Ines Soltani, Msc
Higher Institute of Finances and Fiscality of Sousse, Tunisia, Sousse University, LIGUE laboratory
Postal Address: P.B n°34, Chorbane 5130 Mahdia Tunisia
Ines Soltani is an assistant professor of marketing at the Higher Institute of Finance and Fiscal Studies of Sousse, Tunisia. Her research interests include consumers’ attitude towards online shopping, influence of culture on the new technology acceptance and e-loyalty.
Jamel-Eddine Gharbi, PhD
Faculty of Juridical, Economic and Management Sciences of Jendouba, Jendouba University, LIGUE laboratory
Postal Address: 18 Rue 02 Mars, Jendouba 8100, Tunisia
Dr Jamel-Eddine Gharbi is a conferences’ professor at Jendouba University. His areas of interests are online consumer behaviour, marketing perception, and Information technology.
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Customer value is the foremost driver of competitive advantage and a critical strategic weapon in attracting and retaining customers in the Internet shopping environment (Lee and Overby, 2004). In this paper, we focus on the influence of the site quality on the perceived value and its consequences. Results of this study indicate that the perceived value is a highly telepresence and flow state-dependent; that perceived value generates loyalty; and that, similarly to Mathwick et al (2001)’s findings, site preference strongly impacts future patronage intent. Moreover, perceived value, as a whole, does not influence preference and future frequentation of the site. Discussions of the results and future research are offered.
E-loyalty intention, flow state, perceived value, site preference and telepresence
Customer value begins to emerge in the 1990s as an issue of growing interest to business, in particular to marketing at both academic and practitioner levels. This concept is considered to be one of the most significant factors in the success of an organisation and an important element of online shopping (Burke 1999; Pulliam 1999; Klein 1998; Hoffman and Novak 1996). It has been envisioned as a critical strategic weapon in attracting and retaining customers (Lee and Overby, 2004). In this sense, the study in hand focuses on three consequences of the perceived value of the site which are site preference, future patronage intent and e-loyalty. Besides, previous researches (Parasuraman, 1997; Holbrook, 1999) have demonstrated the multi-dimensional and highly context-dependent nature of the perceived value. In the online retailing setting, not only the product itself, but also the web site contributes value to customer. Two fundamental variables are taken in consideration to describe the site quality namely telepresence and flow state.
The following figure (1) presents the relationships that we desire to test empirically.
In the following sections, we define the construct of interests, make clear and justify our hypotheses, discuss the research Methodology employed in this study; and present the results of an empirical analysis. The paper ends with a Conclusion and some directions for future research.
To the commercial website, telepresence is the equivalent of general and internal variables. According to Sheridan (1992), Steuer (1995), Biocca (1997), Lombard and Ditton (1997) and Shith (1998), the telepresence concept is used to describe the gratifying sense to be present in a mediated environment which appears as it naturally was. Hoffman and Novak (1996), Novak, Hoffman and Yung (1999) assert that telepresence is the perception that the virtual environment, with which the user is in interaction, is more real and dominant than the physical environment. Volle (2000), as for him, highlights that the principle challenges landed by the virtual atmosphere consist to maintain a high attention and a fluidity sensation that captures the visitor. Thus, a site with captivating content is the one that allows visitors to live a telepresence experience.
During this research, we consider the steuer (1992)’s conceptualization of telepresence envisioning this later as “The extent to which one feels present in the mediated environment rather than in the immediate physical environment”. In other words, telepresence refers to the mediated perception of an environment that can be a spatially distant, real environment, or a virtual world.
The term flow or flow experience first appeared in 1975 (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975). It was used to describe the most positive feelings (Csikszentmihalyi, 1975) and the most enjoyable experiences possible in human lives as “the bottom line of existence” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1982, p. 13).
During this state, individual is totally absorbed by the activity. The sense of time disappears; the daily problems disappear too; only the focusing on the activity takes place. In that case, life becomes moment by moment an opportunity for the delight and the self actualization.
Similarly to Hoffman and Novak (1999) who extended the idea to encompass consumer navigation behaviour in online environments such as the World Wide Web, we define flow as “the state occurring during network navigation which is: (1) characterized by a seamless sequence of responses facilitated by machine interactivity, (2) intrinsically enjoyable, (3) accompanied by a loss of self-consciousness, and (4) self-reinforcing."
