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Online shopping environments in fashion shopping: An SOR based review



This paper presents a critical review of online environmental psychology articles based on the stimulus-organism-response paradigm. The structure of the paper follows the sequence of the S-O-R framework, i.e. starting with environmental stimuli both in traditional and online store settings. Then, consumers' inner organism theories are reviewed, followed by behavioural responses. This endeavour also table-summarises a selected set of the most relevant articles in the specific setting of online fashion shopping environments. Content analysis of the table shows that two main themes have emerged in literature; one investigates the influence of online environmental stimuli on consumer trust and risk perception; whereas the second theme is more emotion-centred. Finally, the paper highlights the limitations of current literature and presents an agenda for future research.
Online Shopping Environments in Fashion Shopping: An S-O-R based review
Fatema Kawaf, PhD researcher in Marketing, Strathclyde University
Tel: 07542210169
Stephen Tagg, PhD, reader in Marketing at the University of Strathclyde
Tel: 01412210169
Correspondence address:
Fatema Kawaf
Department of Marketing
Stenhouse Building
University of Strathclyde
173 Cathedral Street
G4 0RQ
This paper presents a critical review of online environmental psychology articles based on
the stimulus-organism-response paradigm. The structure of the paper follows the sequence
of the S-O-R framework i.e. starting with environmental stimuli both in traditional and
online store settings. Then, consumer’s inner organism theories are reviewed, followed by
behavioural responses.
This endeavour also table-summarizes a selected set of most relevant articles in the specific
settings of online fashion shopping environments. Content analysis of the table shows that
two main themes have emerged in literature; one investigates the influence of online
environmental stimuli on consumer trust and risk perception; whereas the second theme is
more emotion-centred. Finally, the paper highlights the limitations of current literature and
presents an agenda for future research.
Keywords Fashion Shopping, Online Consumer Behaviour, Emotion, E-servicescape, Online
Environment, S-O-R
Word count: 6,455 excluding front and abstract pages and references.
Fatema Kawaf, is PhD researcher in Consumer Behaviour at Strathclyde Business School,
Glasgow, UK. She received her MSc degree in Marketing from Swansea University. Fatema
has worked in business schools both in Syria and the UK for a few years.
Stephen Tagg, PhD, reader in Marketing at the University of Strathclyde
In spite of the rapid emergence of web-based fashion retailers (Birchall, 2010; Costa, 2010);
the field is considerably under researched. Reports indicate that fashion products are the
second most popular among online purchases (Birchall, 2010). However, consumers are still
facing many obstacles which may hinder them from purchasing clothes online. Some of
these obstacles, suggested by GSI1 Commerce, include being unable to (a) try clothes on, (b)
see their quality before buying them, (c) return items to a physical store, or (d) speak to
helpful staff. In addition to poorly designed or confusing websites, inconvenient delivery
schedules and having to pay for delivery (Costa, 2010)
Equally important to the abovementioned obstacles is that fashion shopping is not “simply
limited to the spending of money on products; rather, shopping is also an important
socializing and engaging exercise that provides opportunities to see and be with others”
(Kang, 2009, p. 1). The dramatic shift of social fashion shopping to a screen-and-keyboard
experience imposes high importance on the online environment in which the shopping
experience occurs.
Online consumer behaviour is relatively a new topic with “an apparent paucity of articles”
(Laroche, 2009b). Also, studies on fashion (Jackson & Shaw, 2009; Jacobs & de Klerk, 2010)
and emotion (Wadhwa 2007; Griskevicius, Shiota et al. 2010) are scant in Consumer
Research. The aim of this paper is to critically review pertinent literature on online
environments and consumer emotion and cognition in fashion shopping experiences.
1 GSI Commerce an e-commerce company that provides e-commerce services
Articles reviewed are mainly based on the Stimulus, Organism, Response (S-O-R), although
studies of different theoretical backgrounds will be generally discussed.
This review starts by addressing the S-O-R paradigm and its application to the online
environment. Thorough review of stimulus, organism, and response literature will follow;
and a chosen set of most relevant articles is coded in a table, and content analysed. Finally,
discussion and agenda for future research is suggested based on the analysis of current
The S-O-R paradigm
Studying the effect of the environment on human behaviour has its roots in Psychology.
Stimulus-response theory was the first to suggest a link between the environment and
behaviour. In Marketing research, Kotler (1973) initially referred to the importance of
environmental atmospherics as a marketing tool. Then, the concept of the surrounding
retail environment was further developed as Bitner coined the term ‘servicescape’, defined
as “All of the objective physical factors that can be controlled by the firm to enhance (or
constrain) employee and customer actions” (Bitner, 1992, p. 65); suggesting that human
beings within the service interaction are affected by the surrounding physical environment.
Later definitions of servicescape included non-physical components called social factors;
concluding that servicescape is comprised of ambient factors, design factors and social
factors (Ezeh & Harris, 2007)
Back to the stimulus-response theory, this behaviouristic psychology was criticised by
Lazarus (1998, p. xvii) arguing that “a person in this interchange is a passive creature,
reacting to an environment that stimulates him or her, and that person’s influence on the
environment is ignored”. Consumers under the stimulus-response paradigm are viewed as
machines which react automatically to stimuli; a lamp and a power-switch is probably the
best metaphor of this perspective. While a direct influence of the environment on human
beings cannot be denied, scholars suggested that one missing link in this relation is that
human beings differ from machines in developing organismic reactions (Mehrabian &
Russell, 1974). Hence, the S-O-R suggests that when a person is exposed to external stimuli,
inner organism changes precede behavioural responses.
