Pick and Mix: consumers moving between online and offline channels

van Dijk, Geesje Catharina Maria (2007). Pick and Mix: consumers moving between online and offline channels. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.00004b4e


Consumers are increasingly using web-based systems for the search and purchase of products and services. They are, however, also still using traditional, offline channels such as telephone, high street and mail order, on a regular basis. The research presented in this thesis investigated consumer use of e-services in the context of a multi channel environment, with a special focus on voluntary channel choice and voluntary movement between channels. Both multi-channel usage and voluntary movement between channels are currently under-researched topics.

The area of research for the study was leisure travel. The travel preparations from a sample of consumers throughout the UK were investigated through interviews and diary studies. Literature from the field of Human-Computer Interaction and Consumer Research informed the methodology and the perspective for the analysis. The findings from the in-depth study show that the participants frequently used multiple channels during their travel preparations. They regularly moved between online and offline channels, and often did so on a voluntary basis. The analysis revealed that the most important driver for multi-channel usage among the participants was the need for control. This research contextualises control as a key characteristic of contemporary consumption behaviour. Its main contributions are the findings that the need for control has six dimensions (time, place, costs, risks, information and personal contact), and that the influence of these dimensions on consumer channel choice varies across specific consumption situations. The study also found that the participants were not consistent in their channel choices over time. They showed fragmented consumer behaviour, dependent on their social roles and external circumstances.

The thesis discusses how control and fragmentation are key themes in the explanation of voluntary multi-channel usage and movement between channels. The insights from this research contribute to a deeper understanding of consumer use of e-services and to strategic improvements in the design and management of e-services.

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