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The Virtual Consumer Peter Lunt Department of Psychology University College London.

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Presentation on theme: "The Virtual Consumer Peter Lunt Department of Psychology University College London."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Virtual Consumer Peter Lunt Department of Psychology University College London

2 Research Projects Economic and Social Research Council UK (award number LI ) as part of the ESRC Research Programme The Virtual Society? European Commission for the ESPRIT project AIMEdia (Project number 26983)

3 E-commerce research agenda Pre-empirical agenda – the market effects of e-commerce –privacy issues –regulation –diffusion This agenda ‘writes out’ the study of the consumer –The market is understood in terms of abstract idealisations of consumers –Participation is understood in terms of distributions of technology in the population –Privacy is understood in relation to principles of rights –Regulation is understood in terms of policy tools.

4 Research agenda ctnd The agenda issues in research questions of the following kind: –Will people be able to take control of information giving in online transactions? –Which data are considered to be sensitive? –Will consumers trust online merchants? –Will concerns about security or lack of regulation de-motivate consumption online?

5 “The Virtual Consumer”: Peter Lunt, UCL The Virtual Consumer Project Focus on public reactions to e-commerce as an emerging phenomenon -- beyond access and evaluation Uses of Public Culture of technology understanding consumption E-commerce

6 “The Virtual Consumer”: Peter Lunt, UCL Project Methods –16 focus groups (August 1998) split by social grade and gender –42 user trials (Spring 1999) split by household type, computing experience –national survey N= 868 (Summer 1999) national quota sample

7 “The Virtual Consumer”: Peter Lunt, UCL Focus Group Results –analysed using grounded theory identification of key concepts, grouping these into categories, writing a narrative of these codings –lay theories of e-commerce broadly positive view of e-commerce –modern, novel, new technology, inevitable caution about adoption –costs, mismatch with shopping practice, security, service ‘not ready’ (M&S) disappointment with websites –boring compared to computer games, product labels/categories missing experiential aspects of shopping –impulse buying, being there -- with friends/family

8 “The Virtual Consumer”: Peter Lunt, UCL What was missing from these accounts? –Little concern over privacy issues privacy collapsed into security, –lack of interest in alternative or information sites –Little awareness of technical/marketing developments data mining, agent software, personalised marketing –Little explicit discourse of shopping practice People tend to see shopping online by analogy to existing shopping arrangements

9 “The Virtual Consumer”: Peter Lunt, UCL User Trial Results –shopping structures household activities and obligations -- not just transaction -- how does e-commerce fit in? –when technical developments discussed people tended to think in terms of warehousing data rather than dynamic use of profile and aggregate data through analysis –inappropriate location of computer within the home -- study, child’s room, living room -- not Kitchen –more pressing issues in relation to technology access, relation to educational use, obsessive computing

10 “The Virtual Consumer”: Peter Lunt, UCL Survey Results –49% had Internet access –14% (122) reported having shopped online –Only 3 people reporting regularly (weekly) use of e- commerce over a range of goods –typically use was occasional (75%) and restricted to 4 products or less (76%) –Reasons for caution (% rated as important) Cost of being online (58%) delivery payments (49%) not trusting Web with credit card details (51%) don’t want to give personal information (50%) want to examine goods before purchase (60%)

11 “The Virtual Consumer”: Peter Lunt, UCL Attitudes – men more positive than women –young more positive than old –rich more positive than poor –the more educated the more positive –positive attitudes correlated with general acceptance of new technology and positive views about market effects of e-commerce

12 “The Virtual Consumer”: Peter Lunt, UCL What discriminates online shoppers from other Internet users? –engagement with new technology –shopping style non users have preference for local shops, bargain hunting, benign view of markets –intentions e-shoppers -- CDs, tickets, software non-e-shoppers -- news services –orientation to e-commerce less inclined to use agent software think governments should protect online consumers concerned with privacy want human contact when shopping

13 “The Virtual Consumer”: Peter Lunt, UCL Why are people only occasional online shoppers? –not excited by technical developments –do not believe market will lead companies to look after customers –would miss the fun of real shopping –think online payments insecure –think goods are available locally –are less positive about technical developments (agent software, data mining, personalisation)

14 “The Virtual Consumer”: Peter Lunt, UCL Conclusions –generally positive attitudes are balanced by a range of perceived barriers to e-commerce –there is a preference for the reproduction of existing shopping arrangements online –knowledge gaps in public understanding –e-commerce is boring (lack of issue engagement) –a resistant group of Internet users is discernible –using e-commerce appears to depend more on people’s orientation to consumption than their attitudes towards technology


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