The S-O-R has dominated consumer behaviour literature and has been widely employed in
marketing studies (Arora, 1982; Buckley, 1991; Donovan & Rossiter, 1994; Wakefield &
Blodgett, 1996). Specifically, in traditional store environment, research has investigated the
influence of the buying environment or the servicescape on customers’ expectations,
cognition and emotion (Aubert-Gamet, 1997; Bitner, 1990, 1992; Booms & Bitner, 1982;
Reimer & Kuehn, 2005; Wakefield & Blodgett, 1996)
The shift toward the online environment
As the internet is becoming a major or complementary sales channel for many retailers,
research on the online buying environment or what is referred to as e-atmosphere or e-
servicescape has emerged e.g. (Birchall, 2010; Chang & Chen, 2008; Darley, Blankson, &
Luethge, 2010; Demangeot & Broderick, 2007; Eroglu, Machleit, & Davis, 2001; Éthier,
Hadaya, Talbot, & Cadieux, 2006; Goode & Harris, 2007; Harris & Goode, 2010; Häubl &
Trifts, 2000; Koo & Ju, 2009; Lee, Kim, & Fiore, 2010; Lorenzo, Molla, & Gomez-Borja, 2008;
E. E. Manganari, Siomkos, & Vrechopoulos, 2009; Mummalaneni, 2005; Salleh & Ha, 2009).
Several endeavours were made to customize the S-O-R model to fit the online shopping
context. (Eroglu, et al., 2001) suggested that there is a need to systematically develop a
comprehensive taxonomy of online atmospheric cues and to identify their major dimensions
similarly to what has been done within the traditional retail store environment. Later
studies started to deepen main understanding of online atmospherics and consumer
responses and behaviour in the online environment, see table 1. In short, among online
environment literature two main themes have emerged, one is studying the effect of the
online buying environment on trust (Chang & Chen, 2008; Harris & Goode, 2010) and
another studying its effect on cognition and emotion (H. Kim & Lennon, 2010; Lee, et al.,
2010; Mummalaneni, 2005)
The following three sections provide a review on each of the SOR constructs, i.e. stimuli,
organism and response consecutively.
Online environment stimuli
As aforementioned, servicescape comprised of ambient factors, design factors and social
factors (Ezeh & Harris, 2007). Similarly, online environmental stimuli are comprised of
ambient factors (Mummalaneni, 2005) and design factors (Éthier, et al., 2006; M. Kim, Kim,
& Lennon, 2006; Koo & Ju, 2009). Research on social factors of the online environment,
albeit scant, is growing in the form of social network sites and virtual community research
(Flavián & Guinalíu, 2005; Ku, 2011). Other online environmental stimuli mainly include
product presentation (visual and verbal) factors (M. Kim & Lennon, 2008), layout and
functionality (Goode & Harris, 2007) and links and menus on the website (Koo & Ju, 2009).
Concerns of online atmospherics emerge as the emergent of the notion of online shopping.
Unlike traditional store shopping, online shoppers face various obstacles (Birchall, 2010).
Hence, it is vitally important to focus on the website as the main medium of communication
as well as the main distribution channel for many retailers such as Amazon, ASOS...etc.
Early research attributed the prosperity of online shopping to product types. Li and Gery
(2000) argued that homogeneous products would be more successful sellers online as
opposed to heterogeneous products. However, looking at recent reports, clothes are
considered the second most popular among online purchases (Birchall, 2010). Although
apparel shopping probably involves one of the highest levels of product risk due to the need
to (a) touch fabrics, (b) try on clothes and (c) see product colours instead of screen colours
in addition to all the obstacles aforementioned.
As a result, increasing attention is being paid to the unique nature of online fashion
shopping. Thus, due to this unique nature of fashion, online environmental stimuli have a
different focus within apparel websites.
Fashion shopping
Taking fashion to the online market is a dramatic shift in this social experience. Absence of
helpful staff can also challenge this experience especially that fashion products are
heterogeneous in nature. This emphasizes the importance of contemporary technologies in
advancing the online shopping environment for fashion sites. Hence, the social dimension of
fashion shopping might be met through technology. Kang (2009, p. 1) comments “Given
contemporary advances in fashion retail systems and information technologies, social
shopping experiences have become even more complex and complicated”. Indeed,
contemporary technologies could mark a new era of online fashion shopping only if it meets
consumer’s needs and offers ways to overcome the obstacles to online shopping.
Lee, Kim, and Fiore (2010) suggested that with regards to fashion shopping, image
interactivity i.e. image zooming and 360 degree rotation increase shopping enjoyment and
reduce perceived risk toward the online retailer. Kim and Lennon (2010) investigated the
influence of further product presentation features such as the use of a model (as opposed
to flat display) and colour swapping on clothing in addition to image zooming. However, as a
highly controlled experiment, the study triggers no links between the use of model and
colour swapping in the particular study. That is not to say that these elements are not as
important as zooming, thus further research should address them, perhaps using conjoint
modelling to determine the relative importance assigned to individual attributes of the
online environment.
Ha, et al. (2007) suggested, as a result of 100 apparel websites being content analysed, that
most visual merchandising features of traditional offline stores are implemented in online
apparel websites. According to Ha, et al. (2007), visual merchandising features comprise of
(a) online path finding assistance (search engines, site maps, and categorization), (b)
environment atmospherics including music, videos, display, background colours and colours
surrounding the products, and (c) manner of product presentation such as product view and
display method, colour and methods of presentation, detailed views, swatch and mix and
match. While the endeavour showed interesting results regarding the online environment
for what has already been done in literature and what is practically implemented on the
different websites, the piece invited research to empirically study these features and their
influence on consumers in order to show the tradeoffs between different presentation
methods. Because of the inability to try on apparel products before purchase, Ha, et al.
(2007, p. 489) expected that “of the three factors, online product presentation will be most
important in the context of online apparel stores”.
Equally important is to study the social dimensions of online fashion shopping. New features
implemented on different websites include links to share outfits on social media sites as
well as Facebook groups and pages where customers have the ability to chat and share
thoughts of the particular brand or piece of clothes of interest. Also, some websites started
to implement chat with advisor facility which offers the opportunity to speak to an advisor
as in offline stores. On the social dimension, Holzwarth, Janiszewski, and Neumann (2006)
suggest that avatar- a pictorial representation of a human in a chat environment- can
enhance the effectiveness of a Web-based sales channel. That is, having the choice to chat
with an advisor may result in a more successful apparel websites.
The last point is that fashion behaviour is deeply rooted in emotional and psychological
motivations (Jackson & Shaw, 2009; Kang & Park-Poaps, 2010). Following is a review of
consumer emotion as an organism.
