An Exploratory Research
Richard Ladwein
Institut d’Administration des Entreprises, University of Lille, France
Mohamed Slim Ben Mimoun
Istitut Superieur de Gestion, University of Sousse, Tunisia
Institut d’Administration des Entreprises, University of Lille, France
Keywords: e-consumer, product retrieving, qualitative study, Internet familiarity, Usability.
Abstract: After presenting the concept of offer retrieving on the Internet, the present paper explore via a qualitative
study the different strategies used by the consumer to retrieve a product on a commercial web site and the
role of familiarity in the determination of such strategy. Our results show that individual ability to retrieve
the offer on a commercial Web site would depend on the adopted strategy and on the Internet familiarity
level. Confirming the idea according to which there is a narrow link between the usability and offer
accessibility on an e-commerce site.
When consumers visit Internet shops intending to
make a purchase, many of them don’t complete the
transaction and abandon their intention prematurely
(Cho 2004).
Three main reasons lead the Internet users to
abandon their on-line purchase processes
prematurely: technical problems met on the site,
refute to give their credit card number and the
difficulties met on the site to retrieve the product
(Shim and al. 2001; Lee and Lee 2005; Markellou
and al 2005). In the same vein, Ranganathan and
Grandon (2005) cited that 43% of attempted online
purchase failed because the consumer either had
trouble finding the product on the Web site, or
electronic checkout process has made the purchase
too difficult to be complete.
Indeed, problems connected to the navigation
and to the offer retrieving within a site seem to be an
important obstacle for on-line purchasing especially
for non-experts (Hoque and Lohse 1999, Nicholas
and al. 2003, Zhou and Bao 2002, Callahan and
Kohenemann 2000, Nielsen 1997, Zhang and Myers
This research aims to explore the product
retrieving strategies used by consumer on a
commercial Web site and the role played by the
Internet familiarity in the adoption of a specific
strategy. The question is to verify if different
Internet familiarity levels lead to the use of different
To answer this question we had realised a
qualitative study with 29 business school students.
We present in that follows the methodology adopted
during this study and we discuss our main results.
The objective of this research was little investigated,
thus, we are in a context of discovery. An inductive
and qualitative research approach seems to be more
Ladwein R. and Slim Ben Mimoun M. (2006).
In Proceedings of WEBIST 2006 - Second International Conference on Web Information Systems and Technologies - Society, e-Business and
e-Government / e-Learning, pages 127-131
DOI: 10.5220/0001245901270131
2.1 Investigation Procedures
In order to reach our research objectives, we realised
a study in which we asked a group of students to buy
a product (a book of service marketing or a strategy
pc game) on the site (The participants
stop their purchase process just before giving their
credit card number).
The data collection was realized through three
- The verbal protocol
- Semi-directive interview
- The navigation video recording
2.2 The Sample
Our sample is constituted by 29 business school
students whom were contacted during their presence
at the ISG of Tunis and having demonstrated some
interest for our search.
2.3 Analysis Process
Protocols Analysis: Despite the different taken
guarantees, the quality of verbal protocols, we had
not the possibility to benefit from verbalization of
several individuals for two main reasons.
The first was purely technical and caused by the
interferences between the computer and the
recording equipment which damaged the quality of
the recording. The second reason is that some
individuals were so immersed in their process of
navigation that they forgot to verbalize their
thoughts, in spite of reminders. This situation would
be caused by flow experience.
Semi-structured interview analysis: We
proceeded first to the transcription of the interviews
audio recording. In the second stage, we proceeded
to an inventory by themes for every interview, then
in an analysis of the contents by theme and by
The analysis of interviews contents also allowed
us to have an idea on how individuals conceptualize
their product retrieving strategies on a commercial
site and on their internet familiarity.
Navigation recording analysis: The works of
Moles and Rohmer (1977) and those of Sébillote
(1988) were used as a theoretical basis in the
analysis of the navigation recording. Actions
accomplished by the participants during their
navigation on the site were classified in to three
generic categories: the click actions, the reading
actions and the writing actions. These generic
categories were divided in several sub-categories.
In the light of these categories we proceeded to a
sequential description of activities realised by every
individual during the navigation. We make then a
census of the various types of activities as well as in
a sequential schematic representation of these
The data obtained allowed us to have the
information necessary for realizing our objective of
identification of the product retrieving strategies on
a commercial Web site, as well as evaluating the
efficiency of a given strategy.
