The Web is making a significant impact on how organisations deliver their products and services to their customers and yet little marketing research has been conducted into what factors explain or predict consumer acceptance and use of this technology. This thesis is an exploratory work designed to make a contribution to partially fill this identified gap in the literature. The objective of the research was to develop a deeper understanding of how an individual's perceptions of using the Web for purchasing influences his/her attitudes and how these attitudes, together with the relative importance of social influences, affect their likelihood of using this technologically mediated way of purchasing.
The first study was designed to develop a deeper understanding about consumers and their interactions with the Web including purchase activity. Using a grounded theory approach, ten in-depth interviews were conducted and the data was analysed using comparative analysis techniques. The findings provided a richly descriptive exploration of how individuals perceive and experience the Web for purchasing. Additional analysis of the descriptive findings suggested that non-adopters might be expressing a low level of acceptance of using a technologically mediated way of purchasing. This qualitative study also guided the development of the theoretical framework for the second study.
The objective of the second phase study was to continue to explore consumers' perceptions and use of the Web for purchasing within a quantitative methodology. The study tested an end-user acceptance of information technology model adapted from a specific stream of research in the information systems literature that applied the Moore and Benbasat (1991) Perceived Characteristics of Innovating (PCI) scale. This scale is a generic list of attributes about using an information technology that are hypothesised to influence an individual's acceptance and use of information technologies. The theoretical framework for the model was grounded in the theory of reasoned action. This model was adapted for the research context and extended to provide additional explanation through the inclusion of perceived risk and Internet subjective norms. A Web based survey was used to collect data, which was analysed using multiple regressions. The Chow test was used to confirm that regressions for the divided samples, in this instance, potential and current adopters, were statistically different. If the Chow test was significant at .05 or better, then comparisons between the two groups could be discussed.
In the first examination of the model, perceived risk was excluded to see how the adapted PCI scale performed in a marketing context. It was also possible to make comparisons between the groups as the Chow test was significant. For potential adopters, when perceived risk was not included as a factor, only results demonstrability was significant in explaining attitude, whereas current adopters identified four attributes, results demonstrability, ease of use, compatibility and image. Results demonstrability measured the degree to which the benefits of using the Web for purchasing are communicable to others. However, if this attribute had a positive significance, then it should be expected that one or two of the perceived benefits contained in the PCI scale should also be significant, such as relative advantage, or ease of use.
For current adopters, compatibility, ease of use, result demonstrability and image were significant in explaining attitude. A possible explanation for the importance of results demonstrability for current adopters might be as a result of the well publicised risks associated with purchasing online. Thus it was suggested that current adopters might feel a need to justify their decisions about using the Web for purchasing, which is perceived as a risky medium to use, by being able to articulate the benefits they have received.
When perceived risk was included in the model, it was not possible to examine potential and current adopters separately as the Chow test was not significant. This finding suggested that the regressions for the two groups were similar due to the influence of perceived risk on the two groups. The findings also showed that potential and current adopters did not perceive any normative pressure from important people in their traditional or Internet-based social networks to either use or not use the Web for purchasing. Comments from both potential and current adopters in the Web survey suggested that they could not see why they should be concerned with what others thought about whether they used the Web to make purchases. Thus only attitude explained future use intentions for both groups in this study.
When taken together, the findings from these two exploratory studies provided a deeper understanding of the factors influencing consumer acceptance and use of the Web for purchasing. Additionally, the studies made theoretical and practical contributions to the marketing and information systems literature. First, they contributed towards filling the identified gap in the research on consumer acceptance of information technology in the marketing literature. Second, the quantitative study added to the cumulative research on the generalisability of the Moore and Benbasat PCI scale. For marketing practitioners, the studies provided insights into factors influencing potential adopters and current adopters that could be considered when developing strategies for encouraging use of the Web for purchasing.
In conclusion, this thesis provided a systematic programme of research that made an incremental contribution to understanding of consumer acceptance and use of an information technology in a marketing context, identified as an under-research area in the marketing literature.