Organism (Emotion and Cognition)
The organism is represented by cognitive and affective intermediary states and processes
that mediate the relationships between the stimulus and the individual’s responses. (Chang
& Chen, 2008,p. 820)
Studies in Marketing and Environmental Psychology have often mixed up emotion with
mood, affect, feelings or attitudes. For instance, an emotion is considered ‘‘a mental state of
readiness that arises from appraisals of events or of one’s thoughts’’ (Bagozzi, Gopinath, &
Nyer, 1999, p. 184). Affect has also been defined by Éthier, et al. (2006, p. 628) as “the term
for a set of specific mental processes, including feelings, moods, and emotions”.
However, Cohen, et al. (2008, p. 3) reserve the term “affect” to describe an internal feeling
state, differentiate it from mood by illustrating “One’s explicit or implicit 'liking' for some
object, person, or position is viewed as an evaluative judgment rather than an internal
feeling state”. That is, emotion and affect arise from evaluating someone or something
based on cognitive appraisal theories of emotions. Yet, going back to environmental
psychology, the S-O-R paradigm suggests that feelings or emotions are the natural result of
exposure to environment stimuli.
Moreover, Jones, et al. (2008, p. 4) define emotion and mood as specific examples of affect
whereas emotion is more intensive, stimulus specific, and of shorter period; noting that
affect is “in reference to a valence feeling state”. Therefore, by suggesting valence feeling
state, emotion split it into positive, negative and mixed emotions; assuming that positive
emotions have specific effects on behaviour as well as negative and mixed ones (L. Watson
& Spence, 2007). However, recent research shows huge differences in the effect of different
emotions of the same group i.e. positive emotions (V Griskevicius, Shiota, & Neufeld, 2010 ;
V Griskevicius, Shiota, & Nowlis, 2010); For instance, Griskevicius, et al. (2010) show how
two positive emotions pride and contentment hugely differ in their effect on behaviour. The
former enhances desirability to show in public display while the latter enhances desirability
to buy product for private/home use.
Emotions measurement
The nature and structure of Emotion, albeit important, are not the only concern of Emotion
literature. A growing body of literature is focused on the measurement of Emotions
categorically such as the PANAS: positive affect negative affect scale (D. Watson, Clark, &
Tellegen, 1988), dimensionally such as the (PAD) model (Mehrabian & Russell, 1974), using
hierarchical clusters (Laros & Steenkamp, 2005), using a Consumption-related Emotion Set
CES (Richins, 1997), studying each emotion individually such as enjoyment (Lin, Gregor, &
Ewing, 2008) or using facial expressions (Ekman, 1992).
To measure affective states of organism, Russell and Mehrabian (1977) introduced the PAD:
Pleasure, Arousal, Dominance model of emotions. According to the PAD, emotions can be
measured dimensionally on the basis of pleasure/displeasure, arousal/nonarousal,
dominance/ submissiveness resulting in either positive or negative emotions. The PAD
model of dimentional emotion is highly studied in consumer reseach, it was applied in retail
setting by Donovan and Rossiter (1994). However, most recent studies have dropped the
‘Dominance’ dimension in online retail contexts (Ballantine & Fortin, 2009; Mummalaneni,
2005) . By grouping emotions into positive/negative types, deep meanings of each unique
emotion is lost (V Griskevicius, et al., 2010 a; V. Griskevicius, Shiota, & Neufeld, 2010b). It is
also questionable to employ the PAD under cognitive appraisal theories of emotions. As
commented by (Desmet, 2010) on the work of (Massara, Liu, & Melara, 2009).
From a constructivist view of emotions (Mandler, 1990), Lazarus cognitive appraisal theory
“offers a more in-depth way to explain the subtle nuances of emotion” (L. Watson &
Spence, 2007, p. 490). Lazarus theory proposes that when exposed to stimuli, a person first
evaluates the situation hence; a cognitive appraisal is made (either consciously or
subconsciously). Then, based on the result of that appraisal, an emotion emerges and a
response follows. Watson and Spence (2007) referred to the importance of cognitive
appraisal theory of emotion in predicting what emotions should be elicited in a particular
interaction and how the evoked emotions influence behaviour. Lazarus (1991) state that
within the appraisal theory, emotions are associated with a person’s goals and motivations
and is important in understanding coping strategies (Lazarus, 1993; Lazarus & Launier,
1978). Applying this theory in an S-O-R paradigm offers the opportunity of a non-
mechanistic view of human being, hence, making the ‘organism, response’ in the S-O-R
model more complicated than the automatic lamp effect of the positivist point of view. The
cognitive appraisal theory of emotion has been very popular in consumer behaviour
research and highly recommended by (Bagozzi, et al., 1999; L. Watson & Spence, 2007).
Particularly, in online shopping behaviour, cognitive appraisal theory has been widely
applied (Éthier, et al., 2006; Jones, et al., 2008; L. Watson & Spence, 2007). Éthier, et al.
(2006) argue that this theory is appropriate for online shopping research, where information
processing is an important aspect and because it has predictive capability and can be used
to develop research models.
Some studies addressed an interrelationship between cognition and emotion by highlighting
the importance of studying the influence of emotions on both cognition and behaviour (V
Griskevicius, et al., 2010 ; V Griskevicius, et al., 2010; López & Ruiz, 2010). Even traditionally,
research had illustrated impressive and consistent results on the influence of mood on
cognition (J. Russell & Snodgrass, 1987).
In other cases, cognition is perceived as the dominant factor that moderate emotions.
Demangeot and Broderick (2007, p. 880) comment “While affect appears to play a role,
online shopping environments are perceived in a more cognitive manner than offline
environments. This could be the case because of the higher cognitive effort necessary for a
computer-mediated activity which is less intuitive than the activity of offline shopping”.
The last stream of research suggests that stimuli have no direct effect on emotion. Instead,
a customer evaluates stimuli first and then specific emotions emerge (Desmet, 2009;
Massara, et al., 2009; Smith & Ellsworth, 1985).
Next is an overview of the responsive consequences of environmental stimuli effects and
consumer’s emotion and cognition.
