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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 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.