Title: Can avatars enhance consumer trust and emotion in online retail sales?

Authors: Liz C. Wang, Dale Fodness

Addresses: College of Business, University of Dallas, 1845 East Northgate Drive, Irving, TX 75062-4736, USA. ' College of Business, University of Dallas, 1845 East Northgate Drive, Irving, TX 75062-4736, USA

Abstract: How does the role of trust change when sales relationships and interactions move online? We propose and explore a model suggesting that at a retail website, an avatar is perceived as a social factor that influences online consumers| internal evaluations and approach behaviour. In this lab experiment, social presence and social response theories provided testable hypotheses as to whether avatars exert social influences on consumers similar to those observed with human sales personnel. Specifically, we suggest that a consumer|s emotional responses and trust with the online retail will be more positive at the website with a highly likeable avatar as compared to the text-only and the low likeability avatar conditions. Fictitious travel websites were developed to test S-O-R hypotheses from our model. Results support and extend previous research showing that avatars can successfully mimic interpersonal interactions with and exert social influences on online consumers.

Keywords: avatars; trust; pleasure; arousal; social presence theory; social response theory; internet; online retailing; electronic retailing; e-tailing; retail websites; consumer behaviour; social influences; sales personnel; emotional responses; emotions; interpersonal interactions.

DOI: 10.1504/IJEMR.2010.036881

International Journal of Electronic Marketing and Retailing, 2010 Vol.3 No.4, pp.341 - 362

Available online: 15 Nov 2010 *

Full-text access for editors Access for subscribers Purchase this article Comment on this article