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Telepresence and fantasy in online apparel shopping experience

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Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the roles of telepresence and fantasy in an online apparel shopping experience. Online apparel consumers undergo a virtual product experience (telepresence) that simulates the product experience in a brick-and-mortar store. Fantasy entails the pleasurable mental imagery involving product use. Design/methodology/approach – A total of 86 female university students completed a survey after browsing a stimulus web site in a laboratory setting. Path analysis was used to identify hypothesized relationships between telepresence, fantasy, shopping enjoyment, willingness to purchase, and willingness to patronize the online retailer. Findings – Results showed that telepresence influenced consumer fantasy and both telepresence and consumer fantasy led to shopping enjoyment (experiential value). Telepresence, fantasy, and shopping enjoyment directly contributed to willingness to purchase from the online retailer, whereas telepresence, fantasy and shopping enjoyment contributed indirectly to willingness to patronize the online retailer. Research limitations/implications – The study used a sample of female university students in the USA. This limits its generalizability to all consumers. It also examined one web site feature; other features may produce different effects. Practical implications – Findings suggest that business practitioners implement features on their web sites to yield telepresence and fantasy, which may enhance purchase and patronage responses towards their site. Originality/value – This study enhances understanding of two variables requiring further study, telepresence and fantasy, in online apparel shopping experience.
Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management: An International
Journal
Telepresence and fantasy in online apparel shopping experience
Kun Song Ann Marie Fiore Jihye Park
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To cite this document:
Kun Song Ann Marie Fiore Jihye Park, (2007),"Telepresence and fantasy in online apparel shopping
experience", Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management: An International Journal, Vol. 11 Iss 4 pp. 553
- 570
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So Won Jeong, Ann Marie Fiore, Linda S. Niehm, Frederick O. Lorenz, (2009),"The role of experiential
value in online shopping: The impacts of product presentation on consumer responses towards an apparel
web site", Internet Research, Vol. 19 Iss 1 pp. 105-124 http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/10662240910927858
Jiyeon Kim, Sandra Forsythe, (2007),"Hedonic usage of product virtualization technologies in online
apparel shopping", International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 35 Iss 6 pp.
502-514 http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09590550710750368
Yingjiao Xu, V. Ann Paulins, (2005),"College students' attitudes toward shopping online for apparel
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Telepresence and fantasy in
online apparel shopping
experience
Kun Song and Ann Marie Fiore
AESHM Department, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa, USA, and
Jihye Park
School of Business, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul, South Korea
Abstract
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the roles of telepresence and fantasy in an online
apparel shopping experience. Online apparel consumers undergo a virtual product experience
(telepresence) that simulates the product experience in a brick-and-mortar store. Fantasy entails the
pleasurable mental imagery involving product use.
Design/methodology/approach – A total of 86 female university students completed a survey
after browsing a stimulus web site in a laboratory setting. Path analysis was used to identify
hypothesized relationships between telepresence, fantasy, shopping enjoyment, willingness to
purchase, and willingness to patronize the online retailer.
Findings Results showed that telepresence influenced consumer fantasy and both telepresence and
consumer fantasy led to shopping enjoyment (experiential value). Telepresence, fantasy, and shopping
enjoyment directly contributed to willingness to purchase from the online retailer, whereas
telepresence, fantasy and shopping enjoyment contributed indirectly to willingness to patronize the
online retailer.
Research limitations/implications – The study used a sample of female university students in
the USA. This limits its generalizability to all consumers. It also examined one web site feature; other
features may produce different effects.
Practical implications Findings suggest that business practitioners implement features on their
web sites to yield telepresence and fantasy, which may enhance purchase and patronage responses
towards their site.
Originality/value – This study enhances understanding of two variables requiring further study,
telepresence and fantasy, in online apparel shopping experience.
Keywords Retailing, Electronic commerce, Clothing, Perception
Paper type Research paper
Introduction
Apparel retail web sites are credited with providing consumers with various benefits,
including greater time and cost efficiency, 24-hour accessibility, better consistency in
service, and a wider variety of product/service choices than brick-and-mortar stores
(Monsuwe et al., 2004; Then and Delong, 1999). A major disadvantage of this retail
format, however, is that shoppers cannot physically examine and try products before
making purchase decisions as they can do in brick-and-mortar stores. Thus, online
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
www.emeraldinsight.com/1361-2026.htm
This work was partially supported by Hankuk University of Foreign Studies Research Fund of
2006.