According to the S-O-R, following the exposure to stimuli and the development of consumer
inner organism, a responsive behaviour emerges. Various responses are addressed in the
literature. One is the approach-avoidance theory; customers react to the servicescape by
displaying one of two diametrically opposed forms of behaviour approach or avoidance
(Aubert-Gamet, 1997; Eroglu, et al., 2001; Ezeh & Harris, 2007). Approach behaviour
comprises all the positive behaviours of willing to stay, explore and purchase; whereas
avoidance is the opposite. Nonetheless, the proposed research places particular importance
on ‘complete/incomplete purchase’ as a form of behaviour.
Another highly popular responsive behaviour the literature addresses is behavioural
intention. Behavioural intention comprises of the intent to purchase(Ballantine & Fortin,
2009; H. Kim & Lennon, 2010; Koo & Ju, 2009), repurchase, spread positive word of mouth
WOM and become loyal (Jayawardhena & Wright, 2009) to the online retailer; in addition
to switching and complaining behaviour. Attitude toward the website is another responsive
behaviour studied by many researchers such as (Lee, et al., 2010).
Analysis of literature
To steer the subsequent discussion, table 1 lists the most relevant articles for the purpose of
this review under the S-O-R paradigm in an online shopping context. A database of 250
articles was collected over a 12-month period of time. Keywords used for the gathering of
these papers include: online environment, shopping atmosphere, web atmospherics,
servicescape, online servicescape, web design, emotion, cognition, stimulus-organism-
response, S-O-R, PAD, fashion shopping, clothes, apparel website, avatar and online
consumer behaviour. For the purpose of this review, a limited number of articles were
chosen to be coded and analysed. Criteria for articles selection are as follow, (a) articles
employing the S-O-R or a modified S-O-R model, (b) articles studying the buying
environment or any of its features as the independent variables, (c) articles must be
studying (a and b) in online shopping context and not in a traditional purchase settings.
The sum of 25 articles which met the criteria abovementioned is chosen for the analysis.
Alike the table presented in Darley, et al. (2010), the selected articles were coded according
to the following dimension: research method, sample size, sample source, area of field
work, independent variable, moderator and mediator, dependent variable and findings.
Area of Field
and Fortin
Simulated site
for digital
amount of
The likelihood
of purchase
Higher interactivity leads to pleased
shoppers. Pleased and aroused
shoppers might have a higher
likelihood of purchase
and Chen
cues: website
quality, brand
Brand is a more important cue than
web quality in influencing purchase
intention. However, intention, as
well as trust and perceived risk, is
influenced by website quality and
brand though.
Chen, et
al. (2009),
n, electronics,
books, DVD,
luxury items,
and travel
shopping and
product factors
Shoppers are categorized according
to their preferences and computer
expertise. E-tailers targeting new
customers, possibly who lack
computer expertise, must take this
into account when designing
et al.
(2001), JR
+ Grocery
Online book
and food
Enjoyment is a strong predictor of
attitudes in hedonic and utilitarian
shopping settings, yet, it is much
stronger in hedonic ones. In
contrast, ease of use and usefulness
are stronger predictors than
enjoyment in utilitarian shopping.
Table 1: Summary review of S-O-R based online shopping environment articles
Area of Field
Eroglu, et
al. (2001),
cues: High/ low
A need to systematically develop a
comprehensive taxonomy of online
atmospheric cues and to identify
their major dimensions as in
traditional retail store environment
Éthier, et
al. (2006),
CDs and DVDs
Technical and
visual aspects,
search, contact
with the site
liking, joy,
pride, dislike,
and fear
Shoppers made positive cognitive
appraisals for higher web quality
and that had influenced their
emotions (liking, joy, pride, dislike,
and frustration) but fear! Although,
liking and joy are felt more
Ha, et al.
US and
Online apparel
VMD: Visual
elements of the
apparel website
Most VMD features of offline stores
have been implemented online, it
can be studied under the S-O-R
VMD comprises of online path
finding model (search engines,
sitemaps,), environment and
product presentation.
Harris and
from a
chosen by
appeal, layout,
Among online servicescape factors,
aesthetic appeal of the website is
arguably the most influential.
Shoppers purchase intention is
strongly influenced by website
Table 1: Summary review of S-O-R based online shopping environment articles
Area of Field
Häubl and
websites for
tents, compact
stereo systems
on agent,
Amount of
sets, decision
Participants who viewed websites
containing a recommendation agent
and a comparison matrix made
better quality and efficient purchase
, et al.
s and
footwear site
Avatar type
Using avatar to present product
information leads to satisfaction
with the retailer, a positive attitude
toward the product and a greater
purchase intention. Attractive
avatars are better than expert ones
when involvement is not high.
hena and
attributes of
the web site,
Intent to
return and
word of
All the independent variables
resulted in excited consumers and
those had higher intention to return
and to spread positive WOM.
Jeong, et
al. (2009),
Female fashion
Entertaining and aesthetically
appealing websites makes shoppers
pleased and aroused. Pleasure,
arousal, entertainment, and
aesthetic experiences had direct
effects on web site patronage
Table 1: Summary review of S-O-R based online shopping environment articles
Area of Field
Kim and
Online apparel
Visual and
Shopper attitude is influenced by
visual and verbal information about
the product of interest. However,
verbal information seem to have the
main influence of shopper intention
Kim and
The use of a
model, colour
swapping on
clothing, and
Shoppers who were able to enlarge
product images felt more pleased.
Additionally, those who were
pleased and aroused perceived less
risk and had higher intention to
Kim et al.
Presenting garments on a virtual
model enhances consumers’
emotional responses. The latter is
positively related to cognition.
However, music has no effect on
shopping experiences.
Koo and
Ju (2009),
ed online
colours, links
and menus
Colours, graphics and links on a
website influenced shoppers'
emotions, yet, shoppers with higher
perceived curiosity felt higher
intense emotions.
Table 1: Summary review of S-O-R based online shopping environment articles
Area of Field
Lee, et al.
Online fashion
the online
Image interactivity technology
positively influenced shoppers’
enjoyment and lower risk
perception. Also, enjoyment and
risk directly affected users’ attitudes
toward the e-retailer.
i, et al.
(2011), IR
A fictitious air
travel website
Virtual layout
perceived ease
Perceived virtual store layout’s ease
of use influences consumers’
internal states (i.e., pleasure and
attitude) which in turn influence
consumers’ online response.
