Date of Award

12-1-2010

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Business Administration

First Advisor

Balasubramanian, Siva

Second Advisor

Summey, John

Abstract

Internet commerce has risen steadily for over a decade. During this period, innovations have occurred to make using the Internet easier and more engaging as a consumer online shopping experience. An innovation with increasing availability is the three-dimensional (3D) representation of an area where the user has an agent, called an "avatar," to navigate in a computer-generated environment. As technical options become available to view standard web pages through this innovation, virtual reality envionments may change the overall look of a website and may potentially change the way a consumer perceives a website and shape the consumer's purchase intent. In this study, an experimental design was used in which student subjects were asked to view a set of products derived from a search of a retail webpage. Some subjects saw the webpage in a normal two-dimensional (2D) format, while others were shown the same page through a program called ExitReality that converts 2D webpages into 3D environments. Tests were first done to compare the results of some common constructs, as found in the Marketing literature on websites, between 2D and 3D online retail shopping to identify the differences in a set of variables. Second, the variables were combined into a path model to compare between 3 groups: A group trained in 2D and untrained in 3D who shopped in a 2D environment; a group trained in 3D who shopped in a 2D environment; and a group trained in 3D who shopped in a 3D environment. The perceptions used in the study centered on Attitude toward the Site (AST) and constructs that were related to AST in various other studies. The path model was defined through the use of partial least squares (PLS) path modeling techniques, based on previous research, to align the use of the new 3D environments with existing theory. One key potential consequence considered was the purchase intent as compared to the three groups studied. This study is important for two major reasons. First, it is an important step toward understanding the possible effects from presenting consumer online retail shopping experiences that more feasibly imitate physical-world shopping experiences. As technology advances and virtual spaces become easier to create, companies may be able to apply the lessons learned through this study to better understand the potential benefits of converting online retail websites into 3D virtual spaces. Second, this study fits into the research conducted to improve the understanding of how website-related constructs work. For example, the extant literature has shown some contention regarding the best measurement AST and whether AST has an impact on purchase intent. This study provides useful evidence in that debate.

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