Telepresence and
fantasy
553
Received 22 May 2006
Revised 10 December 2006
Accepted 10 December 2006
Journal of Fashion Marketing and
Management
Vol. 11 No. 4, 2007
pp. 553-570
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
1361-2026
DOI 10.1108/13612020710824607
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shopping offers limited product-shopper interaction compared to direct product
experience when shopping in a brick-and-mortar store (Monsuwe et al., 2004). Research
shows that direct product experience (e.g., physical interaction with the product) leads
to stronger beliefs and attitudes toward the product and the retailer than does indirect
product experience through text information and images found in print media (Marks
and Kamins, 1988; Smith and Swinyard, 1982, 1988). Indirect experience when
shopping online creates limitations for consumers as well. The inability to directly
experience the product leads to reluctance to purchase online (Li et al., 1999; Swinyard
and Smith, 2003). However, advances in web site technology (e.g., enlargement of
product details, virtual 3D product presentation) may help approximate a direct
product experience during online shopping. This verisimilitude leads to stronger
beliefs, attitudes, and intentions toward the product and the retailer (Li et al., 2001).
Therefore, research should explore how online simulation of direct experience affects
consumers.
However, it may be more than approximation of an in-store product experience that
influences consumer responses. Mental events such as fantasies, or mental imagery
involving products, play an important role in consumption experiences including
attitude and behavioral intentions toward the product (e.g., Fiore et al., 2000; MacInnis
and Price, 1987; Penaloza, 2001; Schlosser, 2003; Sherry and Schonten, 2002). The
linkages among simulated product experiences fostered by new web site technology,
fantasy, pleasure, and consumer responses should be examined.
Telepresence, hedonic experience, and fantasies
Shih (1998) defined telepresence as the sense of being present in a virtual store where
one could browse and shop as in a brick-and-mortar store. Fiore et al. (2005a, b)
summarized that telepresence is affected by how closely quality and quantity of
simulated sensory information about the product and simulated ability to interact with
the product approximate the sensory information during interaction with the real
product in a brick-and-mortar store. The quantity and quality of sensory information
and the level of interaction with the product were labeled as “vividness” and
“interactivity” components of telepresence, respectively (e.g., Shih, 1998; Steuer, 1992).
An emerging body of research (e.g., Fiore et al., 2005; Klein, 2003; Shih, 1998) has
shown the positive impact of simulated product experience or telepresence on online
consumer responses. For instance, Klein (2003) empirically supported that web
site-generated telepresence positively affected consumer beliefs and attitudes toward
products. To further understanding, Fiore et al. (2005a, b) explored the mechanism
between telepresence and consumer responses (e.g., willingness to purchase) and found
that telepresence affected consumer responses indirectly by facilitating product
assessment (utilitarian value) and creating pleasurable consumer experiences (hedonic
value). The present paper further examines the relationship between hedonic value
created by telepresence and consumer responses.
Holbrook and Hirschman (1982) outlined that the consumption experience can be
intrinsically satisfying, or satisfying for its own sake, when the experience provides
pleasure to the senses, fun, feelings, and fantasies. Holbrook and Hirschman saw these
forms of pleasure as the experiential (hedonic) value of the consumption experience.
Experiential (hedonic) value differs from utilitarian (instrumental) value, which entails
shopping efficiency and making the right product choice based on rational assessment
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of product information. Research supports that experiential (hedonic) value and
utilitarian (instrumental) value are derived from electronic shopping environments and
both affect consumer responses towards electronic shopping (Childers et al., 2001;
Hammond et al., 1998; Hoffman and Novak, 1996; Jarvenpaa and Todd, 1997) or
towards a product or store (Fiore and Jin, 2003; Koufaris, 2002), which ultimately affect
profitability of online retailers.
Building on Holbrook and Hirschman’s (1982) experiential approach to
consumption, Holbrook (1986) proposed a Consciousness-Emotion-Value (C-E-V)
model of the consumption experience. In the C-E-V model, consciousness includes not
only cognitions or beliefs about consumer products, but also a variety of mental events
such as fantasy or imagery created during the consumption experience. Following
Fiore et al. (2000), we define fantasy as the pleasurable mental imagery involving
post-purchase product usage.
Research (Fiore et al., 2000; Mani and MacInnis, 2003; Martine, 2004; Oliver et al.,
1993; Unnava and Burnkrant, 1991) suggests that mental imagery or fantasy could be
stimulated by various forms of information about the product, such as text
information, product images, and sample products. We argue that the more complete
the information, the clearer and more vivid the fantasy would be. For instance, product
images in a printed catalog provide more complete information about the product than
the text information and thus stimulate a clearer and more vivid fantasy. Similarly,
examining and trying on a product in a brick-and-mortar store is likely to create a
clearer and more vivid fantasy than seeing only the product image online. Telepresence
provides a virtual product experience that simulates the experience in a brick-and-
mortar store. Consumers with a higher level of telepresence are likely to have more
complete information about the product and thus clearer and more vivid fantasies.
Whereas print and television as well as web site sources of marketing provide
sensory information about the product, only online marketing offers interactivity.
