Identifying the Ideal Types of Online Shoppers: A Qualitative Analysis of Online Shopping

Identifying the Ideal Types of Online Shoppers: A Qualitative Analysis of Online Shopping

Eeva Kettunen (University of Jyvaskyla, Jyväskylä, Finland), Tiina Kemppainen (University of Jyvaskyla, Jyväskylä, Finland), Matias Lievonen (University of Jyvaskyla, Jyväskylä, Finland), Markus Makkonen (University of Jyvaskyla, Jyväskylä, Finland), Lauri Frank (University of Jyvaskyla, Jyväskylä, Finland) and Tuomas Kari (University of Jyvaskyla, Jyväskylä, Finland)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/IJESMA.2020040104

Abstract

The tremendous increase in online shopping has created a growing demand to understand online shopping behavior. This study contributes to this understanding by identifying ideal types among online shoppers. An ideal type is an analytical construct used to ascertain similarities and deviations to concrete cases in an individual phenomenon. Theoretically, the study draws from different perspectives to create a multifaceted view of online shoppers. The purpose is not to categorize online shoppers under a specific category but rather to help understand different typically occurring online shopping behaviors. Through thematic analysis of the data from 31 participants, this study presents five ideal types of online shoppers: conservative shoppers, rational shoppers, hedonistic shoppers, spontaneous shoppers, and vanguard shoppers. The formed ideal types serve as the main theoretical contribution of this study. From a practical standpoint, implications for online shop providers on how to accommodate the needs of each ideal type are provided.
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Introduction

Understanding consumer behavior plays a crucial role in all kinds of business fields. Since shopping and purchasing have shifted from physical “brick-and-mortar” stores to online environments in recent years, it is important to further understand the motives, habits, and expectations of online shoppers. Despite some similarities between online shopping and traditional offline shopping in physical environments, the motives for online shopping can be fundamentally different (Ganesh, 2010).

The purpose of this study is to increase the understanding of online shopping behavior by analyzing consumer narratives describing their online shopping experiences and purchase paths from initial need recognition to post-purchase activities. The study brings together relevant consumer behavior literature from marketing and information systems (IS) studies to examine the antecedents of online shopping and their effects on consumers’ online shopping preferences. Based on the theoretical antecedents of online shopping, ideal types (Weber, 1904a, 1904b) of online shoppers are identified.

An ideal type is an analytical construct originally presented by sociologist Max Weber. It can be defined as an entity created by a researcher, with which s/he aims to first understand and then describe a multifaceted social action or phenomenon. Ideal types are internally fully coherent constructions representing reality but not found in reality as they are presented. As such, they are abstractions of reality (Giddens & Sutton, 2009; Weber, 1904a, 1904b). Ideal types either fit or deviate from a given situation of the reality and thus cannot be understood as being empirically right or wrong. According to Weber, ideal types have a twofold function: serving as a measurement tool for reality and to contrast the created ideal types with the empirically observed phenomenon. This enables identifying the regularities and causalities within the observed phenomenon or the observed social system. According to Kaesler (2003), these regularities and causalities can be further utilized in understanding and explaining the social system with a higher level of abstraction.

The purpose of forming ideal types is to reduce the complexity of the social reality by making it easier to understand in an analytical way and to differentiate and highlight the most essential aspects of a social phenomenon (Weber, 1988). Contemplating and applying Weberian ideal types has enabled the use of fictional people in the design process and had a strong impact on designing technologies and products. From a research perspective, the concept of ideal type has been previously used, for example, in relation to consumers of sport and wellness products (Kettunen et al., 2017) and services and tourism (cf., Ahtiainen, Piirainen, & Vehmas, 2015). Although the ideal type approach can be considered as a suitable method for investigating and describing online shopping behavior as well, it has been unused in the context of online shopping.

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