The Internet has become a significant part of the retail landscape and altered the way consumers search for information and conduct purchases. This dissertation incorporates that through the increasing multiplicity of Internet-enabled devices, which consumers now use for online shopping activities, the online retailing environment itself changes fundamentally. Accordingly, it is relevant for marketing research and practice to consider which connected devices consumers use for online shopping and how varying characteristics of these devices influence online shopping behavior.
The first key proposition of this research is that Internet-enabled devices constitute diverse e-channels, which leads to a fragmentation of e-commerce, i.e., a subdivision of online transactions across a multitude of distinct devices. In this manner, an electronic channel “e-channel” is understood as a category of Internet-enabled devices (for example, mobile devices) that consumers can use to interact with and purchase from an online retailer. The second key proposition is that the evaluation and perception of an e-channel depends on the utilized e-channel touchpoint, i.e., the customer contact point that is provided by the retailer. In this context, an e-channel touchpoint is defined as a specific digital shopping format (for example, a mobile shopping app) that is employed by a retailer to provide consumers with an online shopping opportunity. The third key proposition is that the expanding e-commerce environment requires a perspective shift from online retailing through a singular “online channel” to online retailing through an advancing multiplicity of e-channels and related touchpoints.
This enhanced perspective comprises that consumers have more versatile alternatives (i.e., devices) to shop online and that retailers need to manage (i.e., develop, operate, coordinate and integrate) multiple e-channel touchpoints. Therefore, in this dissertation a multichannel perspective is adopted for e-commerce that contributes to investigating individual e-channels as well as the interrelationships across e-channels and e-channel touchpoints. By merging insights from multichannel retailing with knowledge from e-commerce research, both fields are consolidated to the “multichannel e-commerce” approach. The term “multichannel e-commerce” refers to an expanded e-commerce environment that is characterized by consumers online shopping across multiple e-channels and online retailers selling through various e-channel touchpoints. By considering e-channels and e-channel touchpoints within a holistic multichannel e-commerce system, this research adds knowledge to current literature by studying the outcomes of e-channel interrelationships as well as individual e-channel effects. In particular, this work contributes to knowledge on retailing by investigating the relevance of individual e-channels and e-channel touchpoints from a customer’s perspective, by examining consumer behavior in a multichannel e-commerce environment and by deriving implications for firms to develop customer-centric multichannel e-commerce systems. To better understand consumer preferences and behavior across e-channels and e-channel touchpoints, this dissertation provides a theoretical foundation and empirical validation of a multichannel e-commerce framework.
In particular, this doctoral research enhances theoretical and practical knowledge by addressing various aspects of the multichannel e-commerce environment in four individual essays. All in all, the data of more than 2,100 respondents who have participated in several online surveys and experimental studies could be obtained to test causal relationships proposed in the underlying models of the four essays. The first essay focuses on the exploration of a research gap with regard to the understanding of online retailing in current marketing literature and the development and empirical validation of a multichannel e-commerce framework. Essay 2 addresses consumer perception and evaluation of online shopping across different e-channels. In the third essay, the diffusion and acceptance of a new e-channel is examined by investigating consumers’ motivations to shop online via Internet-enabled TV. In essay 4, the holistic effects of a retailer’s multichannel e-commerce system are focused by investigating the influence of synergies and complementarity across e-channels and their effects on consumer behavior.
The four essays of this dissertation show that consumers use diverse connected devices for online shopping activities and choose an e-channel based on technological and situational factors. Thus, retailers are challenged to accompany their customers on each and every channel by providing adequate e-channel touchpoints (shopping formats). Findings underline especially the relevance of a more differentiated perspective for the definition and conceptualization of online retailing. Consumers may perceive, evaluate and behave differently, depending on the utilized e-channel or e-channel touchpoint. Therefore, how a retailer’s online retailing activities are perceived by consumers and how these affect online shopping behavior has to be considered in matters of the devices (hardware) and formats (software) employed by the online shopper. To sum up, the results indicate that online consumer behavior is moderated by employed e-channels and e-channel touchpoints.
From a theoretical perspective, this work offers a multichannel e-commerce approach and framework that extend the existing knowledge on online retailing by introducing and defining “e-channels” and “e-channel touchpoints.” Moreover, this dissertation extends the existing research on multichannel retailing by expanding the concept of “the online channel” to a multitude of e-channels and related touchpoints. The expanded perspective provides an approach for researchers to generate more valid findings by considering the effects of e-channels and e-channel touchpoints on online consumer behavior. In addition, this research offers theoretical explanations with regard to consumer motivations to use different e-channels and e-channel touchpoints for online shopping and the external factors that determine these motivations.
With regard to the employed methodologies, the categorization of e-channels on the basis of consumers’ perceptions of Internet enabled devices through multidimensional scaling delivers valuable insights how consumers subdivide the online retailing landscape. Furthermore, structural equation modeling combined with a multigroup analysis is found to be a suitable approach to examine online consumer behavior across individual e-channels or e-channel touchpoints as well as consolidated to a retailer’s multichannel e-commerce system.
This dissertation provides knowledge and implications for online retailers, multichannel retailers and retailers who consider to initiate and take part in e-tailing. By illustrating how the online retailing environment and online consumer behavior have changed, guidance is offered to managers for making more informed decisions with respect to online retailing strategies. In particular, this research provides new insights and implications for managers in three main domains: (1) How to use a multichannel e-commerce perspective for gaining insights in e-channel and e-channel touchpoint choice, (2) how to strategically implement e-channel touchpoints, an (3) how to manage the interactions across e-channels.