Increasingly, the online shopper can interact with the product as they could in a
brick-and-mortar shopping experience. For instance, shoppers can mix and match
products, try products on a virtual model, or rotate the object to see the back. However,
we have found no studies that explore how creating telepresence, which entails both
quantity/quality of sensory experience about and interactivity with the product,
influences fantasy. Telepresence should provide more complete product information,
which was noted above to enhance imagery and fantasy. The question in the present
study is: Does telepresence from an online environment stimulate fantasy where the
consumer envisions him/herself using the product? Therefore, we test the hypothesis
(see Figure 1 for a model containing the hypotheses):
H1. Telepresence generated from a retail web site positively predicts fantasy.
Effects of telepresence and fantasy on shopping enjoyment
Online shopping experience may result in shopping enjoyment due to a simulated
product experience created by the web site (Klein, 2003; Shih, 1998). Researchers
(Hirschman and Holbrook, 1982; Monsuwe et al., 2004) define shopping enjoyment as
the appreciation of a shopping experience for its own sake, apart from any product
selection/purchase consequence that may result. Literature notes three dimensions of
shopping enjoyment: escapism, pleasure, and arousal (Mathwick et al., 2001; Menon
and Kahn, 2002; Monsuwe et al., 2004). Escapism comes from engaging in activities
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Figure 1.
A proposed model for
telepresence, fantasy,
shopping enjoyment,
willingness to purchase
and willingness to
patronize
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that are absorbing, to the point of offering an escape from the demands of the mundane
world. Pleasure is the degree to which a person feels good, joyful, happy, or satisfied in
online shopping, whereas arousal is the degree to which a person feels stimulated,
active or alert during the online shopping experience.
Telepresence describes a mental state where the user feels immersed in a virtual
environment (Turkle, 1984); real world stimuli are blocked out and the virtual
environment captivates the senses. Kim and Biocca (1997) similarly indicated that
telepresence includes both departure from a physical environment where a web user is
present, and arrival at the virtual environment defined by the web site. Thus,
telepresence may facilitate escapism contributing to shopping enjoyment. Online
shoppers may escape from the mundane real world and enter an arousing, pleasurable
mental state offered by the virtual shopping experience.
Consumers may experience an arousing, pleasurable mental state offered by the
virtual shopping experience. Shih (1998) proposed that telepresence promoted users to
play and have fun with the web site, and through interaction with the web site, users
may experience positive affect. Fiore et al. (2005a, b) provided empirical support for
Shih’s proposition. These researchers found that telepresence facilitated experiential
pleasure. They explained that experiential pleasure from the web site resulted from the
mental activity of creating virtual apparel ensembles to one’s liking and comparing the
aesthetic effects of these ensembles on the body, similar to the experience when trying
clothing on in a store. Therefore, telepresence results in shopping enjoyment by
providing both pleasure and escapism from the mundane world. Thus, we hypothesize:
H2. Telepresence generated from a retail web site positively predicts shopping
enjoyment.
Whereas Fiore et al. (2005a, b) found a positive link between telepresence and pleasure,
their study did not examine the role of fantasy in creating shopping enjoyment. Similar
to telepresence, fantasy may also contribute to shopping enjoyment through escapism
and pleasure. First, by creating imagery that involves a product use experience, a
consumer feels separated from his/her mundane physical world. Second, as Fiore and
Kimle (1997) indicated, pleasure can be derived from the creative cognitive processes
activated during fantasizing and the content of the fantasy. The imagined product-use
experience (e.g., party, vacation) may make the consumer feel good, joyful, happy, or
satisfied. Therefore, we propose:
H3. Fantasy from an online shopping experience positively predicts shopping
enjoyment.
Telepresence, fantasy, shopping enjoyment, and consumer responses
Fazio and Zanna (1981) found that consumer beliefs and attitudes resulting from direct
product experience rather than from indirect experience will be stronger, more clearly
formed, more persistent, more confidently held, more accessible, and more stable and
exhibit higher attitude-behavior consistency. Jasper and Quellette (1994) found an
increase in purchase intention when imagery involving product use was stimulated by
catalog product presentations. They found that the ability to imagine oneself in a
garment, enhanced by seeing a product image in a catalog, increased frequency of and
amount spent on the purchase of apparel from catalogs. Kim and Biocca’s (1997) study
found that the feeling of being present in the virtual environment, generated by
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television advertising, simulated a first-hand experience and generated attitude
confidence. Therefore, positive relationships exist between both direct and rich
simulated product experiences and consumer responses.
Given these positive relationships, a higher level of telepresence, which provides
enhanced similarity to direct product experience would result in stronger product
beliefs and attitudes and consequently lead to greater willingness to purchase. Klein’s
(2003) research empirically supported that telepresence, created by retail web sites,
influences persuasion due to stronger beliefs about product attributes and attitudes
towards the product. Fiore et al. (2005a, b) found that level of telepresence positively
affected attitudes toward, willingness to purchase from, and willingness to patronize a
retail web site. Therefore, we hypothesize:
H4. Telepresence generated from a retail web site positively predicts willingness
to purchase.
