The Effect of Visual and Verbal Information on Attitudes and Purchase Intentions in Internet Shopping

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The Effects of Visual and Verbal Information on Attitudes and Purchase Intentions in Internet Shopping Minjeong Kim, Ph.D.
Oregon State University

Sharron Lennon, Ph.D.
University of Delaware

ABSTRACT
The present study investigated how different product presentation formats (visual vs. verbal) influence consumer attitudes toward product and purchase intentions in Internet shopping. The overall results from two Web experiments simulating Internet apparel shopping showed that both visual and verbal information had significant effects on affective and cognitive attitudes toward apparel products, but only verbal information had a significant effect on purchase intention. Though the superiority of visual information was predicted based on prior literature, the results of the study supported verbal superiority. This finding provides an important implication for Internet retailers who tend to pay more attention to visual product presentation. Although visual product presentation is also found to be important, detailed product descriptions are critical to positively influence consumer shopping experience in Internet shopping. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

The Internet is changing almost every aspect of our daily lives, from how we communicate, learn, and play, to how we shop, buy, and consume products and services (Dertrouzos, 1997). Evolving from a new communication Psychology & Marketing, Vol. 25(2): 146–178 (February 2008) Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com) © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. DOI: 10.1002/mar.20204

medium into an innovative retailing medium, the Internet is changing the world of retailing (Klein, 1998). As the fastest growing retail channel, the growth of Internet retail sales nearly tripled that of total retail sales in 2004 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2004). Although Internet retail sales remained only 5% of total retail sales in 2005 (DMNews, 2006), its future growth is optimistic. According to Forrester Research (2004), Internet retail sales will reach over $331 billion by 2010, accounting for 13% of total retail sales in 2010. With the rapid adoption of the Internet and the growing popularity of broadband among the general population, the future of Internet retailing is bright (“Digital Economy,” 2000). Despite the impressive growth rate and optimistic outlook, there is compelling evidence to suggest that many consumers are still reluctant to purchase via the Internet. Many Internet retailers continue to struggle with low conversion from browsers to purchasers and high shopping cart abandonment (Internet Retailer, 2005a). The proportion of actual purchasers to total browsers has remained low, ranging between 2.8% and 3.2% of Web site visitors (Shop.org. & Boston Consulting Group, 2000), compared to nearly 50% of mall visitors who purchase during their visit as reported by Stillerman Jones and Co. (Sansoni, 1999). In addition, shopping cart abandonment during the Internet shopping process, especially just prior to checkout, has been prevalent among would-be Internet customers (Shop.org, 2001). Such phenomena imply that there are some factors that keep Internet shoppers from buying via the Internet. A primary deterrent of Internet buying is the inability to physically examine items prior to purchase (Internet Retailer, 2005b; Retail Forward, 2001). According to Forrester Research, more than half the consumers who visit an Internet store do not purchase because they cannot physically inspect an item before purchasing (Internet Retailer, 2005b). Consumers need to acquire adequate product information to make a purchase decision, often by physical examination of a product, but Internet shopping does not accommodate physical product evaluations like brick-and-mortar stores do (Nitse et al., 2004). This is more problematic for certain types of products that require sensory evaluation. Holbrook and Moore (1981) suggested that products with aesthetic, sensory, or symbolic...
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