRIM particularly for goal-directed and experiential searches. Linking text search
advertisements and display advertisements, Richardson (2006) concluded that
8,3 marketers can enhance search by coordinating their web design strategies. Studying
search engine use and unplanned purchases, Papatla and Liu (2009) showed that search
efforts increase visitation to retailers’ Web sites and buying intentions. Yang and Ghose
(2010) found that organic search (listings on search engine), in combination with paid
188 search advertising (pay per click), enhances click-through rates, conversions rates and
sales. In two articles, Jansen et al. (2011, 2012) investigated online brand effects. The first
study showed how brand mentions in key phrases and advertisements correlate with
purchase conversions (Jansen et al., 2011). A later study explored search engine
branding strategies, showing that brand image varies across search engines, and that
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consumer use is linked to superior branding (Jansen et al., 2012).


Models of online search, navigation and paid search. Internet marketing focusing on
modeling consumer information search began its ascent in the latter part of the
incubation era. Peterson and Merino (2003) offered 14 research propositions, concluding
that broad generalizations offer less value than more specific research investigating key
moderators and interactions of search behavior antecedents. Research by Montgomery
et al. (2004) signaled the importance of using clickstream data to model online
information-seeking behaviors related to Web site navigation strategies. Bucklin and
Sismeiro (2003) modeled Web site browsing behavior, highlighting two key web design
attributes: visitors’ decisions to continue/discontinue browsing and page viewing times.
The authors note that visitors’ propensity to continue is a function of the depth of a given
site visit and repeat visits, both of which reflect time-saving strategies. Extending their
research, Sismeiro and Bucklin (2004) found that visitors’ browsing and navigational
experiences are useful for predicting task completion. Utilizing structural equation
modeling, Richard and Chandra (2005) found support for a web navigational model
encompassing a large number of antecedents including cognitive and conative aspects
of consumer behavior, flow, search skills, interactivity, attitude toward the Web site,
exploratory behavior and involvement. Online search modeling has also been
investigated through the lens of paid search advertising (Laffey, 2007). For example,
Rutz and Bucklin (2011) tested a model which showed that generic search
advertisements signal a brand’s general need-satisfying abilities. Using text analysis
data, Rutz et al. (2011) found that branded and broad search terms are linked to greater
direct type-in site visitation. Specific to mobile marketing, Banerjee and Dholakia (2012)
examined gender differences regarding location-based mobile advertisements, finding
that men are more receptive to geo-targeted advertisements.
Future research. The conceptualization and testing of empirical models linking
consumer behavior theories to online search mechanisms remain exploratory. Research
is thus needed to better understand how factors such as Web site and retailer loyalty,
informational and experiential search, product and service category involvement,
commitment to the site, crowdsourcing and other social–psychological aspects of online
search impact online conversion. Also missing is research investigating how mobile
Internet use of smartphones, tablets and similar types of communication technologies,
impact search and conversion. Understanding the role of social media and
user-generated content in search processes is particularly underdeveloped.
Comprehensive models exploring this phenomenon are thus encouraged. Over the next
five years, we hope research in this area will receive the scholarly attention it is due. A
large gap also exists in our understanding of the psychological antecedents that Consumer
motivate consumer interest and purchase online. This gap is especially large in relation
to paid versus organic searches.
behavior in the
online context
Conclusion and future research needs
Over the past 50 or more years, the field of marketing has witnessed a number of
paradigm shifts. None has been more revolutionary than the most recent shift spawned 189
by the advent of the Internet. Although early proponents of Internet marketing have
oversold the extent to which it would replace marketing as we know it, few could deny
that the Internet and its evolving set of technologies have impacted how customers and
sellers interact in the marketplace. An examination of trending review articles such as
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those offered by Ngai (2003), Schibrowsky et al. (2007) and Pomirleanu et al. (2013)
provide clear evidence that scholarly research in Internet marketing is thriving.
As a subset of the broader Internet marketing literature, consumer behavior research,
including that addressing social network issues, represents 44 per cent of all Internet
articles over the past five years (Pomirleanu et al., 2013). Clearly, consumer behavior and