Empirical research supports the effect of imagining oneself performing a task on
behavior intention toward a task (Anderson, 1983). In addition, research supports the
positive effect of product use fantasies on attitude towards the product, purchase
intentions, and amount willing to be paid for the product (e.g., Bone and Ellen, 1990;
Fiore et al., 2000; Fiore and Yu, 2001; Oliver et al., 1993; Schlosser, 2003). For instance,
Fiore and Yu (2001) found the experience of seeing oneself in fantasies stimulated by
apparel catalog text positively affected consumer responses including attitudes toward
and willingness to purchase the product. Similarly, Fiore et al. (2000) found that
envisioning oneself in imagery involving use of the product after exposure to a store
display enhanced willingness to purchase.
Utilitarian and experiential value from the fantasy may explain the positive effect
on the consumer. MacInnis and Price (1987) proposed that consumers use imagery to
anticipate future situations involving product use, which works as a basis for
subsequent problem solving. In addition to aiding problem solving, imagery involving
product use influences purchase intention due to positive emotional states evoked
(MacInnis and Price, 1987). For example, fantasy during an apparel consumption
experience may enable the consumer to envision how well the product would perform
in a pleasant setting (e.g., party, vacation) and, thus, result in positive emotions due to
the envisioned pleasant experience. Therefore we hypothesize:
H5. Fantasy from an online shopping experience positively predicts willingness to
purchase.
The effect of shopping enjoyment on willingness to purchase has been extensively
examined in online retail settings (Childers et al., 2001; Ghani and Desphande, 1994;
Menon and Kahn, 2002; Monsuwe et al., 2004). Monsuwe et al. (2004) identified
shopping enjoyment as an intrinsic motivation for online shopping behavior. Childers
et al. (2001) found enjoyment to be a consistent and strong predictor of attitude toward
online shopping. If consumers enjoy their online shopping experience, they are likely to
have a more positive attitude toward online shopping and adopt the Internet as a
shopping medium. Several other studies (Eighmey, 1997; Jarvenpaa and Todd, 1997)
regarding online shopping behavior provided similar support for the effect of shopping
enjoyment on attitudes toward and willingness to purchase from a retail web site.
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Furthermore, Ghani and Desphande (1994) found that enjoyment increased
exploratory behavior, which, according to Koufaris (2002), led to more product
exposure and unplanned online purchases. Similarly, Beatty and Ferrell (1998) found
that positive feelings aroused by marketing stimuli during a shopping experience
stimulate impulse purchases. Therefore we hypothesize:
H6. Shopping enjoyment positively predicts willingness to purchase via a retail
web site.
Understanding the level of willingness to patronize a web site is of great value to online
marketers. Customer retention rate is critical to the profitability of an online marketer
because it frequently costs less to retain an existing customer than to attract a new
customer (Band, 1991; Slater and Narver, 1992; Sanchez, 2005).
Menon and Kahn (2002) found that a previous pleasant or arousing experience had
carry-over effects on the next shopping experience encountered. If consumers are
exposed initially to pleasing and arousing stimuli during their online shopping
experience, they are then more likely to engage in subsequent shopping behavior. The
positive relationship between shopping enjoyment and initial consumer response
towards the hypothesized in the present study may extend to future consumer
responses towards the web site. Fiore et al. (2005a, b) found that pleasure from a web
site enhanced attitude and willingness to return to the site. Therefore, we propose that
established willingness to purchase, which results from arousal, escapism, and
pleasure (Mathwick et al., 2001; Menon and Kahn, 2002; Monsuwe et al., 2004) would
likely carry over to future behaviors and, thus, lead to willingness to revisit the web
site. Thus we hypothesize:
H7. Willingness to purchase positively predicts willingness to patronize a retail
web site.
Method
Sample
A total of 86 useable responses for testing the hypotheses came from female
undergraduate students of a large university from the Midwest of the USA. They
participated in the study in exchange for extra credit points in a course and candy. This
convenient sample of college studentswas selected because this age group is likely to use
the internet for product information search and often purchase products online (Li et al.,
2001) as well as for non-purposive browsing and entertainment (Jones, 2002).
Only females were used because the stimulus site developed focused on women’s
apparel. They ranged in age from 18 to 40, with an average of 21 years. The majority of
the respondents were Caucasian Americans (89 percent) with smaller percentages of
African (6 percent), Hispanic (1 percent), and Asian Americans (14 percent). The mean
score for “I visit internet retail sites to gather product information” was 4.03 on a
five-point scale, with 5 as “strongly agree”. The mean score for visiting the internet
retail sites for purchasing products was 3.43 on the same scale.
Stimulus selection and manipulation
A web site was created to closely mimic the design of an actual apparel retail web site.
