Spiekermann, Sarah: Online Information Search with Electronic Agents: Drivers, Impediments, and Privacy Issues

Humboldt Universität zu Berlin


Dissertation
Online Information Search with Electronic Agents:
Drivers, Impediments, and Privacy Issues

Zur Erlangung des akademischen Grades
doctor rerum politicarum
(Doktor der Wirtschaftswissenschaft)

Wirtschaftswissenschaftlichen Fakultät
der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Diplom-Kauffrau Sarah Spiekermann,
geboren am 05. September 1973 in Düsseldorf

Dekan der Wirtschaftswissenschaftlichen Fakultät:
Prof. Dr. Lutz Hildebrandt

Gutachter:
Prof. Oliver Günther, Ph.D.
Prof. Dan Ariely, Ph.D.

eingereicht: 09. Oktober 2001

Datum der Promotion: 22. November 2001

Online Information Search with Electronic Agents:
Drivers, Impediments, and Privacy Issues

Based on an online experiment with 206 subjects the thesis investigates how consumers search for high-involvement products online and herein rely on the assistance of electronic advisor agents.

In the context of a camera purchase traditional constructs relevant in offline information search (including perceived product risk, purchase involvement and product knowledge) are tested for their relevance in an online environment. In addition, new constructs impacting online search, namely privacy concerns and flow, are analyzed. Finally, information search behavior for cameras is compared with the one for jackets.

One major finding is that agents do not play the same role in, and are not equally important for, online information search in different product categories. Thus, it appears, that the search process for the experience good ’jacket‘ involves relatively less reliance on an electronic agent than this is the case in the purchase process for cameras. Moreover, the separate analysis of manually controlled and agent-assisted search shows that, at a significant level, consumers prefer to manually control the search process the more risk they perceive. In line with older studies the data also suggest that the more product knowledge a consumer perceives the less he interacts with an agent for information search purposes.

In the last chapter, the thesis focuses on a potentially major impediment for agent interaction, namely consumer privacy concerns. The empirical results show that, against expectations, privacy concerns to not seem to significantly impede consumer disclosure online. In contrast, evidence is produced that if systems offer appropriate returns in the form of personalized recommendations online users seem to be ready to reveal even highly personal information. The findings suggest that there is a lot of room for online marketers to communicate with their clients through dialogue-based electronic agents. If marketers used the spectrum of legitimate personal questions that are related to the product selection process more systematically, they could gain valuable insight into their customers‘ decision making process as well as on decisive product attributes. However, unfavorable privacy settings do seem to induce a feeling of discomfort among users which then leads to less interaction time. Marketers therefore have to provide for a comforting privacy environment in order to make their customers feel good about the interaction.

Keywords:
Online Information Search, Personal Agents, Electronic Privacy, Perceived Purchase Risk

Informationssuche im Internet mit elektronischen Agenten: Treibende Faktoren, Einsatzbarrieren und die Rolle der Privatsphäre

Basierend auf einem Onlineexperiment mit 206 Teilnehmern untersucht die Dissertation, wie Konsumenten im Internet nach Informationen zu hochwertigen Produkten suchen und welche Rolle dabei virtuelle Verkaufsberater (elektronische Agenten) spielen.

Im Kontext eines online Kamerakaufes mit Hilfe eines virtuellen Agenten wird der Erklärungswert traditioneller Faktoren der Informationssuche für das Onlinemedium untersucht. Dabei werden das wahrgenommene Kaufrisiko, die persönliche Bedeutung des Kaufes sowie das vorhandene Produktwissen als Einflussvariablen getestet. Darüber hinaus wird untersucht, welche Rolle das Datenschutzbewusstsein des Konsumenten in der Interaktion spielt und wie stark ein Zustand des ‚Flows‘ (fließen) die Informationssuchtiefe beeinflussen. Die für Kameras beobachtete Onlinesuche nach Produktinformationen wird in einem zweiten Schritt mit der Onlinesuche nach Jacken verglichen.

Eine wesentliche Erkenntnis der empirischen Arbeit ist, dass virtuelle Verkaufsberater bei der Suche nach unterschiedlichen Produkten nicht dieselbe Wichtigkeit haben. So wird deutlich, dass sich Konsumenten auf der Suche nach dem Erfahrungsgut Jacke relativ weniger auf die Empfehlung des Agenten verlassen als dies im Kaufprozess von Kameras der Fall ist. Hinzu kommen einige signifikante Anzeichen dafür, dass Konsumenten den Suchprozess stärker zu kontrollieren wünschen und weniger an Agenten delegieren, desto mehr Kaufrisiko bzw. Kaufunsicherheit sie empfinden. Schließlich zeigt sich analog zu älteren Studien, dass Konsumenten mit mehr Produktwissen weniger mit virtuellen Verkaufsberatern interagieren.