social network research continues to be the preeminent theoretical framework driving
this literature base. Continued research utilizing these two interrelated theoretical
frameworks will push forward knowledge that is both applicable and beneficial to web
designers’ efforts. Although we put forth research needs within each section, and there
are research opportunities in all of the eight categories we summarized, we conclude
with some overarching theoretical and empirical research opportunities.
Technology has been and will continue to be a driver of Internet marketing. For
example, the transition from desktop computers, to laptop computer, to handheld
devices such as smartphones and tablets has changed how and where consumers seek
information about, and interact with, prospective sellers and others in the marketplace
(Banerjee and Dholakia, 2012). Yet, how relevant psychological constructs can be
applied for effective web design practices remains an untapped area of inquiry (Kim and
Lennon, 2013). With each new communication platform, consumer behavior researchers
are opened up to a wide range of research opportunities sparked by technological
innovations (Yang and Lee, 2010). Psychological, sociological and behavioral research is
thus needed for developing theoretical frameworks for understanding the antecedents to
successful buyer–seller relationships and across all phases of the consumer decision
process. Given the frequency and stability of articles investigating cognitive and
affective issues, and the wealth of theoretical ammunition within this domain, we
encourage programmatic research that first attempts to develop conceptual frameworks
and then focuses on providing more granular empirical investigations that provide
insight into effective Web site design.
Although there has been an explosion of social media papers in the form of
whitepapers, blogs, popular press publications and within the academic literature, there
is little doubt that research investigating the creation and sharing of information is still
in its infancy. As the explosion era shows, the number of articles examining
user-generated content and online communities and networks has doubled relative to
the Exploration era. Again, conceptual research is needed in both of these areas to better
frame empirical investigations going forward. At the same time, practitioners stand to
benefit from more targeted research streams that examine how consumers seek,
JRIM manage, create and share user-generated content, along with a better understanding of
how eWOM is used in the decision-making process (Chen et al., 2013; Lin et al., 2012).
8,3 As the topic of this special issue underscores, psychological, social and behavioral
theory plays a critical role in informing marketers’ design of Web sites and other
communication platforms for reaching, informing and developing mutually beneficial
relationships with consumers. This research stream is strong and growing and holds
190 much conceptual and empirical opportunity for scholarly research in the future.
Although others may have a different priority ranking, we conclude with our five most
needed areas for Web site design research:
(1) the role that social media will play in capturing the attention, motivating
search, engaging consumers and enhancing customer loyalty;
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(2) how consumer behavior theory can provide a theoretical and empirical
foundation for developing effective mobile marketing strategies and tactics;
(3) the continued utilization of cognitive and attitudinal theory to understand the
evolving nature of Internet usage related to emergent technologies and how
Web site design impacts the decision-making process;
(4) the integration of communication instigation and use across multiple media,
channels and technologies; and
(5) research that may be used to leverage micro-targeting and segment-specific
initiatives including geo-targeting, customer life cycle stage, demo-psychological
profiles and country of origin.

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Further reading
Hyun-Hwa, L. and Jin, Y. (2012), “Consumer perceptions of online consumer product and service
reviews”, Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing, Vol. 6 No. 2 pp. 110-132.
Park, C. and Lee, T.M. (2009), “Information direction, Website reputation and eWOM effect: a
moderating role of product type”, Journal of Business Research, Vol. 62 No. 1, pp. 61-67.

About the authors


Shannon Cummins (PhD, University of Nebraska-Lincoln) is an Assistant Professor of marketing
at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. Shannon Cummins is the corresponding author and
can be contacted at: cumminss@uww.edu
James W. Peltier (PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison) is a Professor of marketing at the
University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
John A. Schibrowsky (PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison) is a Professor of marketing at
the University Nevada-Las Vegas.
Alexander Nill (PhD, University of Innsbruck) is a Professor of marketing at the University
Nevada-Las Vegas.

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