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As mobile application rises, it raises concerns towards how the new digital context will be studied. However, existing literatures on factors that affect m-commerce purchase have created a false dichotomy between the external environment (e-servicescape) and internal responses (consumer behavior). Therefore, this paper is synthesizing the two pathways of study to determine the factors influencing purchase intention within retail shopping apps. E-servicescape factors such as layout and functionality and aesthetic appeal, as well as consumer behavior factors such as hedonic and utilitarian value have been argued to positively affect purchase intention. Therefore, this contribution is aimed for academics and marketers to consider a more wholesome perspective to explore the factors driving a purchase intention within a shopping app.
Mobile applications or ‘apps’ are software programs that are installed in a mobile device to display an identity of a brand (Kumar et al., 2018). As the numbers of app users have increased significantly, scholars realize the need for its study, especially in the mobile shopping app context. Several fields have explored the use of apps by either its environmental elements (e-servicescapes) or its consumer behavior. Therefore, a conceptual question arises on the possibility of exploring the factors that encompass both internal and external factors to drive purchase intentions within shopping apps. This contribution will not only extend theories to a new digital context of shopping apps, but also by synthetizing and integrating them into a wholesome model. This paper will discuss and compare the literature studies and explore the significant factors that shares the same dependent variable of purchase intention.
Past research on mobile applications
Kannan & Li (2017) developed a framework for digital marketing and its touch-points in the marketing process, in which mobile phones are inherently becoming ‘smaller’ and ‘personal’. Hence, future research should explore how these technologies can build consumer loyalty and consumption in this specific context (Kannan & Li, 2017). Only few studies have identified the key factors that influence app adoption behavior that have significant implication for marketers (Kannan & Li, 2017). Several studies have examined mobile apps, in which they either discuss them on an element and situational context (servicescapes) or on an individual context (consumer behavior).
Ballantyne & Nilsson (2017) consider how the servicescape would be interpreted in new digital settings, as some attributes still hold up symbolically to describe digital virtual spaces for interaction and value creation. Therefore, the e-servicescape model suggests environmental factors to exist that influence customers’ perception in digital services: aesthetic appeal, layout and functionality and financial security (Harris & Goode, 2010). The e-servicescape model suggests that these factors should establish trust to the service, which eventually leads to purchase intentions in an online environment (Fusaro et al., 2002).
Firstly, aesthetic appeals refers for the customer interface elements in digital context which elicits perceptions of fun and excitement to their customer (Hopkins, 2009). When consumers perceive the aesthetic appeal positively, their perceptions towards the e-service quality (Montoya-Weiss et al., 2003) and satisfaction (Szymanski & Hise, 2000) will be stronger. Layout and functionality also influence the trustworthiness of an e-commerce platform. Similar to the classical model, layout is utilized to facilitate service provision, minimize confusion and provide convenience to the users (Hopkins, 2009). A study by These are aspects of the servicescape that explicitly or implicitly communicate about the app to users (Hopkins et al., 2009). Therefore, an optimal mix between aesthetic value and a coherent layout can lead to purchase intention towards an app.
Lastly, the last e-service variable is online financial security, which refers to the extent in which consumers perceive the payment and policies to be secure and safe. Studies have argued that perceived security is critical in an online exchange (Szymanski & Hise, 2000).
Consumer Behavior in Apps
In the context of apps and e-servicescapes, many studies have explored the antecedent in the perspective of consumer behavior. According to Parker & Wang (2016), factors including previous experience in shopping influences decision-making in online apps. There is a higher tendency to shop using m-app if consumers have prior experience with the brand or the product. (Hsiao, Chang & Tang, 2016).
Several studies suggest that perceived value and motivation, such hedonic and utilitarian, drives customer’s intention to purchase on a mobile app (Parker &Wang, 2016; Hsu & Lin, 2015). Hedonic motivation, such as social and gratification drives the motivation to purchase in mobile apps, such as pleasure from purchasing the product (Hsu & Lin, 2015). On the other hand, utilitarian value proposes that consumer’s is motivated by the need of efficiency and convenience to purchase at m-apps (Parker & Wang, 2016).
