Studying Consumer Behavior in an Online Context: The Impact of the Evolution of the World Wide Web for New Avenues in Research

Journal article


Moser, Karin and Martinez-Ruiz, Maria Pilar (2019). Studying Consumer Behavior in an Online Context: The Impact of the Evolution of the World Wide Web for New Avenues in Research. Frontiers in Psychology. 10 (2731).
AuthorsMoser, Karin and Martinez-Ruiz, Maria Pilar
Abstract

There is no denying that the increasing use of the internet by end consumers has presented numerous challenges in the field of marketing research, and more specifically in the field of consumer behavior (Pomirleanu et al., 2013) as evidenced by a growing number of studies (Cummins et al., 2014).

Understanding the psychology behind online consumer behavior is key to compete in today's markets which are characterized by ever increasing competition and globalization. In an online context, consumer responses are no longer dependent on the physical environment while at the same time entirely new factors come into play such as the device through which consumers interact, and the way products and services are sold and presented online which often differs significantly from traditional offline marketing strategies. It is for this reason that research into online consumer behavior has increasingly started looking to other disciplines, including psychological approaches and concepts.

Several examples of cornerstone reviews highlight this trend. For example, Cummins et al. (2014) observed in their literature review how research on online consumer behavior often uses psychological and social networks theories. The authors found a much greater focus on aspects related to the relationships that consumers develop with companies over the internet and connected to that, the analysis of the attitudes, beliefs and feelings that consumers develop as part of their online experiences, thus moving the relationship from the physical into the virtual sphere. Similarly, Yadav and Pavlou (2014) did a review of marketing literature in computer-mediated environments (CME) and proposed a structured framework around four key interactions in CME to summarize their findings: consumer-firm interactions, firm-consumer interactions, consumer-consumer interactions, and firm-firm interactions. Both reviews support our suggestion that understanding consumer behavior in a digital world relates to important psychological aspects of behavior that are best understood by using psychological concepts and methods.

Despite this evidence there are surprisingly still some important avenues of research that have received little attention. One area that we propose is central to understanding online consumer behavior concerns the impact of the different stages of internet evolution, the World Wide Web (WWW). This has received some attention in general management research and from practitioners but there is hardly any research in marketing and consumer behavior. The WWW is omnipresent in business today, and almost all work-related communications and interactions are at least partially supported by digital media (Moser and Axtell, 2013). It has transformed business operations and relations (Benito-Osorio et al., 2013; Kambil, 2008) and it is time to extend this to customer relations and marketing.

It is the aim of this article to highlight the importance of studying the impact of the evolution of the WWW on consumer behavior. Especially in the most recent WWW developments, psychological aspects of consumer behavior have gained in importance, namely individual preferences, emotions, and sensory experiences. In order to analyse these transformations, it is important to briefly consider what each stage in the evolution of the WWW has brought about.

Keywordsworld wide web; evolution; Web 5.0; consumer behavior; research methods; emotions; sensory web; decision making; future
Year2019
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Journal citation10 (2731)
PublisherFrontiers Media
ISSN1664-1078
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:https://www.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02731
Publication dates
Print03 Dec 2019
Online03 Dec 2019
Publication process dates
Accepted19 Nov 2019
Deposited23 Dec 2019
Publisher's version
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Open
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