The Impact of Age on Electronic Commerce Participation: An Exploratory Model

The Impact of Age on Electronic Commerce Participation: An Exploratory Model

Donna W. McCloskey (Widener University, USA) and Karen Leppel (Widener University, USA)
Copyright: © 2010 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/jeco.2010103003
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This exploratory study examined the impact of age on e-commerce participation and its antecedents: usefulness, ease of information access, and trust. The three age groups considered were the “young” who were 18 to 25, the “mature” who were 50 to 69, and the “elderly” who were 70 and older. Of the three age groups, mature consumers had the highest perception of the usefulness of e-commerce but the lowest perceptions of trust. The elderly perceived less ease of information access and were less likely to participate in electronic commerce than the other age groups. Greater perceptions of usefulness and trust were found to be positively related to participation. In addition, trust had positive impacts on ease of information access and usefulness. While ease of information access had a positive impact on usefulness, it had no direct impact on e-commerce participation.
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Despite continued steady growth, electronic commerce adoption is lagging expectations. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce (U.S. Census Bureau, 2006), total electronic commerce sales for 2005 were estimated at $86.3 billion. While this is a 24.6% increase in sales from 2004, it represents only 2.3% of total retail sales and lags the predicted growth. To be successful, online retailers must address cost effective customer acquisition. They must understand who is or is not likely to adopt electronic commerce by making online purchases and the reasons contributing to that decision. This research seeks to address this need by examining the antecedents to electronic commerce participation for two important age demographics, consumers in their 20s and those over the age of 50.

Whether called Generation Y, Echo Boomers or Millennials, young consumers in their late teens and early twenties are viewed as a lucrative and influential demographic (Hanford, 2005). Young consumers are a frequent subject for electronic commerce research (Ige, 2004; Lester, Forman & Lloyd, 2005; Song, Zinhan & Pan, 2005). While their level of participation has been well documented, the impact of age on the antecedents to electronic commerce has not been addressed. Because they are such influential consumers whom retailers hope to attract and retain, young consumers are an important demographic for inquiry.

Older adults comprise a large, and growing, segment of the population. In 2000, 12.6% of the North American population was age 65 or above. By 2015, it is estimated that 14.9% of the North American population will be in this age bracket. By 2030, this segment of the population will nearly double, with over 20% of the entire population over the age of 65 ( The graying of America will have a dramatic impact on the workforce, retirement age, healthcare and elderly support services. This segment of the population will also be a lucrative market with low debt, higher disposable incomes and additional leisure time due to retirement and reduced family commitments. Seniors are influential consumers, growing more desirable by marketers (Burnett, 1991; Moschis & Mathur, 1993; Schiffman & Sherman, 1991). While research has addressed internet usage by this age group (Eastman and Iyer, 2004; Opalinski, 2001; Tatnall, 2003), the reasons for or against electronic commerce participation have been neglected.

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