Studies have used different mediator variables in order to establish their factors to the purchase behavior of apps. Firstly, it is argued these perceived value and habitual behavior will result in a certain attitude towards the app (Hsu & Lin, 2015). Attitude is the positive or negative feelings of an individual to perform the target behavior, which is the tendency of purchase made within the app (Kim, Yoon & Han, 2016).
On the other hand, Kim, Wang & Malthouse (2015) argues that stickiness of an app influences purchase behavior. Stickiness refers to the repeated use of the app and the relational concepts such as trust, commitment and loyalty, which will positively influence purchase tendencies to consumers. (Kim et al., 2015; Harris & Goode, 2007; Hsu & Lin, 2016). Satisfaction is also an arguable variable towards buying behavior of app users (Hsiao et al, 2016; Hsu & Lin, 2015; Kim et al. 2016). It is posited that satisfaction from an app is a positive enjoyment that can influence user consumption activity choices (Kim, Kim & Watcher, 2013).
Ultimately, it is identifiable by various studies in the context of servicescapes and consumer behavior are aimed to examine the dependent variable of customer’s purchase intentions and loyalty towards the app. (Harris & Goode, 2010; Hopkins et al. 2009; Hsu & Lin, 2016).
The literatures discussed have introduced many factors that may influence the purchase intentions in apps. The classical model of servicescape by Bitner (1992) exhibits the environmental dimensions, such as ambience, function and signs, as well as the internal responses made by the customers. However, the literatures discussed seemed to have created two separate pathways to study the antecedent of customer purchase intention. The aim of this paper aims to fill this gap, to summarize and integrate the antecedent factors in both aspects of e-servicescape and consumer behavior.
In order to develop this concept, a comparative literature study was made in order to observe which variable are more significant towards the purchase intention of apps. Therefore, only significant variables across studies are constructed in order to create a coherent and wholesome model. The reason why e-servicescape and consumer behavior can be integrated is due to the overlapping of the theories, as it has the same dependent variable of purchase intention.
As the studies are compared, there are prevalent factors within both contexts that ultimately influences the purchase intentions. Aesthetic appeal is a dominant and consistent factor across all of the e-servicescapes studies (Harris & Goode, 2010; Hopkins et al., 2009; Kumar et al., 2018). Therefore, there is an implication that the aesthetic appeal of an app may influence purchase intention. In addition, there is a noteworthy discussion on layout and functionality within the two e-servicescape (Harris & Goode, 2010; Hopkins et al., 2009). Thus, the layout and functionality of an app may also be a significant direct factor towards purchase intention and will be included in this study.
Furthermore, in the context of consumer behavior, the most significant factors are hedonic and utilitarian value, as they encompass significant components argued in different studies. Hedonic is repeatedly discussed as values and motivation that are subjective aimed for pleasure of use (Hsu & Lin, 2016; Kim et al, 2015; Hsiao et al., 2016; Parker & Wang., 2016), emotional value (Hsiao et al., 2016) and entertainment (Kim et al., 2016) within an app. On the other hand, utilitarian value and motivation towards an app is also significantly based on rational consumer behavior (Hsu & Lin, 2016; Kim et al, 2015; Hsiao et al., 2016; Parker & Wang., 2016), performance, good price (Hsiao et al., 2016), and perceived usefulness (Hsiao et al., 2016; Kim et al., 2016).
Hedonic and utilitarian values dimension is important in predicting outcomes such as purchase intention. Depending on the purchase context, both values will interchange to become a primary driver to user affect. Modern digital products and services such as apps work for multiple purpose because they contain hedonic and utilitarian components (Hsiao et al., 2016). However, each construct cannot be integrated because both are equally important and independently influence app usage and purchase (Kim et al., 2014). As some studies have mediating variables in their proposed model (i.e.) attitude, their arguments do not highlight the significance of its mediating variable but rather the independent variable. Therefore, this conceptual model will not carry any mediating variable to create a concise proposition.
