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THE INTRODUCTION OF AVATARS AS A FACTOR OF SOCIABILITY  IN E- COMMERCE WEBSITES: PERSPECTIVES FOR SMALL RETAILERS
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THE INTRODUCTION OF AVATARS AS A FACTOR OF SOCIABILITY IN E- COMMERCE WEBSITES: PERSPECTIVES FOR SMALL RETAILERS

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The lack of sociability and warmth of human interaction on the Internet sales platforms has been pointed out has one of the main obstacles to its widespread adoption. Several studies have shown that …

The lack of sociability and warmth of human interaction on the Internet sales platforms has been pointed out has one of the main obstacles to its widespread adoption. Several studies have shown that the inclusion of social stimuli increases the perceived trust and credibility of online stores. These factors have a decisive impact on the adoption of purchase behaviors and consumer loyalty.
This paper addresses the theme of the introduction of avatars as stimuli of sociability and human warmth in sites of electronic commerce and its implications for digital marketing. Simultaneously it attempts to rise new perspectives on how traditional commerce can use the immense knowledge on personalized relationship it already possess, and on how to apply it to this technology. The combination of avatar technology and these companies’ expertise, applied to an online store, can definitely become a competitive advantage to them.
The empirical study carried out consisted of an experiment performed online, where three independent groups of subjects were exposed each to one of three electronic stores corresponding to three distinct levels of sociability: images and text only online shop, online shop with naturalistic avatar and online shop with photo-realistic avatar. The study allows us to conclude that the inclusion of avatars, in particular the photo-realistic avatars, in sites of electronic commerce have positive effects on the perceptions of sociability and human warmth, such as in the trust towards the merchant and in the credibility of the online store.