Apparel and
Online store
(design and
outcome and
E-atmospherics make shoppers
pleased and aroused. They influence
satisfaction, loyalty and number of
items purchased; but, they do not
affect time or money spent by users
Park, et
al. (2005),
Rotating product images influence
shopper positive mood and lower
their perceived risk. Positive mood
and low risk perception, of course,
lead to higher purchase intention
Table 1: Summary review of S-O-R based online shopping environment articles
Area of Field
Park, et
al. (2008),
Product rotation elevates the
amount of information perceived
and mood, which then increases
attitude leading to increases in
purchase intention.
et al.
cues: virtual
store, operator
This research posits the concept of
dual environments: the online
environment and the shopper
environment in which the human-
computer interaction is taking place.
Wang, et
al. (2010),
Us online
Simulated e-
tailing sites
Web aesthetic
service switch
Shoppers with or without specific
purchase tasks are more satisfied
with aesthetically appealing
website. Similarly, both shoppers
perceive higher online service
quality for aesthetically formal sites.
Table 1: Summary review of S-O-R based online shopping environment articles
Area of Field
function, signs,
There is a need to understand site’s
target market and design according
to the expectations of the target
shoppers; in addition to site
vividness and interactivity.
Yun and
E-tail store
Websites with favourable e-store
image (e-merchandise, e-service, e-
atmosphere) are more likely to win
shoppers patronage and loyalty.
Table 1: Summary review of S-O-R based online shopping environment articles
Table 1 shows that research on online environmental psychology has seen light only
recently, earliest articles were published in 2000 and has been growing to date. A content
analysis of the table shows that the most common research method employed in such
articles is experiment accounting for 52% of the articles. Whereas, survey is used in 32% of
them and the rest are conceptual ones. This is probably because most of the S-O-R based
articles attempt to spot the slight differences in environmental stimuli on a given website.
That is, a need to control the setting is hardly available in real life settings and in most cases
researchers require to use simulated websites rather than real-life ones. This is especially
true for online fashion shopping research as the table shows that over 77% of online apparel
research used experiments and that most of them used simulated websites.
Looking at the independent variables, it is apparent that earlier attempts at conceptualising
online stimuli started with generic terms. For instance, Eroglu, et al. (2001) defined
environment stimuli as high and low task-relevant environmental cues, the former is verbal
content related to the shopping goals including price, terms of sale, delivery, and return
policies...etc. Whereas the latter refer to content which is unrelated to shopping goals such
as colours, borders, fonts, animation, music and sounds, and decorative graphics. While this
initial attempt provided a very important model of S-O-R in online context, it is clear that
environmental stimuli were at a very generic level. Later on, literature started to focus on
specific online stimuli features such as cyberspace: ambient conditions, function, signs,
symbols, artefacts (Williams & Dargel, 2004), e-store image including e-merchandise, e-
service, e-atmosphere (Yun & Good, 2007), Online store environment: design and ambience
factors (Mummalaneni, 2005).
By shedding the light on online fashion literature, it is noticeable that early research started
to focus on specific fashion related stimuli such as product presentation features (Park, et
al., 2005). Nearly most fashion related articles latch on product presentation features as the
main issue of concern. It is apparently expected as the main obstacle of online fashion
shopping is the inability to touch or try on products before purchase, which encounters
higher product risks levels. Hence, the researchers’ focus attention is to enhance product
presentation visually and verbally.
Looking at moderator/mediator column, most of the articles included both emotion and
cognition as organisms which mean playing a mediator role in the S-O-R model. Most
literature measured emotions using the PAD model. Nevertheless, the D: dominance item
was dropped from the model in all of these studies. Hence, emotions were interpreted into
pleasure and arousal dimensions. Only few papers attempted to study specific types of
emotion such as enjoyment (Childers, et al., 2001; Lee, et al., 2010) and shopping
excitement (Jayawardhena & Wright, 2009) or a group of specific emotions (Éthier, et al.,
The dependent variable in most cases is behavioural intention including purchase,
repurchase, loyalty, complaints, switching behaviour. Mainly, purchase intention is the most
popular element studied as a response to exposure to online stimuli. Also, a fair amount of
research used the approach/avoidance theory as a behaviouristic response to
environmental stimuli.
Looking at the findings of these articles, it could be inferred that most stimuli have
contradicting effects on organism and response. One clear effect is that pleasure is affected
by higher levels of interactivity and better web stimuli such as product image enlargement
and rotation (H. Kim & Lennon, 2010). Whereas, the arousal dimension of emotion has been
questioned several times and have contradicting effects.
As highlighted earlier in this review, studies of emotions in consumer behaviour should
consider studying specific types emotions rather than a group or a dimension of them (V
Griskevicius, et al., 2010 ; V Griskevicius, et al., 2010).
Placing table 1 under spotlight, two main themes can be indentified from the coded articles.
The first theme investigates the influential role of online atmospherics on trust and risk
perception. Articles within this theme are probably more cognition-centred. They argue that
environmental stimuli mainly influence cognitive processes such as risk perception and
website trustworthiness, suggesting that high quality websites are more trusted than lower
quality ones (Chang & Chen, 2008). Specifically, aesthetically appealing websites (Harris &
Goode, 2010) and well designed virtual store’s layout lower shoppers’ perceived risk and
enhance their intention to purchase (E. MANGANARI, et al., 2011).
However, due to higher risk levels associated with purchasing garments online, it is
apparent that fashion research is focused on product presentation stimuli as the main
influential factor on trust and risk perception. For instance, image interactivity techniques of
displayed products (Lee, et al., 2010) and 360-degree rotation of product images (Park, et
al., 2005) significantly lower risk perception.
It is noteworthy that risk perception and trust are one of the most important variables
studied in online consumer research. Gundlach & Murphy (1993) comment that building
consumer trust is essential for the success of any interaction or exchange. Thus, with the
employment of web 2.0 techniques as a sales channel, it is only natural that risk perceived
by customers increases dramatically than in traditional sales channels. Therefore, research
is indeed needed to evaluate online risk perception.