Past research has conceptualized value as simply a trade off between quality and price (Naylor, 1996; Bolton and Drew, 1991), difference between what consumers get versus what they give (Zeithaml 1988), a ratio of perceived benefits and perceived sacrifices (Monroe and Krishnan, 1985) and “the difference (or the surplus) between perceived benefits and perceived costs (Day, 1990). This view restricted the value concept to a calculator conception purely utilitarian. Infact, the consumer is not only this individual, who searches for the maximization of his utility and his interest, but he may shop for symbolic, hedonistic or social benefits; the purchase act becomes then an experience appreciated for its own sake. That is in that case that recent research focused on the importance of the experiential value. Indeed, the consumption experience itself can be rich in value. Experiential value perceptions are based upon interactions involving either direct usage or distanced appreciation of goods and services. These interactions provide the basis for relativistic preferences held by the individual involved (Holbrook and Coffman, 1995). These preferences may be intrinsic_when the experience helps the shopper to realize some of his purposes_ or extrinsic when the experience is enjoyed for its own sake (Babin and Darden, 1995; Batra and Ahtola, 1991). Besides, they may be experienced as the consequence of active (the consumer assumes the role of co-producer) or reactive (that occurs when the individual simply apprehends, appreciate, or responds to an object) interactions with the product/service. The following experiential value matrix developed by Malhotra et al (2001) represents an integration of the intrinsic/extrinsic and active/reactive dimensions.
The experiential value’s definition we have adopted in this study is the one developed by Woodruff (1997) “Customer value is a customer's perceived preference for and evaluation of those product attributes, attribute performances, and consequences arising from use that facilitate (or block) achieving the customer's goals and purposes in use situations”.
During the last few years there has been an increasing interest in loyalty. Many authors are interested to loyalty and give for that many definitions. Essentially, loyalty has been defined according to two approaches namely behavioural and attitudinal approach.
According to the former, researchers and marketers simply defined customer’s loyalty as a behavior of customer (Tucker, 1964; Jacoby and Chestnut, 1978). Both of repetitive purchase in terms of volume and the probability of the product re-purchase were considered as indicators of behavioural loyalty. Moreover, this approach was criticized because customers’ behaviours can be induced by situational factors such as the lack of available alternatives, high switching costs or tendency of inertia (O’Malley, 1998; Dick and Basu, 1994). Therefore, this approach seems to be insufficient to encompass loyalty. Consequently, researchers have proposed attitudinal dimension next to the behavioural approach in order to measure loyalty. This approach requires the existence of a certain mental commitment in terms of preference and purchasing intention, which be adding to repetitive purchasing, constitute brand loyalty (Morgan and Hunt, 1994; Pitchard, Havitz and Howard, 1999). Consistently with this approach we define e-loyalty as “customers’ favourable attitude toward an electronic business resulting in repeat behaviour” (Gremler, 1995).
The effect of telepresence on perceived value
To the commercial site, telepresence is the equivalent of general and internal variables. According to Sheridan (1992), Steuer (1995), Biocca (1997), Lombard and Ditton (1997) and Shih (1998), the telepresence concept is used to describe the gratifying sense to be present in a mediated environment which appears as natural.
For instance telepresence enables the browser to live in a new, chimerical and stimulant environment with which the consumer must be familiarized to and consequently able to explore it. This exploration provides a distraction feeling. As a consequence, telepresence influences positively the attainment of self-oriented and other-oriented values characterized by the sensation of exploration and also distraction. Hence,
H.1: Telepresence positively influences the perceived value of the site.
The effect of flow state on perceived value
Gharbi, Sénécal and Nantel (2001) found that flow state is positively linked to the perceived value of the site. Moreover, they showed that flow influenced more the intrinsic enjoyment, entertainment value, visual appeal, escapism (otherwise known as “hedonic value”) than excellence, efficiency, economic value (known as “utilitarian values”). Likewise, Csikszentmihalyi (1996) highlighted that intrinsic rewards (entertainment, enjoyment…) and doing activities for the sheer joy of it, are the key to understand the flow. Therefore, we suggest that flow positively influences the perceived value of the site.
H.2: The flow has a positive impact on the perceived value of the site.