Im letzten Kapitel der Dissertation geht es um eine potentiell maßgebliche Barriere für den Einsatz von virtuellen Verkaufsberatern: die Angst von Konsumenten ihre Privatsphäre einzubüßen und zum ‚gläsernen Kunden‘ zu werden. Die empirischen Ergebnisse legen hier jedoch nahe, dass Datenschutzbedenken die Konsumenten nicht davon abhalten, sich online mitzuteilen. Ganz im Gegenteil wird deutlich, dass Konsumenten sogar bereit sind, sehr persönliche Informationen von sich preiszugeben, wenn das System eine entsprechende Gegenleistung bietet (wie beispielsweise eine persönliche Produktempfehlung). Die Ergebnisse suggerieren, dass es einen großen Gestaltungsspielraum für Unternehme gibt, über elektronische Dialogsysteme mit ihren Kunden zu kommunizieren. Würden Unternehmen das potentielle Spektrum an persönlichen Fragen nutzen, die im Rahmen eines Kaufprozesses sinnvoll sind, könnten sie wertvolle Einblicke in das Entscheidungsverhalten ihrer Kunden gewinnen. Hingegen sollte beachtet werden, dass eine mangelhafte Berücksichtigung des Datenschutzes gleichzeitig auch Unbehangen beim Nutzer auslöst, welches sich in signifikant kürzeren Interaktionszeiten wiederspiegelt. Es ist daher im Interesse von Unternehmen, für eine datenschutzfreundliche Interaktionsumgebung zu sorgen.

Schlagwörter:
Informationssuche, Persönliche Agenten, Datenschutz, Kaufrisiko


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Table of Contents

Front pageOnline Information Search with Electronic Agents: Drivers, Impediments, and Privacy Issues
Acknowledgements
1 Introduction
1.1Electronic Consumer Agents in Marketing Research
1.2Thesis Structure
2 Agent Roles and Challenges in Electronic Commerce
2.1What is an agent anyway? <3>
2.2Currently Employed Versions of Personal Agents in
Consumer Markets
2.3Roles for Agents in Commerce, and Related Design Challenges
2.3.1Agents in Different Roles: A Discussion of West et al.‘s [2000] Framework
2.3.2Agent Roles and Challenges in Different Purchase Situations
2.3.2.1Differentiation of Purchase Types and Information Search Behavior in Consumer Markets
2.3.2.2Front-end Agent Systems: A Brief Overview
2.3.2.3Agent Roles and Systems in Different Purchase Contexts
2.3.2.4Challenges for Agent Acceptance in Different Purchase Contexts
3 Empirical Work
3.1Overview
3.2Incentive Scheme and Briefing
3.3Materials and Apparatus
3.3.1Navigation Opportunities in the Experimental Online Store
3.3.2Store Manipulation
3.3.3Identical Store Design for Compact Cameras and Winter Jackets
3.3.4Development of Agent and Agent Dialogue
3.3.5Pre and Post-Shopping Questionnaires
3.4Procedure
3.5Benefits and Drawbacks of the Empirical Research
4 Online Information Search for High Involvement Goods: A Structural Equation Modelling Approach
4.1User Control in High-Involvement Online Searches with Agents
4.2Model Constructs and Hypotheses
4.2.1Endogenous Model Constructs
4.2.2Exogenous Model Constructs
4.3Measures
4.3.1Measurement of Endogenous Model Constructs
4.3.1.1Measurement of the Information Search Construct
4.3.1.2Measurement of Perceived Product Risk
4.3.2Measurement of Exogenous Model Constructs
4.4Results
4.4.1Data
4.4.2Model Estimation and Fit
4.4.3Model Relationships
4.5Discussion: Strategies of Information Search With or Without Agents
4.6Conclusion
5 Comparing Online Search Behavior for Different Product Categories
5.1Empirical Survey Design
5.1.1Data
5.1.2Identical Store Design
5.2Choice and Perception of Products
5.3Observed Interaction Behavior
5.4Discussion of Results for Online Marketing
5.4.1Product Related Focus of Dialogue Systems
5.4.2Context Adjusted Representation of Products
5.5Conclusion
6 Consumer Privacy Concerns in Interacting with Agents
6.1Introduction to Privacy Issues in Online Interactions
6.2Measuring Disclosure in Human-Agent Interaction
6.2.1Independent Variables Driving Personal Information Cost on the Internet
6.2.2Empirical Survey Design
6.2.3A Model for Personal Consumer Information Cost (PCIC)
6.2.3.1Initial Regression Analysis
6.2.3.2Relationship between Legitimacy and Importance of Information Requests
6.2.3.3Final Definition of Overall Model
6.2.4Discussion of Results
6.3Privacy Preferences Versus Actual Interaction Behavior
6.3.1Data Used for the Analysis
6.3.2Measurement of Privacy Attitudes through Cluster Analysis
6.3.3Comparing Privacy Attitudes with Behavior
6.3.3.1Address Provision
6.3.3.2Revelations During the Sales Dialogue
6.3.4Discussion of Results
6.4Conclusion
7 Thesis Conclusions and Impulses for Future Research
Bibliography References
Appendix A HANDOUT MATERIAL & BRIEFINGS
A.1Verbal Briefing and Procedure
A.2Consent of Payment
A.3Privacy Statements
A.3.1PS type 1 (soft)
A.3.2PS type 2 (harsh)
A.4Description of Navigation Opportunities in the Store
A.5Pre & Post Shopping Questionnaires
A.5.1PRE SHOPPING QUESTIONNAIRE
A.5.2POST SHOPPING QUESTIONNAIRE
A.6Briefing of Participants in the Pre-Study (analysis 3)
Appendix B ONLINE MATERIAL
B.1Sreenshots of the Experimental Store
B.2Description of Algorithm behind Luci
B.3Agent Questions, Perception and Classification
B.4Rules to formulate Agent Questions
B.5Rules to assign Agent Questions to Privacy Classes
B.6Screenshot of Pre-Study Rating Tool
Appendix C DETAILS OF THE ANALYSIS
C.1Measures employed in the Structural Equation Model on Online Information Search
C.2Output of Structural Equation Model on Online Information Search (M-Plus)
C.3Output of Structural Equation Model on Private Consumer Information Cost (M-Plus)
C.3.1Total sample
C.3.2Group A (peip & u questions)
C.3.3Group B (pepr & pd questions)
C.4Questions employed to derive Privacy Attitudes
C.5Agglomorative Clustering Table
C.6Cluster tables, K-means analysis, Camera shoppers
C.7Cluster tables, K-means analysis, Jacket shoppers
C.8Cluster tables of K-means analysis all products
Appendix D D1 to D7 - MAJOR SPSS OUTPUT FILES
D.1Table D1: Demographics of Participants (referred to in section 3.2.)
D.2Table D2: Correlations between Risk & Satisfaction with Agent Luci (referred to in section 4.5.)
D.3Table D3: Satisfaction with Agent Luci and Impact on Search (referred to in section 5.1.1.)
D.4Table D4: Time cost and Impact on Search (referred to in section 5.1.1.)
D.5Table D5: Satisfaction with Agent Luci in the 2 Store Versions (referred to in section 5.1.2.)
D.6Table D6: Perceived Legitimacy and Importance of Agent Questions in the 2 Store Versions (referred to in section 5.1.2.)
D.7Table D7: Correlations between Purchase Risk and Uncertainty attached to Jackets and Cameras (referred to in section 5.2.)
Declaration