The second theme uses emotion as the main organismic construct that results from
exposure to environmental stimuli. In general, most articles under this theme have argued
that pleased and aroused consumers are more likely to purchase or to have one or more
types of the positive behavioural intention aforementioned. Environmental stimuli, in most
articles, affect consumers’ pleasure. Nevertheless, the arousal dimension has not always
been consistent with high quality environmental stimuli. For instance, table 1 shows that
higher levels of interactivity make shoppers pleased but not aroused (Ballantine & Fortin,
2009). Similarly on the fashion dimension, higher levels of image interactivity, rotation and
zooming lead to more pleased shoppers (H. Kim & Lennon, 2010; J. H. Kim, et al., 2009). Yet,
as suggested previously, it is very useful and more meaningful to study the effect of specific
types of emotions on specific behavioural responses such as the influence of shopping
excitement on positive word of mouth (Jayawardhena & Wright, 2009).
Additionally, it could be inferred that emotion has been interchangeably used with mood,
affect, feelings and attitude. However, as previously discussed, each of these concepts is
slightly or hugely different from the others (Cohen, et al., 2008; Jones, et al., 2008).
Limitations and suggestions for future research
The rationale for presenting an S-O-R based literature review is multifaceted. First, the
paradigm has been widely employed and well accepted in consumer behaviour studies e.g.
(Arora, 1982; Buckley, 1991; Donovan & Rossiter, 1994; Wakefield & Blodgett, 1996). While
S-O-R research in Marketing has been initially forwarded by Mehrabian and Russell (1974),
there have been various endeavours to modify and criticise the model such as (Desmet,
2009; Massara, et al., 2009). Moreover, research on online shopping environments has
attempted modifying the S-O-R to fit this context; It was initially attempted by Eroglu, et al.
(2001). Then, It was further modified by Sautter, et al. (2004) suggesting to incorporate the
effect of dual environments in this context; the website environment and the environment
in which the human-computer interaction takes place.
Moreover, the S-O-R falls short of providing a comprehensive view of the effect of the
human body on the environment (Lazarus, 1998) and on the shopping experience itself.
Although, it explains consumer behaviour better than the stimulus-response psychology, it
is still unable to explain how consumer’s emotion may influence the way in which the
interaction occurs. Also, research has recently suggested the importance of incorporating
emotional responses to initial website exposure and identifying their relationships with
other variables in a model of online consumer behaviour, taking into account product
intangibility factors (Laroche, 2009a).
Based on the criticism aforementioned, this review calls for more qualitative research to
conceptualize a comprehensive framework of online S-O-R model. The rational for this
suggestion is to deepen our understanding of the dynamics of the S-O-R paradigm especially
in relation to the shoppers’ inner ‘organism’. Also, conceptualizations of the constructs and
the components of each of the online S-O-R are needed to avoid contradicting views of what
online stimuli are.
This leads to the third reason for presenting this review, in fact, environmental stimuli are a
main topic of concern for web designers and online shopping strategists especially in the
fashion industry, yet research seems to be falling short of catching the technological wave of
the fashion e-tail industry. Apparently, most research has mainly focused on testing what is
believed to be environmental stimuli rather than exploring what these stimuli might be or
might mean from a consumer perspective.
Online stimuli haven’t been sufficiently conceptualized and more research to further
develop the nature and role of web atmospherics (Laroche, 2009b). Researchers use
different terms to refer to online stimuli such as website quality, web atmospherics, e-
atmosphere, online servicescape and online buying environments. However, more
theoretical grounds should be established to define all or each of these terms and whether
they are different.
As for fashion shopping literature, research has already started to focus on stimuli that are
important due to the nature of apparel products. Examples of such stimuli include product
presentation stimuli as images zooming and 3D rotation (H. Kim & Lennon, 2010), video
(catwalk) and size guides (picture, table or text). Practically, the industry has been trying
more advanced stimuli such as virtual fitting rooms, and virtual shopping malls. However,
none of these have been remarkably mentioned in literature. Equally important is the social
dimension of the online shopping experience; increasing attention is being paid to the
significance of social network sites, virtual communities (Chan & Li, 2009; Dholakia, Bagozzi,
& Pearo, 2004; Flavián & Guinalíu, 2005) and customer reviews forum (J. Kim & Gupta,
2011). Although, the social aspect of fashion shopping has been argued before (Kang, 2009)
only few studies incorporated social stimuli of the online environment as main constructs in
the S-O-R framework.
Greater attention should be placed on social environmental stimuli; such as communication
with human beings online whether those human beings are friends and relatives such as in
social network sites, consumers such as on websites’ blogs, Facebook pages...etc, or with a
sales advisor in a private chat boxes available at some fashion websites such as Morpheus
The rational for suggesting the importance of the social dimension of online fashion
shopping is due to (a) the nature of fashion products, (b) the need to deepen our
understanding of online fashion shopper behaviour. Future research should address these
issues and understand whether consumers go online to buy clothes, get inspiration, check
out recent trends and celebrities under spotlight, or review outfit suggestions. Each of these
drivers to go online has its own nature and effect on policies and strategies of online fashion
To sum up, this endeavour presented a review on pertinent literature on online
environmental stimuli in fashion e-tailing based on the stimulus-organism-response
framework. It was concluded that more research is needed for the conceptualization of the
online environmental stimuli components. Also, a call for more qualitative research is made
toward building a more dynamic rather than linear online S-O-R model. Additionally, the
review suggested that more research should be carried out to deepen our understanding of
emotional responses to environmental stimuli. Moreover, specialised research on online
fashion shopping is invited to firstly establish the grounds of the field and secondly catch up
with the speed of the technologies adopted in online fashion shopping.
Finally, it is worth noting that this review is based on the S-O-R framework in online fashion
shopping context. Therefore, caution must be taken when applying the findings of this
review in an offline context or in an industry of different product nature.
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... Customer behavior and marketing studies have widely used the S-O-R theory (Hult en, 2012;Pantano and Viassone, 2015). In a B&M setup, the store environment is the stimuli (S) influencing the customer's internal or organismic states (O), leading to a behavioral response (R) as an approach and avoidance intention, such as the intention to buy or recommend (Kawaf and Tagg, 2012). With the emergence of e-commerce and m-commerce for many retailers, digital channels have become the main or supplementary channel. ...