The effect of perceived value on site preference and future patronage intent
In their study on catalog and Internet shopping, Mathwick, Malhotra and Rigdon (2001) showed that the dimensions of perceived value (visual appeal, entertainment value, intrinsic enjoyment, escapism, economic value, efficiency and excellence) were significant in predicting Internet shopping preference and future patronage intent. In the same vein, literature suggests a predictive structure links the dimensions of value to preference (Holbrook and Corfman, 1985), and links preference to retail patronage intent (Dick and Basu, 1994; Bolton and Drew, 1991). Here, we define preference as “the relative attitude of respondents toward Internet shopping”, and patronage intent as “the customer’s willingness to consider, recommend or purchase from a retailer in the future” (Gremler, 1995; Jones and Sasser, 1995). Thus,
H3. The perceived value of the site positively influences the site preference.
H4. The perceived value of the site positively influences the future site patronage.
The effect of site preference on future patronage intent
With reference to results of the data analysis of their study on the catalog and Internet shopping, Mathwick, Malhotra and Rigdon (2001) found a significant relationship between site preference and future site patronage intent (t=9.15). Hence,
H6. Site preference has a positive impact on future site patronage intent.
The effect of perceived value on e-loyalty intention
Cumulative insights from prior studies support the general notion that perceived value contributes to customer loyalty (Parasuraman and Grewal, 2000; Dodds et al., 1991; Grewal et al., 1998; Voss et al., 1998). Besides, the value-loyalty intention linkage is also consistent with Reichheld’s (1996) work on loyalty. Thus, perceived value contributes to the loyalty of an electronic business by reducing an individual’s need to seek alternatives service providers. When the perceived value is low, customers will be more inclined to switch to competing business in order to increase perceived value, thus contributing to a decline loyalty. Therefore,
H 5. Perceived value of the site influences the e-loyalty intention.
In order to collect data, experimentation in laboratory was conducted with students. 305 valid questioners were analysed. The duration of experimentation is not fixed at the beginning. On average, the subjects passed 15 minutes. The intervention of the researcher takes place only at the beginning of experimentation in order to explain to subjects what they are supposed to do. They surf www.pixmania.fr web site in order to buy a video camera. The choice of this site is based on its capacity to generate the senses of telepresence and flow state.
Our sample is composed thus, of 37.9% female and 62.1% male. 32% are aged fewer than 24-year old, 67% are old between 24 and 34 years, and 1% are old between 34 and 44 years. 99% are single and 1% are married. 1.3% are students at the secondary level, 98.4% are students at the superior level and .3% ticked the “other” case. 86.3% whose wage is inferior to 500 dinars, 11.8% have a wage between 500 and 700 dinars, and 1.3% have a wage between 700 and 900 dinars and .3% whose wage is superior to 900 dinars.
In order to measure telepresence, we have adopted the scale developed by Novak, Hoffman and Yung (1999). This scale, originally developed by Kim and Biocca (1997), is the more appropriate for our research because we study telepresence for same environment studied by Novak et al., (1999).
The measurement of the flow state is done in referring to the scale of Novak, Hoffman and Yung (1999). This is a global measurement of the flow state that provides to responds a flow state definition followed by three items.
To measure perceived value of the site, we have resorted to the scale of Mathwick, Malhotra and Rigdon (2001). These later developed seven subscales measuring the first order dimensions of experiential value (self-oriented value). These subscales measure efficiency, economic value, service excellence visual appeal, entertainment value, escapism and intrinsic enjoyment.
Retailer preferences as well as future patronage intent were measured by adopting the scale developed by Mathwick, Malhotra and Rigdon (2001).
Finally, e-loyalty was measured by the Lee and Overby (2004)’s scale. This scale, composed of three items, presents a good internal consistency (alpha=0.90) reliable. It is a seven-point Likert scale ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”.
We realized a factor analysis for each variable of our model. The table 2 shows a synthesis of results for both factor analysis and reliability.
As seen in this table, all the variables present good internal consistencies (α> 0.6) except the dimension of intrinsic enjoyment. Indeed, this latter showed a low value of alpha (α=. 416) for that we decided to delete it.
Exploratory analysis was applied to assess the unidimensionality of the scale. To test hypotheses, multiple regressions were used.
Results showed that telepresence was an important predictor of the site perceived value (R²= .663; adjusted R²= .646 and p=.000). It strongly and positively influences all the perceived value dimensions [Visual appeal (β=.316, t=5.808); Entertainment value (β=.337, t=6.246); Escapism (β=.365, t=6.840); Efficiency (β=.312, t=5.727); Economic value (β=.274, t=4.960); and Excellence (β=.379, t=7.151)]. Hence, as predicted, H1 was supported.