Conceptual Model and Propositions
Based on the conceptual development, the study is able to outline that major factors that influence the consumer’s purchase intention in a mobile shopping app; utilitarian value, hedonic value, aesthetic appeal and layout and functionality. Therefore, four propositions will elaborate on how each of the factors will ultimately influence purchase intention in a shopping app.
Proposition 1: Utilitarian value influences purchase intention
Customer value is an important predictor of customer purchase decision based on the individual’s experience and interaction with a product or service (Hsu & Lin, 2016). Firstly, Utilitarian values are beliefs that focus on increasing a user’s task performance (Hsu & Lin, 2016). According to motivation theory, utility represent an extrinsic motivation, which emphasizes on performing a behavior to achieve specific goals/rewards (Hsiao et al., 2013). Models such as the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) along with its studies suggest that high utilitarian values will increase the adoption of the technology (Kim et al., 2013). Hence, it can be assumed that if the shopping app can achieve a specific goal or improve their task performance, it will influence their purchase intention within the app. Parker & Wang (2016) suggests that in an m-commerce context, efficiency (saving time obtaining product information the cost to travel to shop is an important motivator for purchase.
Hsiao & Chen (2016), a study on purchase intention on gaming apps indicate that perceived performance/quality values such as access flexibility influence purchase intention. This can be applied to the context of shopping apps as the goal of such apps is to provide the ability to shop ‘on the go’. Consequently, when consumer view shopping apps to be more convenient and cost effective, they will develop a more positive attitude towards buying using the app (Hsu & Lin, 2016). Utilitarian value such perceived cost also played an important role towards purchase intention. If user perceive the product to be in good price, it will increase their positive attitude to purchase intention (Hsiao & Chen, 2016).
Proposition 2: Hedonic value influences purchase intention
Hedonic are the intrinsic values that focus on increasing a user’s pleasure experiences and satisfaction from performing a certain behavior (Hsu & Lin, 2016). The TAM model illustrate the hedonic influence as perceived enjoyment, which is the degree user experiences fun and enjoyment while using the app (Kim et al., 2013). Another study has also identified hedonic motivational factors to have a positive relationship with attitude and purchase intention (Hsiao et al., 2015; Kim et al., 2013).
Parker & Wang (2016) indicated the dimensions of hedonic values that occur during the purchase on m-commerce apps such as gratification shopping (seeking good feelings on their shopping experiences), social shopping (influences from interpersonal relationships) and idea shopping (shop and browse products for information collection of new trends and fashion). Hsiao & Cen’s (2016) study on mobile game apps suggests that hedonic values such as rewards which have an influence on price has a strong effect to purchase intention. Therefore, this can be applied to shopping apps gratify shoppers using points and promotion that can influence their perceived costs and price will influence their purchase behavior. Ultimately, hedonic ultimately drives repurchase and intention to use products or services (Parker & Wang, 2016), particularly in a shopping app.
Proposition 3: Aesthetic appeal influences purchase intention
Aesthetic appeal that include the originality of design, visual appeal and entertainment value can influence customers’ trust and purchase intentions. (Harris & Goode, 2010). A study by Kumar (2018) suggests that consumers evaluate features of an app like color, graphic and texts compositely rather than as an individual component. Kumar et al. (2018) find that there is a significant influence of design aesthetic, perceived usefulness and ease of use to loyalty to mobile apps. Therefore, an appealing visual aesthetics of an app can play a significant role in adoption and purchase intentions.