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  • 1. Journée de recherche sur la consommation digitale 29 Novembre 2012 THE INTRODUCTION OF AVATARS AS A FACTOR OF SOCIABILITY IN E- COMMERCE WEBSITES: PERSPECTIVES FOR SMALL RETAILERS António Alves Ana SoaresThe introduction of avatars as a factor of sociability in e – commerce websites: perspectives for small retailers 1
  • 2. Journée de recherche sur la consommation digitale 29 Novembre 2012 ContextualizationThe lack of sociability and human warmth on theInternet sale platforms has been identified as amajor obstacle to its widespread adoption.Several studies show that the introduction of socialstimuli increases credibility and perceived trust ofonline stores.These factors have a major impact on the adoptionof buying behaviors and loyalty among consumers. The introduction of avatars as a factor of sociability in e – commerce websites: perspectives for small retailers 2
  • 3. Journée de recherche sur la consommation digitale 29 Novembre 2012 ContextualizationA significant number of small andmedium size traditional retailershold intangible assets of greatstrategic value: In turn, e-commerce operators have already realized that human contact- a brand recognized by consumers; is important in order to establish - significant experience in personal meaningful relationships with theirservice; customers (Qiu & Benbasat, 2005).- prestige accumulated overdecades. The introduction of avatars as a factor of sociability in e – commerce websites: perspectives for small retailers 3
  • 4. Contextualization Avatars are responsible for increasing credibility, perceived trust, and allowing for social stimuli and human warmth in online stores interactions; Avatars lead to greater consumer satisfaction with the seller, a better attitude toward the product and increased purchase The literature suggests that the use intent of avatars can increase the (Holzwarth et al, 2006). persuasiveness of online sales channels (Wang, Baker, Wagner, & Wakefield, 2007).Avatar - virtual character with human characteristics created bytechnology. The introduction of avatars as a factor of sociability in e – commerce websites: perspectives for small retailers 4
  • 5. Contextualization Avatars can be built from real human beings images and endowed withThe technology now available allows equipping - synthesized voice through text to speech a website with animated 3D avatars with high technology (TTS); level of interactivity and multiple graphic options. - real human voice; - Artificial Intelligence (AI) that can be tailored to the specific online store characteristics. The introduction of avatars as a factor of sociability in e – commerce websites: perspectives for small retailers 5
  • 6. Contextualization/Functions and Representation of AvatarsIn an online store avatars should be used to act as a commercial assistant.(Salem & Earl, 2000 apud Qiu & Benbasat, 2005; McGoldrick, Keeling, & Beatty, 2008)Avatares can be: Abstract/ Naturalistic Realistic Cartoons The introduction of avatars as a factor of sociability in e – commerce websites: perspectives for small retailers 6
  • 7. Objectives of this studyContribute to increase the knowledge about theeffects of the use of avatars endowed with TTS orreal human voice on online consumer behavior;Particularly avatars based on images of real humansat sites of E-Commerce operated by traditionalretailers. The introduction of avatars as a factor of sociability in e – commerce websites: perspectives for small retailers 7
  • 8. Conceptual ModelThe proposed conceptual model includes two distinct stages ofanalysis:Step 1) to assess the effects of three different levels of sociability onthe latent variables "Trust" "Credibility" and "Sociability and HumanWarmth";Step 2) to assess the importance of these three constructs asenhancers and predictors of consumers purchase and repurchaseintention in the online store . The introduction of avatars as a factor of sociability in e – commerce websites: perspectives for small retailers 8
  • 9. MethodologyAn experimental plan organized in the form of three groups with control group and post-test. Why? 1) Avatar technology is still unknown among firms that operate online shops; 2) Only an experiment can ensure the maximum possible control of externalvariables such as the influence of design and degree of sophistication of the website, theinfluence of the type of product, price and the always important factor that is the brand. 3) This experimental design, although simple, is robust both in terms of internaland external validity. The introduction of avatars as a factor of sociability in e – commerce websites: perspectives for small retailers 9
  • 10. Methodology Experimental PlanDistribution Treatment Post-Test (Questionnaire)R X1 OR X2 OR X3 O X1 – Online Shop only with photos and text, traditional treatment, control group; X2 – Online Shop with naturalistic avatar using TTS voice; X3 – Online Shop with realistic avatar using human voice. The introduction of avatars as a factor of sociability in e – commerce websites: perspectives for small retailers 10
  • 11. MethodologyThe chosen products for sale were sports shoes since these are shopping goods which in general do not require a very complex decision making process. The introduction of avatars as a factor of sociability in e – commerce websites: perspectives for small retailers 11
  • 12. Online Shops Shop 1 – experimental group IThe introduction of avatars as a factor of sociability in e – commerce websites: perspectives for small retailers 12
  • 13. Online Shops Shop 2 – experimental group IIThe introduction of avatars as a factor of sociability in e – commerce websites: perspectives for small retailers 13
  • 14. Online Shops Shop 3 – experimental group IIIThe introduction of avatars as a factor of sociability in e – commerce websites: perspectives for small retailers 14
  • 15. Used Avatars Built with SitePalTM TechnologyFemale avatars were chosen to appear inOnline Shops because they are perceived byconsumers as more attractive (Nowak andRauth, 2005).The introduction of avatars as a factor of sociability in e – commerce websites: perspectives for small retailers 15
  • 16. Data AnalysisTo test hypotheses H1, H2, H3 we performed an analysis of variance (one factor ANOVA). The introduction of avatars as a factor of sociability in e – commerce websites: perspectives for small retailers 16
  • 17. Data AnalysisThe introduction of avatars as a factor of sociability in e – commerce websites: perspectives for small retailers 17
  • 18. Data AnalysisIn order to identify the groups which are different we analyzedthe table generated by Scheffé post-hoc test. The introduction of avatars as a factor of sociability in e – commerce websites: perspectives for small retailers 18
  • 19. Data Analysis Group II - More Credibility - More Sociability and Human Warmth + Group I (control) Shop without Avatar + Group III - More Credibility - More Trust - More Sociability andThe differences between avatars with TTS Human Warmthvoice and the photo-realistic avatars with realvoice were not statistically significant. The introduction of avatars as a factor of sociability in e – commerce websites: perspectives for small retailers 19
  • 20. Data Analisys/Partial CorrelationsThe analysis of scatter charts between the variable "Purchase and RepurchaseIntention" and the variables "Trust", "Credibility" and "Sociability and HumanWarmth" reveal that there was a linear relationship between these variables. The correlations between all the pairs of variables are positive and very strong ( | r |≥ 0,75) when none of the other variables are controlled. The introduction of avatars as a factor of sociability in e – commerce websites: perspectives for small retailers 20
  • 21. Data Analisys/Partial Correlations In order to verify the strength of these linearrelationships and their individualized predictive capacity, an analysis of partial correlations was run between “Trust”, “Credibility”, “Sociability and Human Warmth” and the dependent variable “Purchase and Repurchase Intention”. The introduction of avatars as a factor of sociability in e – commerce websites: perspectives for small retailers 21
  • 22. Data Analisys/Partial Correlations Second order partial correlation coefficient Purchase and repurchase intention Trust ,412 Credibility ,070 Sociability and Human warmth ,533• “Sociability and Human Warmth” and “Trust” are predictive variables of “Purchase and Repurchase Intention”.• “Sociability and Human Warmth” is the most important inducer of “Purchase and repurchase intention”.• “Credibility” has a null predictive effect. Its prior simple correlation (Pearson’s r) with the “Purchase and Repurchase Intention” is exclusively due to the fact of being associated with the other variables.However a word of caution is in order stressing that this cause-and-effect relationship is merely anassumption of our model for the purposes of this research and not an inferential property of thestatistical technique used. The introduction of avatars as a factor of sociability in e – commerce websites: perspectives for small retailers 22
  • 23. Conclusion Underpinned on this study, as also on the findings of Wang and Fodness (2010) and Qiu and Benbasat (2009), we can say that animated avatars exert an influence on online consumers similar to real salespeople. This affordable technology may constitute a lever for small retail companies to enter the E.C. world and thus extend their market, add value to their business, control costs and promote their financial sustainability.The introduction of avatars as a factor of sociability in e – commerce websites: perspectives for small retailers 23
  • 24. End.The introduction of avatars as a factor of sociability in e – commerce websites: 24 perspectives for small retailers