The following table (3) shows very well that, similarly to telepresence, flow plays an important role in the increase of the perceived value (R²= .636, adjusted R²= .618, and p=.000). Consequently, the hypothesis H2, suggesting a positive relationship between the flow state and perceived value was supported.
H3 was partially accepted. Perceived value explains 41.9% of the variance of the site preference. This percentage comes only from the utilitarian dimension [(efficiency (β=.243, t=4.332, p=.000), economic value (β=.112, t=2.055, p=.041) and excellence (β=.301, t=5.280, p=.000)]. The hedonic dimension has not a significant impact on the preference of the site [Visual appeal (p=.740>.05), entertainment value (p=.102>.05) and escapism (p=.096>.05)].
Site’s perceived value contributes with 45% to explain the variance of the future patronage intent. Contrary to findings of Malhotra et al (2002) who found that future patronage intent was a consequence of the perceived value, our results prove that the frequentation intent of the site was significantly and positively influenced by only three dimensions [(Entertainment value (β=.274, t=4.515, p=.000), economic value (β=.307, t=5.739, p=.000), and excellence (β=.126, t=2.245, p=.026)] and not by the rest [(visual appeal (p=.985>.05), escapism (p=.058>.05) and efficiency (p=.083>.05)]. Thus, H4 was partially accepted.
Similarly to our expectation, e-loyalty intention is influenced by the site perceived value [visual appeal (β=.385, t=7.278; and p<.05), entertainment value (β=.418, t=8.017; and p<.05), escapism (β=.397, t=7.541; and p<.05), efficiency (β=.436, t=8.453 and p<.05), economic value (β= .309, t=5.656; and p<.05) and excellence (β=.365, t=6.834; and p<.05)]. Therefore, H5 was supported.
Finally, H6 was supported. Site preference represents 52.4% of the variance of future patronage intent. Besides, it significantly and strongly influences the future patronage intent (β=.724, t=18.292 and p=.000<.05).
From the findings of this study, we noticed that, consistent with literature (Csikszentmihalyi 1996; Gharbi, Sénécal and Nantel 2001), the perceived value of the site depends mainly on the senses of telepresence and the flow state. Having said that the value of the site increases when this later is able to transform the shopping experience to an optimal, funny and enjoyable one. Infact, when browser surfs a site, he searches next to the achievement of his purpose (purchase) the attainment of other objectives that are entertainment, escapism from the daily problems (stress for example). Only the surfed site can allow this.
Of note, results from the empirical study show that browsers prefer the site that is efficient, excellent, and present to them an economic value than the one with a good visual appeal and entertaining aspect. These findings lend us to conclude that the asked sample is purely calculator who looks for the good price-quality report. Besides, the analysis regression demonstrates that the entertainment value, economic value and excellence were found to be significantly related to future site patronage intent. Consistent with findings of Mathwick, Malhotra and Rigdon (2001), the site preference appeared as an important predictor to the future site patronage intent. Finally, and not surprising, all the dimensions of the site perceived value strongly influence the e-loyalty intention.
Yet, we conclude that e-firms has to enhance the sense of site’s perceived value by the focussing on the amelioration of the sense of telepresence and flow state in order to increase the site preference and the likelihood to return to the site and consequently to improve the e-loyalty intention of customers.
Future research is needed to identify other factor that may impact e-loyalty intention, such as trust and satisfaction. Indeed, literature shows very well that satisfaction is a direct antecedent for e-loyalty intention (Martina, Gallarza and Saura, 2004) and customers who trust the company are more likely to share personal information without hesitation, which may increase loyalty ( Sohn and Lee, 2004).
Finally, this study suffers from a number of limitations. First, our sample was composed of university students. It is possible that their perceptions of e-loyalty and site value are different from other populations because they are younger and have less experience as consumers. For that, it is relevant to test the model with a real population of buyers via Internet. Second, in our study, the measurement of the perceived value was restricted to the consumer context, and dealt only with Holbrook’s (1994) “self-oriented” dimensions of value. The social dimension of value, referred to by Holbrook (1994) as the “other oriented” dimension remains unexplored. In both online and off-line retail service experiences; this element of value is likely to be a significant factor in shaping perceptions of the consumption experience. Future researches are encouraged to extend this work to incorporate this added dimension that includes status, ethics, esteem and spirituality in order to capture Holbrook’s full typology.