Utilising online shopping environment attributes holistically to create competitive advantage

  • Catherine Demangeot

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


As more consumers shop online, it becomes crucial for marketers to know how online shopping environments (OSEs) can be used to gain competitive advantage. This dissertation aims to explain theoretically how OSE attributes work together holistically to produce desirable consumer responses, applying and extending a theory from the environmental psychology literature to the online context. Firstly, the study conceptualises OSEs as virtual environments which may be perceived and experienced both cognitively and affectively through a technology-mediated interaction with a computer screen. A multi-disciplinary approach identifies key characteristics of OSEs: they involve consumers; they are more complex than their offline counterparts; they are likely first apprehended holistically; and they can elicit high levels of emotions and cognition. Secondly, the research uses a gestalt approach and extends Kaplan and Kalan’s (1982) Preference Framework, taking account of the specific characteristics of OSEs, which one visits specifically to obtain product information. The results support the proposition that OSEs are perceived in terms of their Sense-making and Exploratory attributes. Thirdly, the research explains how OSE attributes work together to produce desirable consumer responses. As hypothesised, Exploratory potential produces both Hedonic and Utilitarian value, and both kinds of value contribute to Site commitment. An unexpected result is that Sense-making potential does not produce Utilitarian value directly, but only through the mediation of Exploratory potential. The research contributes to marketing theory by: (1) identifying ways the internet has changed the nature of the shopping experience; (2) extending Kaplan and Kaplan’s Preference Framework to explain how consumers perceive OSEs holistically; (3) identifying the distinction between page-level and site-level perceptions, and (4) distinguishing between different sources of information (marketer vs. non-marketer). Managerially, the research provides a model for marketers to conceive and design retail websites whose attributes work together to create competitive advantage.
Date of Award2007
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorGordon E Greenley (Supervisor)


  • online shopping environment
  • competitive advantage

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