The web site stimulus contained product images and product information typical found
on apparel retail web sites (Park and Stoel, 2002) with the addition of a simple “virtual
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model” feature for presenting combinations of apparel products. Virtual model features
that allow the viewer to see selected product combinations on a body form are used by a
number of retailers (e.g., Land’s End, Sears, and H&M). For the present stimulus, this
feature allowed respondents to select and create images of product combinations of tops
and jeans on a female model. The virtual model feature was used to provide interactivity
with the product, which is a dimension of telepresence (Sheridan, 1992). The graphical
design of the site, which had a white background and simple text navigation buttons, did
not emulate any particular apparel retail web sites, so that attitude toward the
experimental web site would not be confounded by established attitude toward existing
web sites in the current market (Balabanis and Reynolds, 2001).
To create the web site stimulus, two pretests were conducted to select a) the
appropriate apparel categories (e.g., dress pants, coats) and b) appropriate items within
the appropriate apparel categories for the sample. Those were controlled in order to
avoid any confounding effects due to apparel categories and styles. In the first pretest,
34 female students rated the likelihood of purchasing 17 apparel categories from the
internet using five-point Likert scales (1 very unlikely, 5 very likely). Jeans
(M ¼2:9) and casual tops (M ¼3.4) were both moderately rated and thus, selected for
the web site stimuli.
A total of 23 female students participated in the second pretest to select one pair of
jeans from four pairs and three coordinating casual tops from seven tops. The products
were sponsored from a local retailer targeting the college-aged market in order to
increase reality of the experiment and meet the participants’ preference and taste. All
garment items were worn by a size 6 female model and were digitally photographed in
color with a white background. Labels associated with brand identity were removed
from the garment images using Photoshopesoftware.
Each participant viewed color photos of the jeans and tops and rated each product
on fashionability, attractiveness, and similarity to what participants wear, using a
five-point unipolar scale (e.g., fashionable-not fashionable). In addition, pretest
participants rated willingness to purchase the product from the internet using a
five-point Likert scale to ensure that the selected product stimuli had some degree of
salability (3:0,M,4:0). The present researchers selected a pair of jeans and three
casual tops with moderate levels (2:0,M,4:0) of fashionability, attractiveness, and
similarity to what is worn by the subjects for the stimuli. Analysis of variance revealed
no difference (Fð4;19Þ¼0:777, p¼0:554) in willingness to purchase for the three
selected casual tops.
The final web site presented an image of the model wearing the pair of jeans with a
basic white top that could be replaced with the three alternative tops. The image of the
model in the jeans with a basic white top was positioned in the center and the three
alternative tops were located in the right side of the screen. When an alterative top was
clicked, the center image presented the model wearing the selected top with the pair of
jeans.
Instrument
Subjects were informed that the study was to gain a better understanding of internet
shopping practices and that participation was voluntary. A questionnaire was
administered to measure internet usage, telepresence, fantasy, shopping enjoyment,
willingness to purchase, and willingness to patronize. Each item was scored on a
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five-point Likert scale (1 to 5) flanked by anchors such as “Strongly disagree” and
“Strongly agree”.
A number of scales measure (tele)presence (Fiore et al., 2005a, b; Lessiter et al., 2000;
Klein, 2003). We used Fiore et al.’s (2005a, b) five-item scale because it measures
perceptions of how closely the online sensory information and interaction with the
product approximate information and interaction with the real product in a
brick-and-mortar store. Questions were prefaced with, “If I were actually shopping for
clothing online, this web site would ...”, followed by “let me easily visualize what the
actual garment is like”, “give me as much sensory information about the product as I
would experience in a store”, “create a product experience similar to the one I’d have
when shopping in a store”, “allow me to interact with the product as I would in the
store”, and “provide accurate sensory information about the products”. The scale
developers found this measure to be reliable (i.e. consistency of response towards the
items within the scale) with a Cronbach’s alpha coefficient of 0.85.
The fantasy measure consisted of four items developed by Fiore et al. (2000) and
also used in Fiore and Yu (2001) to examine how well marketing stimuli helped create a
pleasant mental image involving the use of the product, how well one could see herself
in the mental image, how vivid the image was, and how clear the image was. Anchors
were “Not at all well” and “Very well” for the 1 to 5 Likert-type scale, respectively.
Cronbach’s alpha coefficient for this measure was 0.86 (Fiore and Yu, 2001), but 0.67 in
Fiore et al. (2000). A six-item scale assessing shopping enjoyment on the web site was
derived from the modified Zaichkowsky Personal Involvement Inventory (McQuarrie
and Munson, 1986). These items consisted of anchors tapping how enjoyable, boring,
and fun shopping would be and were prefaced with, “If I were actually shopping for
clothing online, this web site would create a shopping experience that would be ...
Cronbach’s alpha coefficient for this measure was 0.90. Two items each, derived from
Fiore et al.’s (2005a, b) study, assessed willingness to purchase via the web site and
willingness to patronize (revisit) the web site. Cronbach’s alpha coefficients were 0.93
and 0.89, respectively. In addition, demographic information such as age, sex, and
ethnicity was elicited.
Experimental procedure
Two graduate assistants pilot tested the instrument and procedure to:
.ensure clarity of item wording and instructions;
.determine time needed to sufficiently interact with the web site; and
.test for potential computer/network problems.