... Consistent with a previous study (Kawaf and Tagg, 2012), our results show that fashion apparel products involve more customers and induce showrooming activity. The customer is involved in searching for product information across various channels before making a purchase decision. ...
Purpose This study aims to examine the positive impact of showrooming on the fashion retail business by examining the interrelationship between deal-seeking on mobile devices and digital coupon redemption intention on mobile shopping intention. Design/methodology/approach Purposive sampling was used to obtain data from 496 fashion apparel customers using the database of an online survey collection platform. Stimulus organism response (S-O-R) theory was used to examine the influence of showrooming on showroomers' mobile shopping intentions. Findings The findings suggest price consciousness is negatively related to showrooming and product involvement is positively related. In addition, showrooming affects the intention to redeem digital coupons and mobile deal-seeking. The intention to redeem digital coupons boosted mobile deal-seeking behavior. The impact of mobile deal-seeking on showroomers' mobile purchase intention is significant. Research limitations/implications This research focused on fashion product consumers and generalization of the findings may be limited. The literature on positive effect of showrooming phenomenon on brick-and-mortar stores are scarce further extensive research may provide substantial generalization. Practical implications This demonstrates how showroomers may be successfully enticed to make purchases on the Brick-and-Mortar (B&M) store's online channel. Originality/value This study provides insights on navigating the showroomers into online channel customers.
... Their attentiveness in this regard creates opportunities for manufacturers and marketers to achieve a competitive advantage through the delivery of aesthetic value [47,48]. To analyze the environmental context of consumers' behavior, researchers have used the stimulus-organism-response (S-O-R) paradigm [49]. This paradigm is based on the notion that environmental cues, especially in hedonic contexts, may elicit certain behavioral responses (e.g., approach or avoidance) by altering subjects' affect with respect to pleasure, arousal, and perceived aesthetics [49]. ...
... To analyze the environmental context of consumers' behavior, researchers have used the stimulus-organism-response (S-O-R) paradigm [49]. This paradigm is based on the notion that environmental cues, especially in hedonic contexts, may elicit certain behavioral responses (e.g., approach or avoidance) by altering subjects' affect with respect to pleasure, arousal, and perceived aesthetics [49]. Accordingly, we formulated the following hypotheses: ...
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Social commerce has been gradually integrated into mobile coupon promotions. Although the consumer behaviors of redeeming and sharing are crucial for the success of mobile coupon promotions, consumers’ decision making in the social commerce environment is largely unknown. Therefore, drawing upon the stimulus–organism–response framework, this study proposes a research model to explore how coupon and social commerce features influence consumers’ intentions to redeem and share app-based mobile coupons. The proposed model is validated using the partial least squares method. Results show that perceived coupon value (PCV) and situational product involvement (SPI) positively influence redeeming and sharing intentions. In addition, PCV is positively affected by economic benefit, perception of others, informativeness of ratings and reviews, and vividness of reviews, whereas SPI is positively affected by economic benefit, social presence of web, informativeness of ratings and reviews, and vividness of reviews. Finally, this study identifies the mediating roles of PCV and SPI in the relationships between feature factors and intention variables.
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Purpose In recent years, closed social networking sites (SNSs) have become popular advertising media. Marketer-generated advertisements (MGAs) and user-generated advertisements (UGAs) are the two pillars of advertising businesses. The objective of this research is to investigate and compare how these ad types (i.e. MGA versus UGA) affect advertising effectiveness in closed SNSs. Design/methodology/approach The authors conducted a scenario-based experiment of 403 WeChat users in China and used partial least squares structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM) to examine the research model. Findings The study results indicate that UGAs perform better than MGAs in enhancing consumers' perceived informativeness, credibility and entertainment, while MGAs are more likely to make consumers feel irritated than UGAs in closed SNSs. Moreover, consumers' perceived informativeness, credibility and entertainment positively influence advertising effectiveness, whereas perceived irritation negatively affects it. Originality/value This study reveals consumers' psychological response mechanisms to MGA and UGA and sheds light on their differential effectiveness by extending the stimuli-organism-response model to the context of closed SNSs.
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Customer loyalty is difficult to establish because of the danger of online transactions, which causes risk in all transaction procedures. The dataset presents the survey data including three factors as electronic loyalty, perceived mental benefits, hedonic value. The quantitative data is based on 485 participants who bought from e-commerce websites. SmartPLS 3.7 software analyzed the survey collected data in three stages: measurement model evaluation (scale reliability and scale validity); structural model assessment (collinearity issues, the significance and relevance of the structural model relationships, coefficient of determination, effect size, and predictive relevance); and mediator analysis. Aside from confirming the Stimulus – Organism - Response (SOR) model in the relationships between perceived mental benefits, hedonic value, and electronic loyalty; moreover, this data revealed that hedonic value had a mediating effect on the relationship between electronic loyalty and perceived mental benefits in the electronic customer relationship management.
Purpose The surge in coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in India raises the need to study the variables that affect product and category choices, consumer buying preferences and consumrs' future spending. The purpose of the research is to analyse the purchasing behaviour of Indian consumers with regard to health and hygiene products, taking into consideration the impact of the current pandemic crisis. Design/methodology/approach Using purposive sampling criteria, a web-based questionnaire was circulated and a total of 411 responses were received. Findings The results assert that variables such as awareness of social distancing, brand-cause fit, word-of-mouth (WOM) publicity, altruist attribution, perceived usefulness and social norms have significant impact on trust and perceived values, which ultimately leads to consumer's purchase intention towards health and hygiene products. In addition, the model detects the moderating role of health consciousness. Practical implications The empirical findings will help marketers in designing their strategies to enhance consumer purchase intention with regard to health and hygiene products in the current pandemic situation. Originality/value The study enriches the emerging literature with regard to the impact of COVID-19 on health and hygiene products retailing.
Astrotourism involves a variety of activities carried out during the night, requiring a deeper knowledge about the cognitive and emotional process that the tourist has and that leads to a memorable experience and loyalty. This study explores how (i) astrotourism stimuli are associated with cognitive states, designed by knowledge and involvement, (ii) cognitive states increase emotional states, represented by hedonism and refreshment, and (ii) emotional states generate responses, such as recommendation and loyalty. This study contributes to extending the S (stimulus) -O (organism) -R (response) framework by integrating cognitive appraisal theory and incorporating stimuli, cognitive and emotional states not used in the previous research. Recommendations for astrotourism destination managers are also discussed.
