Virtual store atmosphere in internet retailing : measuring virtual retail store layout effects on consumer buying behaviour
The research presented in this dissertation is concerned with the effects of the "virtual store atmosphere" on consumer buying behaviour within the context of Internet retailing. More specifically, the focus of this research is to investigate whether the virtual store layout, as a major virtual store atmosphere determinant, affects consumer buying behaviour during shopping activity within a virtual grocery store over the Web. The present research is of a multidisciplinary nature and belongs to the field of Internet Retailing, in which there is not to date an exhaustive established theory available as the case is for conventional retailing. Therefore, the relevant literature covers the established theories in the areas of Marketing, Retailing and Consumer Behaviour along with current research in Internet retailing. Moreover, Human Computer Interaction (HCI) served as an important theoretical tool as far as Web site design principles and guidelines are concerned. The research hypotheses were mainly generated based on the conventional retail store layout literature review. They were tested through a laboratory experiment employing a causal research approach. To that end, a virtual retail laboratory store employing the three most common conventional retailing layouts (i.e., grid, freeform, and racetrack) was developed in three versions (i.e., one version per layout), following the concept and rules applied in each specific layout type. Therefore, the layout was the only manipulated variable (treatment), since all other potential influencing factors remained the same. The findings of the present study indicate that conventional retailing store layout theory is not applicable on its present form in the context of Internet retailing. Furthermore, the layout was found to affect consumer buying behaviour regarding "perceived usefulness towards searching for and buying shopping list products," "perceived ease of using the store," "perceived entertainment during shopping activity" and "time spent for shopping." However, it was found that the layout does not significantly affect "promotion effectiveness" and "impulse purchases." Based on the research findings, the "freegrid" layout (i.e., a new layout type) was introduced as an emerging layout for Internet retailing. The suggested layout contributes toward the Internet retailing theory development, as well as toward the provision of direct managerial implications. Finally, the present research provides several future research directions dealing with the virtual store atmosphere effects on consumer buying behaviour.