Table of Tables

Tabelle 1: Overview of Experimental Treatments:
Tabelle 2: Overview of Empirical Analysis Made:
Tabelle 3: Fit Measueres for Model of Online Information Search:
Tabelle 4: Reliability and Validity of Measurement Models:
Tabelle 5: Relationship between Subjective Product Knowledge and Satisfaction with the Search Engine :
Tabelle 6: Perception of Experimental Products as Search or Experience Goods:
Tabelle 7: Perceived Risk Structure of Experimental Products:
Tabelle 8: Comparison of Breadth of Interaction for Cameras and Jackets :
Tabelle 9: Comparison of Depth of Interaction for Cameras and Jackets:
Tabelle 10: Results for an Initial Fixed Effects
Regression Model for the Evaluation of PCIC:
Tabelle 11: Relating Nature of Agent Questions to Leg x Imp Classes:
Tabelle 12: Results for a Final Simultaneous Equation Model with Fixed Effects
for the Evaluation of PCIC:
Tabelle 13: Final Cluster Centres for K-means Cluster Analysis (Camera Shoppers):
Tabelle 14: Contrasting Privacy Attitudes with Voluntary Address Provision
Tabelle 15: Contrasting Privacy Attitudes with Online Communication Behavior

Table of Figures

Abbildung 1: Scope of Intelligent Agents as defined by Gilbert et al. [1995]
Abbildung 2: Agent Roles in the Purchase Process as Proposed by West et al. [2000]<12>
Abbildung 3: Agent Roles Related to Different Purchase Contexts
Abbildung 4: Image of Sales Agent Luci
Abbildung 5: Model of Online Information Search: Unobserved Constructs and Stated
Directionality of Relationships
Abbildung 6: Antecedent Variables and Directionality of Relationships for a Model of Online Information Search
Abbildung 7: Users‘ Path through the Experimental Online Store <38>
Abbildung 8: Drivers of Personal Consumer Information Cost (PCIC)
Abbildung 9: Relationship between Mean Perceived Legitimacy and Importance of Agent Questions
Abbildung 10: Four Clusters Reflecting Fear to Lose Privacy through Profile or Identity Revelation on the Internet

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