A phenomenological analysis of consumers' perceptions of the consumption process in a virtual world

Tran, Minh; Minocha, Shailey; Roberts, Dave; Laing, Angus and Langdridge, Darren (2011). A phenomenological analysis of consumers' perceptions of the consumption process in a virtual world. In: 30th International Human Science Research Conference: Intertwining body-self-world, 27-30 Jul 2011, St. Catherine's College, Oxford.

URL: http://www.open.ac.uk/socialsciences/ihsrc2011/pro...

Abstract

Virtual worlds are 3D, online, persistent, multi-user environments where users interact through avatars. Virtual worlds support many types of applications, such as gaming, education and socialising. Increasingly, they are being used for business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce. Our aim is to understand how a phenomenological perspective that highlights embodiment, perception of others and perception of being-in-the-world can inform the design of B2C e-commerce environments in virtual worlds. We have conducted phenomenological interviews and descriptive-phenomenological analysis to understand consumers' lived experiences of the consumption process in virtual worlds. Twenty-two consumers were interviewed in Second Life, a virtual world. The analysis highlights (1) the variety of emotions involved during the consumption process, (2) how consumers become aware of their avatars, and (3) how consumers appropriate affordances of virtual worlds. This suggests that B2C e-commerce environments in virtual worlds should be designed to reflect consumers' emotions, support intuitive control of avatars, and provide context-dependent tools during the consumption process. Design guidelines that are sensitive to the moment-to-moment experience of consumers, which the phenomenological perspective highlights, can result in an immersive online experience and increased consumer satisfaction.

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