Harris & Goode (2010) argues that the modernity of design is a crucial component in online context for online shoppers. This is also supported as it is argued that ambient conditions (i.e. aesthetic appeals) had the greatest influence towards customer’s attitude towards a purchase (Hopkins, 2009). E-consumers reflexively evaluate and highly value the level of emotionality and entertainment of online environments, which can generate a positive attitudinal effect regardless of the utilitarian nature that the app provides (Kumar, 2018). Harris & Goode (2010) indicated that online shopping experience is highly linked to the aesthetic appeal of the online service environment. Therefore, the visual appeal in the design of a shopping app is highly crucial towards creating a positive attitude and evaluation and will ultimately influence purchase intention.
Proposition 4: Layout and functionality influences purchase intention
Layout refers to the arrangement, organization, structure and adaptability of the app, while functionality is the extent in which it can facilitate the service (Harris & Goode, 2010). Hopkins (2009) implied that the key dimensions of layout and functionality of a website is the organization (how easy to use and navigate) and informative-ness (the factual content that it provides). Consumer’s opinion is strongly linked to the navigability and usability of a digital environment (Harris & Goode, 2010). Therefore, this factor is applicable towards other e-servicescape like shopping apps. In addition, there is a positive relationship between layout organization of a e-service and purchase intention (Loiacono, 2002)
Hopkins (2009) argued that signs, symbols and artifacts, such as the useful and informative content of a website drives positive purchase behavior. Hence, a strong information component is important aside from how the app layout is organized to influence purchase. Information such as availability, price and features are a primary component of why consumers are motivated to use online resources, and as a predictor of purchase intention (Loiacono, 2002). If the app is nicely laid out but lacks the information needed, a purchase response will be unlikely (Hopkins, 2009). In the context of apps, antecedents like usability of the app is a driver towards customer’s loyalty (Kumar, 2018).
Overall, the model (Figure1) is constructed in order to illustrate the relationships between the independent variable and how it influences the dependent value of purchase intention.
Figure 1: Constructed Model of Antecedents of Purchase Intention in Shopping Apps
The theoretical implications that stems from this work is to discuss further on the antecedents of purchase intention within a shopping app. As mobile apps are becoming a prominent within the digital context, studies on how it affects purchase intentions are still severely lacking. The classical model of servicescape by Bitner (1992) managed to encompass both environmental and human aspects of marketing interaction. However, there is a separation between the study of the environmental elements and the consumer behavior, as each context are explored independently. Therefore, this study provides more wholesome perspective on how both contributes to the same dependent variable of purchase intention. Secondly, it can be observed that the literatures of e-servicescapes are still discussing on website commerce (Harris & Goode, 2010; Hopkins et al., 2009). Therefore, this literature is also aimed to extend the theory towards a new context.
This paper contributes to provide more consideration for marketing practitioner in making an app. The factors that are proposed as factors are inherently related to each other. Therefore, marketing practitioner should consider all these factors regardless of their product context. For instance, if the brand focuses on luxury products (hedonic values), it will still have to consider its utilitarian values, such as functionality of the app as the basic that are inherent in operating with their phones (Kim et al., 2013).
The limitation of this conceptual model is that there are still an ample room of research towards purchase behavior in mobile shopping apps. This study depends of past literatures and therefore some require interpretations on how it applies to digital context of shopping apps. In addition, this study only discusses significant variables. However, there are probably more variables that should be considered but unable to due to the limited format. Therefore, future research should investigate the variables deeper and more extensively to better understand the purchase behavior in shopping apps.
To conclude, this paper is aimed to summarize and integrate the studies between servicescape and consumer behavior within mobile shopping apps. As literatures are studied and compared, there are several significant factors which are layout and functionality and aesthetic appeal of the app, as well as the hedonic and utilitarian value. Each propositions constitutes each independent variables and it positively influences purchase intention. Therefore, the conceptual question is answered as the two fields of studies ultimately share the same dependent variable of purchase intention, creating a more wholesome model that constitute the internal and external antecedent of purchase intention in a retail shopping app.
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