Traditional motivations for shopping online
Demographics are often considered when trying to determine why consumers shop online. Although many studies found slight differences in purchasing behavior based on gender and age, the most significant differences are usually associated with income and education levels. Those with higher income and those who have attained a higher level of education are somewhat more likely to shop online (Li et al., 1999). However, most researchers agree that other indicators, such as past purchase and intent, are far more important for predicting shopping habits then are demographics.
Many previous studies on online shopping behavior have focused on the effect of security and privacy concerns on the decision to shop online. Some studies have found these concerns to be a significant deterrent to online shopping. A study by Bhatnagar et al. (2000) found that perception of risk significantly decreases the likelihood that an individual will purchase goods or services online. They also found that higher priced items and ego-centric items, or those items that are strongly representative of oneself, such as clothing or cologne, are considered more risky, and therefore are less likely to be purchased online (Bhatnagar et al., 2000).
Other researchers have found privacy and security concerns to be much less significantly related to the decision to shop online. Helander and Khalid (2000) found that while subjects cited security as a concern when shopping online, their decision to shop online was influenced far more by such factors as convenience, product availability and cost. Similarly, the Wharton Virtual Test Market (WVTM) study showed that security concerns did not affect the decision to shop online, and were not significant predictors of the decision to shop online or the amount of money spent there (Bellman et al., 1999).
Overall, results from studies on the effect of security concerns on the decision to shop are inconsistent. Even the Bhatnagar et al. (2000) study that showed that security concerns were significant when consumers considered shopping online indicated that these concerns were much more significant for high-cost, ego-centric items. Since textbooks are neither high-cost nor satisfy egocentric needs, it seems unlikely that security concerns would play a major role in whether or not to buy them online. Accordingly, we expect that security concerns will have no influence on an individual’s decision to purchase online.
Important predictors of online shopping
Recent research as part of the WVTM suggests that the most important predictors of online shopping included leading a “wired lifestyle” and being starved for time (Bellman et al., 1999). Those who lead a wired lifestyle include those who use the Internet for other purposes such as work, news and communications. Such people have been on the Internet for several years and often receive a large number of e-mail messages a day. They also are likely to be “early adopters” of a variety of high tech devices, both computer-related and not. Finally, and most importantly, those leading a wired lifestyle are considerably more likely to have made one or more purchases online. They are likely to view the Internet as a good place to research, search for and purchase goods.
Time starvation is also a significant predictor of online shopping. Those with little discretionary time, including those who work long hours and those with a number of obligations, tend to have little time to research and buy products in traditional stores (Bellman et al., 1999). As such, those people tend to go online to research and shop for products.