Examining the online customer experience during a utilitarian search for online business advisory information and services

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

This research aims to further our understanding on online information seeking and the customer's experience during search. The primary focus of this research is to explore the online customer experience during a utilitarian search for business advisory information and services. Previous research has provided an understanding on the process of information seeking, however this research advances our limited theoretical knowledge on the online customer experience moving beyond service quality and the outcomes of the customer experience, thus understanding variables capable of influencing the customer experience while searching for information during a customer's online journey on a business advisory website. In line with this, the research has answered five research objectives: (1) Establish which variables influence the online customer experience during a utilitarian search for online business advisory information and services. (2) Investigate the role of customer emotions while searching for online business advisory information and services. (3) Establish the role of online customer support through social interaction in relation to a customer's experience. (4) Examine the effect of a customer's search success on the online customer experience (5) Develop a comprehensive online customer experience model incorporating variables influencing the customer experience during the initial customer journey to find business information and services.A mixed methods approach was adopted in the research within a pragmatic philosophical underpinning. Due to the limited research within the area of the online customer experience an initial qualitative element was used in order to refine the proposed theoretical framework in the study. The qualitative research was developed based on the literature reviewed with the aim of providing an initial insight into the variables to be tested in the quantitative phase of the study, thus providing comprehensiveness and parsimony. 16 semi structured in-depth interviews were conducted with SMEs from an array of industries. The interviews provided in-depth insight into the variables capable of influencing the online experience and identified those variables to be examined in the quantitative phase of the research. The main quantitative phase of the research consisted of an online experiment aligned with an online questionnaire. The online experiment was conducted on three selected business advisory websites offering business advisory information and services with a sample of 160 participants. Tasks were set up on each website for participants to complete. After the completion of the set of tasks on each website, participants completed the online questionnaire. All 160 responses were completed and usable to test the proposed theoretical model and thus made it suitable for structural equation modelling. The findings of the research outline a number of variables that have been previously overlooked in relation to influencing the online customer experience. The new context of exploring the online customer experience during a utilitarian search for information has furthered our limited theoretical understanding of the online customer experience and online information seeking.This research found that the quality of the information, the credibility of the website, the perceived length of time spent on the website, the success of the search as well as the requirement of online customer support all have an influence on the online customer experience during a utilitarian search for business advisory information and services. In addition, the findings also illustrate an underlying latent variable comprised of website aesthetics, level of control, information quality, website credibility and flow combining together to influence the online customer experience. The findings illustrate a role for the previously unexplored onli
Date of Award1 Oct 2015
LanguageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsScottish Enterprise
SupervisorAlan Wilson (Supervisor) & Michael Harker (Supervisor)

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