Participants completed the study in a college computer lab with uniform internet
connection speeds, browser (Internet Explorer version 6.0), and time exposure to the
web site. Trained research assistants distributed questionnaires and explained study
procedures. Because the amount of exposure to a stimulus may affect evaluation
(Zajonc, 2001) and in turn, affect telepresence (Klein, 2003), the assistant controlled web
site exposure to three minutes. The participants were asked to:
(1) answer questions related to the internet usage;
(2) read instructions encouraging them to think about buying a pair of jeans for the
upcoming season;
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(3) browse the stimulus web site for three minutes; and then
(4) complete the questionnaire.
An assistant collected the instruments once completed.
Results
Reliability
Multi-item variables had acceptable levels of internal consistency (Nunnally and
Bernstein, 1994) with Cronbach alpha coefficients above 0.70. Cronbach alpha
coefficients for telepresence, fantasy, and shopping enjoyment were 0.83, 0.78, and 0.96,
respectively. Cronbach alpha coefficients for willingness to purchase and willingness
to patronize were 0.74 and 0.87, respectively.
Model analysis
Whereas the sample size for the present study was small, it was sufficient for testing
the present model. Aligned with past research (Raney et al., 2003), the sample size in
the present study is sufficient because of the model’s highly reliable variables, use of fit
indices (i.e. CFI) less sensitive to sample size variation (Holbert and Stephenson, 2002),
and use of cutoff criteria (comparative goodness-of-fit index ðCFIÞ.0:95;
standardized root mean square residuals ðSRMRÞ,0:08) recommended for smaller
sample sizes (Hu and Bentler, 1998, 1999). The conceptual model consisted of one
exogenous variable (i.e. variables not predicted by any other variables in a model)
(telepresence) and four endogenous variables (i.e. variables predicted by other
variables in a model) (fantasy, shopping enjoyment, willingness to purchase, and
willingness to patronize) (Figure 1). The multiple items for each construct were
summed to create one research variable for each construct. Causal model analysis was
conducted by a maximum-likelihood estimation procedure using statistical software
(AMOS 4.0). The fit statistics suggest that the hypothesized model fits the data well
with CFI .0:95 and SRMR ,0:08. Chi
2
estimates (Chi2¼4:33, df ¼3) were included
to provide degree of freedom information with caution because these estimates are
sensitive to variation in sample sizes (see Figure 2). Correlations between variables are
reported in Table I. Figure 2 presents the hypothesized effects of predictor variables on
endogenous variables. The strength of the hypothesized effects is indicated by
standard path coefficients, which are the non-parenthesized numbers on the path
arrows in Figure 2. T-values, which indicate whether a path coefficient is statistically
significant at a certain significance level, are presented in the parentheses on the path
Correlation
Model constructs (n¼86) Mean
a
SD12345
1. Telepresence 3.13 0.85
2. Fantasy 2.50 0.82 0.278 *
3. Enjoyment 2.95 1.00 0.461 *0.508 *
4. Willingness to purchase 2.84 1.06 0.414 *0.422 *0.525 *
5. Willingness to patronize 2.86 1.21 0.285 *0.364 *0.567 *0.764 *
Note:
a
Mean is the summated mean score for multiple-item measures with a 1-5 scale for each
construct; *p#0:05
Table I.
Descriptive statistics and
correlation coefficients
for model constructs
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Figure 2.
The revised model
showing R
2
and t-values
for telepresence, fantasy,
shopping enjoyment,
willingness to purchase
and willingness to
patronize
Telepresence and
fantasy
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arrows. Figure 2 also provides the amount of variance for each endogenous variable
that could be accounted for by all predictor variables preceding it (R
2
). For instance,
the R
2
of shopping enjoyment is 0.37, which means 37 percent of the variance of
shopping enjoyment was accounted for by its two predictor variables, telepresence and
fantasy (Figure 2). The larger the R
2
, the better the predictive relationship between the
variables tested.
All hypotheses, except H5, were statistically supported. H1, predicting a positive
relationship between telepresence and fantasy, was supported (
b
¼0:28, t¼2:67,
p#0:01) as was H2, proposing a positive relationship between telepresence and
shopping enjoyment (
b
¼0:35, t¼3:86, p#0:001). H3, predicting a positive
relationship between telepresence and willingness to purchase also was support
(
b
¼0:21, t¼2:10, p#0:05). H4 and H5 specified the effect of fantasy on shopping
enjoyment and willingness to purchase. The proposed relationship between fantasy
and shopping enjoyment (H4) was supported (
b
¼0:41, t¼4:59, p#0:001). H5,
testing the effect of fantasy on willingness to purchase was not supported, but
approached statistically significance (
b
¼0:20, t¼0:93, p¼0:054). H6, examining
the effect of shopping enjoyment on willingness to purchase, was statistically
supported (
b
¼0:33, t¼2:97, p#0:01). Lastly, H7, predicting a positive relationship
between willingness to purchase and willingness to patronize was statistically
supported (
b
¼76, t¼10:90, p#0:001).
