Exogenous and Endogenous Antecedents of Online Shopping in a Multichannel Environment: Evidence from a Catalog Retailer in the German-Speaking World

Exogenous and Endogenous Antecedents of Online Shopping in a Multichannel Environment: Evidence from a Catalog Retailer in the German-Speaking World

Maria Madlberger (Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration, Austria)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-978-6.ch013


Multichannel retailing can offer a wide range of synergies for retailers when their distribution channels accommodate consumers’ preferences and buying behaviors. Among the large number of retail types, mail-order companies are well-suited to benefit from electronic commerce. Not only can they use their infrastructure and experience with direct selling, but they also seek to use the Internet to attract new target groups in order to increase their typically small, narrow customer bases. Currently, we do not know enough about the antecedents of channel choices, especially in the mail-order sector. This article addresses this issue and draws special attention to exogenous (i.e., independent of the retailer) factors that influence online shopping behavior. These variables include perceived convenience and perceived security of online shopping in general and consumers’ attitudes toward the catalog as the existing distribution channel. One endogenous factor—attitude toward the online shop—is assumed to influence buying behavior at the online shop. In order to examine relationships between the catalog and the online shop, 2,363 consumers who were familiar with both distribution channels of a mail-order company were surveyed online. The structural equation model developed reveals that attitudes toward the printed catalog most strongly influence attitudes toward the online shop. Further, the analysis showed that antecedents of buying behavior at the online shop are moderated by gender. Shopping behaviors of men are influenced by their attitudes toward the catalog, while shopping behaviors of women are determined by their attitudes toward the online shop.
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Successful online retailers such as Amazon or eBay have become symbols of profitable e-commerce activities. However, pure Internet players generated only 31% of total Internet sales in 2003, whereas multichannel retailers (i.e., retailers that use online and off-line distribution channels simultaneously) accounted for 52% of Internet sales (Grosso, McPherson & Shi, 2004). One of the most well-known examples is the case of Tesco.com, one of the most successful electronic food retailers in the world (Madlberger, 2004). Tesco integrates its online distribution channel very strongly with its stores (Dawson, 2001). Also, other retailers such as Sears, Gap, and Land’s End demonstrate that synergies can be exploited when one organization has different distribution channels. Consequently, it is not surprising that today’s e-commerce landscape (apart from a few exceptions) is largely dominated by multichannel retailers (Haeberle, 2003).

Studies on success factors in e-commerce have identified several synergies that facilitate online retailing for multichannel players. Retailers with a network of physical stores can achieve synergies in the form of lower costs, differentiation through value-added services, improved trust, and the possibility of extending product markets when they go online (Steinfield, Bouwman, & Adelaar, 2002). In addition, multichannel retailers can spread their risks among several channels, which strengthens their financial standing.

Among traditional types of retailers, mail-order companies are in the best position to capitalize on synergies. These retailers, in fact, are considered well-suited for online business. This is also why most mail-order companies began to develop electronic marketing channels quite early in order to complement their catalog-based channels. For example, the apparel retailer Land’s End launched its online shop as early as 1995 (Alptekinoglu & Tang, 2005). In addition, the target groups of many mail-order companies are stable but nondynamic and limited in size, which forces them to target new customer segments. The Internet could provide them with the opportunity to attract new customer segments and to benefit from various synergies.

However, these synergies can only be turned into competitive advantages and financial gains if electronic retailers successfully respond to consumer needs. Hence, in addition to the analysis of potential synergy effects for multichannel retailers, consumer behavior has to be taken into account. Besides the analysis of antecedents of online shopping, the distinction between influencing factors that are exogenous to the online shop and those that are endogenous (Monsuwé, Dellaert, & deRuyter, 2004) is critical. In order to gain insights into the antecedents of consumers’ channel choices, we have formulated the following two research questions:

  • Which exogenous factors influence consumers’ attitudes toward a mail-order company’s online shop as an endogenous factor?

  • To what extent do their attitudes toward the online shop as an endogenous factor influence their buying behavior at that particular shop?

In order to answer these key questions, we have developed a structural equation model based on the Theory of Reasoned Action as well as on findings from the literature on distribution channel choice. In particular, we address the role of exogenous factors (Monsuwé et al., 2004). In order to test this model, we have conducted an empirical survey in cooperation with a mail-order company.

The article is organized as follows. First, we provide the theoretical basis of the research questions and discuss the literature used for the development of the model. The subsequent section focuses on the development of the model and explains the constructs before the research design is outlined and the results of the structural equation model are presented. Ultimately, the results are discussed and conclusions are drawn from the findings.

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