The Web has absolutely improved the world for shopping. With a few minutes effort, you can get almost anything... from almost anywhere. The opportunities are endless.
On the flip side, e-commerce companies can now attract customers from almost anywhere at any time. With a solid, usable site, the world is their customer base, right? Maybe. Organizations struggle with globalization-localization issues. Can one site fit all? Can parts of the design be standardized? Which parts need to be localized?
Barnes and colleagues (2006) report the findings that provide the beginning of an answer. They conducted a psychographic survey and cluster analysis of Internet users that segments Internet shoppers into three groups:
Risk-averse doubters ‚Äď About 15 % of the overall population, risk-averse doubters are careful and suspicious. They don't particularly like new experiences and tend not to use the Internet to shop ‚Äď either for information or purchase.
Open-minded shoppers ‚Äď This group likes new and exciting experiences. They don't consider the Web to be a particularly risky place to shop and generally trust their online vendors. They like to shop and they like the fact that the Internet widens their choices dramatically. About 40% of the survey respondents overall fit into this type.
Reserved information seekers ‚Äď The rest of the respondents (about 45%) are open to online shopping but tend to use the Web more for research and pre-purchase evaluations. They use the Web, but they go to the store to buy.
These segments that emerged aren't all that surprising. We've known for (Internet) ages that there are basically early adopters, cautious lurkers and nay-sayers. The interesting part of the study is how these groups distribute within the three countries that they studied: Germany, France, and the US.
Most of the open-minded shoppers (45%) were from the US. In contrast, most of the risk-averse doubters are French (66%). Germans are very open to online shopping, but tend toward using the Web for research and comparison. The relative distribution of the three types of Internet shoppers within each country is shown below.
Little facts like this always make great conversation starters. But they also provide critical input for designers creating multi-national e-commerce sites. The design elements that elicit trust for the typical open-minded American Internet shopper will not be the right ones to engage and persuade a French consumer. One site does not fit all.
Barnes, S.J., Bauer, H.H., Neumann, M.M., and Huber, F. (2007). Segmenting cyberspace: a customer typology for the internet. European Journal of Marketing Vol. 41 No. 1/2, pp. 71-93.
This article is mainly based on the quoted survey results. The article mentions that Americans (53%) tend to be more "open minded" compared to the other countries mentioned in the survey. In the follow-up, Dr. Schaffer wrote "In India, there is a worry about fraud: 'Will the product be delivered?' In China, the question is more about whether the product will be real or fake." That conclusion looks like a "stereotyping" to me. I am sorry I didn't see any supporting data for that observation.
If I am (an Indian American) ordering in US, I have more confidence when I buy products from known websites and delivery networks (like amazon.com). At the same time, I would be very cautious about products that come from outside US and unknown websites.
If I am ordering from amazon.com in India, I will have the same confidence because of the Amazon (very well-known website) and US business practices (the confidence factor). My cultural identity doesn't really impact when I shop online. That's why I have to post this comment.
These findings are of vital importance to any company which is attempting a "global" strategy. Woe to those who think that everyone "thinks" the same. Would like to see more research, especially comparing younger, web-connected people from various geographic areas. Is globalization making an impact when age/ web experience is factored in?
Very intriguing article! any way to get the full text?
Response from Kath Straub:
The reference is included in the bibliography. You should be able to purchase the article on the Net ($35.50 USD) from IngentaConnect, or perhaps you can access it at your local (academic) library.
Statistics can be very misleading. Do the statistics indicate a difference in the people in a given country, or is it an indication of the level of service? Do you cater to the U.S. because the population is more ready to shop, or do you cater to France because you have less competition and the population is looking for somewhere to shop?
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