To further examine the effects of telepresence on fantasy, shopping enjoyment,
willingness to purchase, and willingness to patronize, we conducted a decomposition of
direct, indirect, and total effects of predictor variables on endogenous variables
(Table II).
The predictor variables are listed in the left column of Table II and their direct,
indirect, and total effects) on each endogenous variables are listed within the table.
Predictor variables Telepresence Fantasy Enjoyment Willingness to purchase R
2
Fantasy
Indirect effect
Direct effect 0.28 *
Total effect 0.28 *0.08
Enjoyment
Indirect effect 0.11 *
Direct effect 0.35 *0.41 *
Total effect 0.47 *0.41 *0.37
Willingness to purchase
Indirect effect 0.20 *0.13 *
Direct effect 0.21 *0.2 0.33 *
Total effect 0.41 *0.33 *0.33 *0.34
Willingness to patronize
Indirect effect 0.31 *0.25 *0.25 *
Direct effect 0.76 *
Total effect 0.31 *0.25 *0.25 *0.76 *0.58
Notes: *p#0:05; Standardized path estimates are reported
Table II.
Examining indirect,
direct, and total effects of
predictor variables on
fantasy, enjoyment,
willingness to purchase,
and willingness to
patronize
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Direct effects are the hypothesized effects, which are represented by the path arrows in
Figure 2. As explained earlier, the strength of direct effects are indicated by the path
coefficients. An indirect effect is the effect of a predictor variable on an endogenous
variable via a third variable. For instance, telepresence affects shopping enjoyment
directly and at the same time indirectly via fantasy. A total effect is the sum of the
direct and indirect effects of a predictor variable on an endogenous variable. Table II
also provides the amount of explained variance by predictor variables for each
endogenous variable (R
2
). Overall, our proposed conceptual model explained a fair
amount of variance for shopping enjoyment (R2¼0:37). Path coefficients showed both
telepresence and fantasy had significant direct effects (
b
¼0:41,
b
¼0:35) on
shopping enjoyment. A fair amount of variance for willingness to purchase (R2¼0:34)
was explained by telepresence and shopping enjoyment. Telepresence had both
significant direct and indirect effects on willingness to purchase. Fantasy had a
significant but indirect effect on willingness to purchase, suggesting the mediating
effect of shopping enjoyment. Lastly, a significant amount of variance for willingness
to patronize (R2¼0:58) was explained by willingness to purchase. In summary,
telepresence and fantasy had strong direct effects on shopping enjoyment and strong
direct and indirect effects on willingness to purchase. Willingness to purchase had a
strong direct effect on willingness to patronize.
Discussion
Results of the present study show that telepresence created by retail web site positively
affected consciousness in the form of fantasy. Fantasy, in turn, affected the value
derived from the experience. Shopping enjoyment, which taps experiential value from
the shopping experience, was positively affected by fantasy. Pleasure can result from
the mental activity of creating fantasies (Fiore and Kimle, 1997) as well as from the
emotional content of the fantasy itself; it is difficult to disentangle the positive effects of
the cognitive process and the content of the created mental imagery (MacInnis and
Price, 1987). Pleasure from the cognitive process of fantasizing and from the emotional
state created by the content of the fantasy may both contribute to value derived from
the online shopping experience and deserves study.
The results of the present study reveal that telepresence has a significant direct
effect on fantasy, but telepresence explained a small fraction (R2¼0:08) of the
variance for fantasy, which indicates that other factors also affect fantasy. The web
site stimuli for the present study included a virtual model feature, which is a form of
image interactivity technology (i.e. web site features that allow the viewer to
manipulate product images) to enhance telepresence. Type of image interactivity
technology affects level of telepresence (Fiore et al., 2005a, b). Future research can
explore the effects of both simple and more advanced image interactivity technology
on telepresence level and resulting fantasy. Web site technology that provides higher
quality and quantity of product information and better ability to interact with the
product may lead to a higher telepresence level (Fiore et al., 2005a, b; Shih, 1998; Steuer,
1992), which in turn may result in more elaborate consumer fantasies. Further, online
retailers may consider web site technology that enables the consumer to simulate
wearing the product in an out-of-store experience, such as viewing the virtual model
wearing a bathing suit in a beach or pool setting.
Telepresence and
fantasy
565
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The results of the present study show that both telepresence and fantasy
significantly influenced shopping enjoyment, which consequently led to willingness to
purchase from the apparel retail web site. These results support research (Fiore et al.,
2005a, b) that found that telepresence affected experiential value. This corroborates
that online retailers should use web site features that stimulate telepresence and
fantasy to create experiential value for customers.