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A growing body of consumer research studies emotions evoked by marketing stimuli, products and brands. Yet, there has been a wide divergence in the content and structure of emotions used in these studies. In this paper, we will show that the seemingly diverging research streams can be integrated in a hierarchical consumer emotions model. The superordinate level consists of the frequently encountered general dimensions positive and negative affect. The subordinate level consists of specific emotions, based on Richins' (Richins, Marsha L. Measuring Emotions in the Consumption Experience. J. Consum. Res. 24 (2) (1997) 127–146) Consumption Emotion Set (CES), and as an intermediate level, we propose four negative and four positive basic emotions. We successfully conducted a preliminary test of this second-order model, and compare the superordinate and basic level emotion means for different types of food. The results suggest that basic emotions provide more information about the feelings of the consumer over and above positive and negative affect. D 2004 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Purpose – Consumption situations can be emotionally charged. Identifying the cause(s) of emotions has clear practical import to the understanding of consumer behaviour. Cognitive appraisal theory serves this purpose; however, a consensus has not yet emerged concerning terminology, number of relevant concepts and concomitant construct measurements, and theoretical linkages between constructs. This paper attempts to rectify this shortcoming. Design/methodology/approach – This conceptual paper provides an extant review of emotions literature as it pertains to cognitive appraisals and consumption behaviours. Based on this review an integrative cognitive appraisal theory is advanced that is parsimonious and incorporates similarities across the various appraisal theory perspectives to date. Findings – Four appraisals are proffered that appear capable of implicating specific emotions and their effects on consumer behaviour. The appraisals advanced are outcome desirability that encompasses pleasantness and goal consistency, agency which includes responsibility and controllability, fairness, and certainty. Sample propositions concerning how cognitive appraisals affect information processing extensiveness have also been provided. Originality/value – First, the paper provides an extant review of cognitive appraisal theories of emotions, which makes transparent the looseness in terminology and differences in theoretical perspectives that currently exist. Second, based on this review the paper advances a unifying theory of consumption appraisals and explore their relevance to marketers. The theory proposed could explain inconsistent findings in the current literature. Third, directions for future research highlighting confounds that should be considered in study designs complete the paper.
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This article investigates an understudied aspect of online word-of-mouth (eWOM) — the effects of emotional expressions in eWOM. Two experiments investigate how consumers interpret emotional expressions in online user reviews and the subsequent impact on their product evaluations. The findings reveal that negative emotional expressions in a single negative review tend to decrease the reviews' informative value and make consumers' product evaluations less negative because consumers attribute the negative emotions to the reviewer's irrational dispositions. However, positive emotional expressions in a single positive review do not influence consumers' product evaluations significantly even though consumers attribute the positive emotions to the product. Next, when multiple convergent emotional expressions are present in multiple user reviews, both positive and negative emotional expressions increase informative value of the reviews and polarize consumers' product evaluations in the respective direction.
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The objective of this study was to examine the effects of image interactivity technology (IIT) features and an individual difference, experimenting with appearance (EA), on consumers’ shopping enjoyment, risk perception, and attitude toward an online retailer. We conducted a between-participant experimental study using a convenience sample of college students. A total of 206 participants provided usable responses for structural equation modeling analysis. The results showed that the level of IIT and EA positively affected shopping enjoyment as well as decreased perceived risk toward the online retailer. In turn, shopping enjoyment and perceived risk significantly influenced the consumers’ attitude toward the online retailer, as hypothesized. The findings of the study suggest that e-commerce business for online apparel retailers may continuously need to develop richer IIT features (innovative yet playful) to meet consumers’ demand and secure consumers’ loyalty.
The fundamental issue of on-line shopping is how to attract and win over consumer to engage in on-line purchasing. In recent years, studies have focus on the controllable marketing factors referred to as Wed experience factors as determinants that may influence consumers purchasing behaviour. The objective of this study is to make a contribution by empricially examining the Web experience factors that may influence the consumers to perform on-line purchasing, and evaluating the Web experience factors among those consumers. Data was collected using survey. A component-based Structural equation modeling known as partial least squares is used to test the predictive relationships. Also a series of t-test is conducted to examine the mean differences of Web experience factors between consumers that have purchased on-line with those that have never purchase on-line. Results indicate that Web experience factors are salient in predicting consumers' on-line purchasing behaviour, particularly the marketing mix factor and interactivity factors. Comparison of the two groups indicated that consumers that have performed on-line purchasing perceived high level of Web experience factors. Thus, consumers Web experience factors play important roles in the consumers' responses to on-line purchasing behaviour, and thus organizations need to consider these factors if they decide to sell their products or sevices online.
Based on background literature, this research is focused on the study of the effects of two different navigational web layouts-named "guided hierarchical e-pathway" and "free network"-on e-consumer's internal states (i.e. affective, cognitive and satisfaction) within an online shopping situation through an experimental application. In addition, within that model we included two types of variables-involvement and atmospheric responsiveness-which mediate the relationships between the constructs analyzed. A website and a tracking behaviour methodology for a fictitious apparel retailer were developed. Results show that if web marketers design stores without restrictive navigation cues-offering, in consequence, freedom of movement during navigation-they could be able to generate more positive internal responses on e-consumers during their visits across the online stores.
The evidence on universals in facial expression of emotion, renewed controversy about that evidence, and new findings on cultural differences are reviewed. New findings on the capability for voluntarily made facial expressions to generate changes in both autonomic and central nervous system activity are discussed, and possible mechanisms by which this could occur are outlined. Finally, new work which has identified how to distinguish the smile of enjoyment from other types of smiling is described.
An intentional meander around the central issue of servicescapes design. Proposes that there are worthwhile lessons to be learned from the way in which users divert and subvert the planned design of physical support. Advocates that servicescape is not only acting on users in order to achieve marketing goals, but also it is acted on by users in order to frame existential goals. In this constructivist approach, the consumer is considered as a co-builder of the servicescape. While experiencing service, the consumer can create new meanings and unusual functions which could raise opportunities to improve service management.