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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Interactions between a web site and its customers : a relationship building approach Kumar, M. S. N.

Abstract

This research makes a case for treating an electronic commerce web site as a social actor and argues that LT-enabled support for personalization systems and virtual communities has a significant impact on the perceived communication characteristics of a web site. This research studied the impact of two communication characteristics - adaptiveness and connectivity of a web site. Adaptiveness indicates the extent to which a web site adapts itself to support the needs of its customers whereas connectivity refers to the ability of a web site to link potential customers with other visitors. Further, synthesizing research from communication, media choice and technology adoption literatures, this thesis proposes social presence as the experiential construct and perceived usefulness as the utilitarian construct that will mediate the relationship between communication characteristics of a medium and customer loyalty. A survey and a laboratory experiment were conducted to test the linkages proposed above. The survey showed that while adaptiveness impacted on both social presence and perceived usefulness, connectivity had an impact only on social presence and an insignificant impact on perceived usefulness. Social presence did not influence perceived usefulness while both social presence and perceived usefulness had a significant impact on customer loyalty. By filtering Amazon.com real-time, the lab experiment was conducted to specifically study the causal impact of a web site's support for personalization and virtual communities. Support for personalization had a strong impact on adaptiveness, whereas support for consumer reviews had strong effect on connectivity. Interestingly, support for personalization had a weaker, but significant effect on connectivity and support for consumer reviews had a similar effect on adaptiveness. Data from the experiment was also analyzed using mediation analyses as well as partial least square analysis to show that the general pattern of results observed were consistent across methods thus improving the confidence in the research model proposed. This research by proposing social presence as a crucial experiential predictor of customer loyalty has addressed an important gap that exists in our current understanding of web users' behavior. It also makes a key contribution by empirically showing that a web site's support for IT-enabled personalization and virtual communities do have a significant impact not only on the perceived communication characteristics, but also on customer loyalty through social presence and perceived usefulness.

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