The present study provides further empirical support for the findings of previous
research (Fiore et al., 2005a, b; Ghani and Desphande, 1994; Klein, 2003) that telepresence
positively predicts willingness to purchase. Telepresence affects willingness to purchase
both directly and indirectly through effects of fantasy and shopping enjoyment. The
direct effect of telepresence on willingness to purchase may be due to the ability to
acquire product information needed for rational decision making. This suggests that
investing in technologies that enhance telepresence may ultimately help convert
browsers to purchasers. An example of such a technology, My Virtual Modele,hasbeen
used by online apparel retailers such as Land’s End and credited with increasing sales
and profitability (My Virtual Modele, 2002; Waxer, 2001).
The present study did not produce a significant direct effect of fantasy on
willingness to purchase. Instead, fantasy affected willingness to purchase indirectly
through enhanced shopping enjoyment. Therefore, fantasy may augment the
experiential value in shopping experience rather than assist rational
decision-making, as noted by Mani and MacInnis (2003). This supports Holbrook
and Hirschman’s (1982) claim that experiential elements (fantasy, feelings, and fun) of
consumption deserve to be studied for their intrinsic value.
Finally, we found that willingness to purchase from an apparel retail web site led to
willingness to patronize the web site. Once the customer purchases from a web site, it
appears that the customer would be willing to revisit the web site. To encourage
patronage of the site, online retailers could use previously gathered information from
web site features to add experiential and utilitarian value to returning customers. For
instance, online retailers could create a “customer closet” feature that saves images of
past purchased products to coordinate with products currently being offered.
The present study provides empirical support for the positive effect of telepresence
on consumer response. Holbrook’s (1986) C-E-V model of consumption experience was
helpful in identifying mediating factors between telepresence and consumer responses.
In line with the C-E-V model, the present study illustrates the effect of consciousness
(fantasy), stimulated by telepresence, on experiential value (shopping enjoyment).
Shopping enjoyment, in turn, affects consumer responses. One limitation of the present
study is its sample (i.e. female students at a US university.). Generalization of the
findings to the entire population is not advisable. Also, only one web site feature was
studied. Other features may provide different results. Future studies may explore the
role and antecedents of fantasy created by telepresence on emotional state, such as
level of emotional pleasure, arousal, and dominance (Mehrabian and Russell, 1974), and
resulting consumer responses towards the retailer and product.
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About the authors
Kun Song is a PhD Student in the Textiles and Clothing program at Iowa State University. He
obtained a master’s degree in 2001 at Dong Hua University, Shanghai, China. His research focus
on consumer behavior related to e-commerce. Kun Song is the corresponding author and can be
contacted at: songkun@iastate.edu
Ann Marie Fiore is an Associate Professor in the College of Human Science at Iowa State
University. Her research and teaching focus on the effects of experiential pleasure from design of
promotional settings on consumer behavior.
Jihye Park is an Assistant Professor in the Marketing Department at Hankuk University in
Korea. Her research focuses on multi-channel retailing and technology use.
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... In contrast, various studies confirmed the effect of this factor in the circumstances of e-commerce. For instance, Song et al. [55] confirmed that telepresence was positively related to willingness to purchase from a website. Moreover, Algharabat [56] found that telepresence positively correlates with user engagement in online retail. ...
... Despite the direct influence of this factor, some researchers have demonstrated its indirect impact through enjoyment. For instance, Song et al. [55] confirmed that telepresence is a beneficial indicator of customer enjoyment. As a result, shopping enjoyment had a positive influence on purchase from a website. ...
... Moreover, the findings of Song et al. [55] confirmed a positive relationship between telepresence and willingness to purchase from a website, while Algharabat [56] found that TEL had a positive relationship with user engagement in online retail and with brand engagement. ...
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... This result coincides with prior studies (e.g., Leung, Lyu, and Bai 2020) showing that VR commercials displaying higher levels of telepresence imposed greater perceptual loads and attracted more attention to the commercial itself, leading to stronger (re)visit intention. This finding also corroborates previous work in the e-business, peer-to-peer accommodation, and 3D commercial realms (e.g., Song, Fiore, and Park 2007;Ye et al. 2020) in that higher telepresence can promote consumers' online purchase intentions. We have therefore extended research from online retail contexts (e.g., Song et al. 2007) with empirical evidence that consumers' psychological experiences with VR commercials featuring higher telepresence can be transformed into actual travel intentions. ...
... This finding also corroborates previous work in the e-business, peer-to-peer accommodation, and 3D commercial realms (e.g., Song, Fiore, and Park 2007;Ye et al. 2020) in that higher telepresence can promote consumers' online purchase intentions. We have therefore extended research from online retail contexts (e.g., Song et al. 2007) with empirical evidence that consumers' psychological experiences with VR commercials featuring higher telepresence can be transformed into actual travel intentions. ...
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... The sensory stimulation of users creating clothing ensembles was also pointed out in the older VTO studies (e.g. Fiore et al., 2005;Song et al., 2007) and supported by the literature on experimental aesthetics (Packard and Berlyne, 1974). ...
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