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An investigation of virtual product experience and its effect mechanism Jiang, Zhenhui

Abstract

A significant challenge is posed to online businesses by the inability of customers to directly feel, touch, or sample products sold over the world-wide-web. Virtual product experience (VPE) is designed to alleviate this concern, by providing interactive web interfaces that enable consumers to virtually experience online products via computer mice and keyboards. This study investigates the effects of VPE on web consumers' intentions to revisit particular websites and their intentions to complete purchases on the websites. Specifically, the study analyzes VPE by looking at its two fundamental technological characteristics: interactivity and vividness. Steuer has defined interactivity as "the extent to which users can participate in modifying the form or content of a mediated environment in real time", and defined vividness as "the representational richness of a mediated environment as defined by its formal features; that is, the way in which an environment presents information to the senses". A research model is proposed in this study. It posits that VPE affects consumers' behavioral intentions through the joint effects of vividness and interactivity. Both of these characteristics directly affect perceived diagnosticity, compatibility, and shopping enjoyment. Interactivity alone influences the perceived ease of use of websites, while perceived diagnosticity and compatibility influence perceived usefulness of the websites. Perceived usefulness, perceived ease of use and shopping enjoyment together influence consumers' attitudes toward the websites, which, in turn, affect consumers' intentions to return to the websites. The model also posits that perceived diagnosticity reduces perceived product risk and improves customers' attitudes toward products. In addition, consumers' attitudes toward websites positively affect their attitudes toward products. Perceived product risk and attitudes toward products jointly affect consumers' intentions to purchase goods from particular websites. The research model was investigated in a laboratory experiment, by comparing participants' reactions to four different types of web interfaces: static-image, video-withoutnarration, video-with-narration, and VPE. Two products were presented on the experimental websites: a sports watch and a personal digital assistant (PDA). 176 subjects were recruited from to participate in the study. They were each randomly assigned to one of the four interface conditions and asked to examine the products as if they were shopping online. Experimental data was analyzed using PLS and MANOVA. Results have largely supported the research model.

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