The Effect of Interactivity on Online Consumer Response: An Investigation into the UK Car Brand Websites

Discombe, Oya (2005). The Effect of Interactivity on Online Consumer Response: An Investigation into the UK Car Brand Websites. PhD thesis The Open University.



The research presented in this thesis is concerned with the effects of interactivity on consumer responses to brands and their web sites within the context of consumer-brand interactions online. More specifically, this research aimed to determine:
a) whether brands are perceived differently by consumers online versus offline,
b) whether the interactivity of a brand's web site influenced consumer perceptions and attitudes to that brand and its web site, and,
c) how brands add value to their web sites, and what effect the concept of value has in consumer-brand interactions online.

To answer these research questions, a two-phase study was conducted. In the first phase, exploratory interviews with Internet and brand experts were conducted, and interview transcripts were analysed under Grounded Theory methodology guidelines. This exploratory phase allowed this researcher to develop an original conceptual model, grounded in empirical data and supported by extant literature. In the second phase of the study, the propositions emerging from the conceptual model were tested using data obtained from controlled laboratory experiments conducted with seventy-eight participants from the Open University staff and research students. The data was statistically analysed and substantial support was found for the model and the central proposition that interactivity of a web site would have a significant effect on how consumers evaluate, perceive and develop attitudes to the web site in question.

This thesis helps fill a gap in academic literature in understanding the role of interactivity in consumer behaviour online. It also provides managerial contributions with the interactive features assessment tool, identification of the discrepancy between structural and perceived interactivity, and specific findings on consumer response variables, as these help managers better understand consumers' interactions with their web sites, and develop online branding strategies utilising the interactivity of the online medium and Internet technologies to better effect.

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