Consumers shop online for both goal-oriented and experiential reasons. However, goal-oriented motives are more common among online shoppers than are experiential motives. We identify and discuss attributes that facilitate goal-oriented online shopping, including accessibility, convenience, selection, information availability and lack of unwanted sociality from retail sales help or shopping partners such as spouses. Importantly, consumers report that shopping online results in a substantially increased sense of freedom and control as compared to offline shopping. While consumers are more likely to describe offline rather than online shopping in experiential terms, we find evidence of experiential motivations for online shopping emerging. We offer managerial implications of mixing online and offline shopping, suggest ways in which the experiential aspects of online shopping can be enhanced without interfering with the goal-oriented desires of consumers, and explore the difficulty of creating an online community. Finally, while closing transactions at websites is one important e-commerce goal, companies should not lose site of the continuing importance and power of their website as an information and communications vehicle as well.
The number of consumers buying online, and the amount being spent by online buyers has been on the rise.What motivates online shopping?
Consumers shop differently depending on whether their motivations for searching are primarily experiential (for fun) or goal directed (for efficiency). Online shopping is more likely to be goal-focused rather than experiential. There are four specific attributes: convenience and accessibility, selection, availability of information and lack of sociality. Importantly, shoppers frequently and explicitly associate these goal-oriented attributes with increased freedom and control.
Experiential shoppers tell us they enjoy auctions involvement with a hobby product class and bargain hunting; in sum, these shoppers focus on « the experience » or fun of online shopping as much as they do on product acquisition.
Goal-oriented shoppers achieve freedom and control and lack of commitment in the online environment, as they experience little pressure to purchase before they are absolutely ready, and are thus not impulsive. Importantly, goal-oriented consumers explicitly associate four attributes of online shopping — convenience, informativeness, selection and lack of sociality — with increased freedom and control.
In short, online buyers largely appreciate the lack of people while they are shopping; they do occasionally want help, but they want that help to be at their request and to be responsive to their individual needs.
Shopping Online With Experiential Motives
Experiential shopping behavior is shopping with a desire to be entertained, have fun and to be immersed in the store and is assorted with increased impulse spending.
As well, experiential online shoppers often have hobbies that they actively pursue while online. The most natural hobby is computers and software, but shoppers reported other interests, such as camping and buying toys for grandchildren as well. These shoppers frequently and regularly check sites of interest, looking for new items and updated information.
A third activity that results in browsing online is looking for great deals.
The Importance of Goal-Focused Shopping
The need for information and customer service is amplified by the fact that first time buyers are common on the Internet. Conversely, online buyers who did not receive satisfaction at these critical incidents terminated their relationship and became willing to do business with a site that may charge more, but offers better customer service.
Goal-oriented shoppers may visit a site several times before making a purchase as they often look in short spaces of time, but make the actual purchase decision across several online sessions. Those sites that save a customer’s shopping cart still full even after a customer has left the site are responding to the knowledge that online buyers often come back at a later time to complete the transaction. Personalization is seen as positive to users when it refers to features that increase the sense of user control and freedom, including order tracking, purchase histories, saving information for quicker transactions during future sessions, and opt-in email notification of new products and special deals. The online buyers participating in our focus groups saw personalization as negative, however, when it results in unsolicited offers or in users feeling less anonymous; such features are perceived to take away user control and freedom.
The Difficulty of Creating Online Community
The importance of freedom from salespeople, spouses and crowds online for goaloriented users at least partially explains why many schemes designed to integrate community with commercial sites have so far been of limited success. Business writers suggest that building user communities, or « hobby tribes » of the most involved, loyal customers, will be key to success on the Internet. There are examples of such user group communities on the Internet,
such as Ticalc.org and Calc.org, which are sites devoted to Texas Instrument calculator enthusiasts. But, many of these community efforts have limited or no commerce abilities, and in fact, the notion of community and sharing is often antithetical to commerce.
However, occasionally a high-involvement product area will draw a related community that may be blended with commercial interests; products and services with a hobbyist or enthusiast base are natural matches for experiential e-commerce, content and community.
Online consumers tend to be goal-oriented, experiential browsing behavior is desirable online as it is associated with increased impulse purchases, and more frequent visits.
Because of the predominance of goal-focused consumer behavior online, experiential benefits need to be offered without interfering with goal-directed search. The organizations offeringdelivery, have a significant opportunity to establish an emotional, experiential bond with customers through offline interactions even though their primary motivations for shopping online are goal-oriented. Importantly, some website design features simultaneously offer both goal-oriented and experiential benefits.
New ideas and business models are erupting almost daily, technology is growing and changing, and consumers are learning that e-tailing and e-tailing support services such as comparison agents and reverse auctions can bring increasing control and freedom into their lives.
Nevertheless, e-commerce will continue, to varying degrees, to satisfy both utilitarian, goalfocused and experiential consumer needs. Understanding the motivations that consumers and consumer segments have for shopping at your website as well as your land-based stores and tracking these changes across time should provide direction for planning and implementing features and benefits that will increase customer satisfaction and loyalty both online and offline.