The analysis of the interviews and navigation
recordings allowed us to identify four variables and
to have a first idea on the types of relationship
among them. These variables are the Internet
familiarity level, the conceptual mode of the product
retrieving strategy on a commercial Web site, the
product retrieving strategy and the strategy
3.1 The Internet Familiarity Level
Further to the analysis of interview, and inspiring
from Villareal-Camacho's (1985) works on the
computers familiarity, three levels of familiarity
were identified, 14 of the participants have a weak
Internet familiarity, 11 a medium and only 4 a high
3.2 The Conceptualization of
Retrieving Strategy
The analysis of interviews allowed us to gain deeper
understanding of the way the participants
conceptualize their retrieving strategies. Two great
modes of conceptualization were identified that
allowing divide the participants into two groups:
Group 1: The individuals of this group used their
Internet knowledge during the conceptualization of
their strategy. Even those that had visited the site for
the first time didn’t consider themselves in front of a
totally new situation: they compared the site with a
classic search engine and act in consequence.
So, it is possible to say that individuals of group 1
proceeded to an analogy knowledge transfer. In the
case of lack in knowledge needed for a given
situation (purchase on amazon), analogy use nearby
situations knowledge (information search with a
search engine) and operates the necessary
corrections (Bastein 1997; Gregan-Paxton and John,
Group 2: The individuals of this group considered
that they were in front of a new situation and
admitted to be totally driven by the site and by the
specific category links present on the site. In every
stage, they look for links susceptible to allow them
to reach their purposes. In case of failure they often
return to the starting point and look for another link.
Another type of reasoning takes place for this
group. It is about a confrontation between the
category schemata they possess (cognitive
representations) and those proposed by the site (the
hierarchical links structure).
3.3 The Offer Retrieving Strategies
on a Commercial Web Site
We are interested in actions operated by the
individual to retrieve the offer: what does he click?
With which frequency? And in which order? So by
using the navigation video recordings analysis, we
identified four types of strategies which appear as
- The pure search strategy: it takes place
when the individual use only the search tools (4
- The pure navigation strategy: here we
consider the strategies which are totally based on
links use (7 individuals).
- Mixed strategy: In this case individual use
both category-specific and site search tools (9
- Search dominance mixed strategy: it is an
intermediate situation between the use of the
pure search strategy and the mixed strategy. In
this case the individual begins, by using the first
level of categories links to delimit his search
(example click on the link video games) then
pursues his task using search engines ( 9
The strategies presented above are in perfect
agreement with those presented by Nielsen (1997),
except for the case of the mixed strategies which are
subdivided into two subcategories.
3.4 Study of the Strategy
Within the framework of our study we are interested
in the measure of the strategy effectiveness, which is
the capacity of the individual to reach expected
objectives. We consider the capacity of the
individual to make at least a fruitful search (his
capacity to succeed at least once in identifying a
product corresponding to his objective).
3.5 Study of Variables Links
Given the narrowness of our sample (29) we had no
appeal to statistical tests and we just observed the
general tendencies of every type of relationship
through simple cross tables.
At first, we investigated the relationship between
the Internet familiarity and conceptual mode.
Our results indicate that 75 % of the persons
having a high familiarity adopt a conceptualization
of the strategy based on analogy knowledge transfer,
while a majority of the persons who have a weak
(85%) or medium familiarity (81%) opt for a
conceptualization based on the site and the links.
These results are in perfect agreement with
Navarro-Prieto's and al. (1999) works on the
information search cognitive strategies and those of
Gregan-Paxton and John (1997) dealing with
learning by analogy.
Secondly, we investigated the relationship
between Internet familiarity and adopted strategy
and between the conceptual mode and the adopted
Only 50 % of the persons possessing a weak
familiarity (7 on 14) succeed in making a fruitful
search. This number increases for the persons who
possess a medium familiarity (7 on 11) and reaches
75 % for the persons with a high familiarity. So, the
probability of strategy effectiveness increases
proportionally to familiarity level. This result joins
Hsieh-Yee’s (2001) and Zhou and Bao’s (2000) idea
according to whom a minimum of ability is required
to realize tasks successfully on Internet. They are
also in accordance with Kims (2001) results
proving that novice searchers retrieved information
more slowly and made more errors than experienced
Our results indicate also, that strategy
effectiveness is contingent to the category of used
strategy (100 % success for the search dominance
and 11 % for pure links). This result was predictable.
Researches as those of Smith and al. (1997) and that
of Choo and al. (1999) indicate that on the Internet,
different tasks require different behaviour to be
realized effectively.
So, the general tendency of our results seems to
reveal that familiarity don’t have a direct impact on
adopted strategy type. However, Internet familiarity
could have an impact on the conceptual mode; this
last one should have an impact on the adopted
strategy type. The performance of the offer
retrieving depends on adopted strategy type and on
familiarity level.
Our research aims to investigate the various
consumer product retrieving strategies used on a
commercial Web site for different Internet
familiarity level. To reach this objective we realized
a qualitative study with 29 Internet users.
The research shows some general tendencies
which should be verified through a wider sample
within a confirmatory study.
Internet familiarity seems to have no direct
impact on the type of adopted strategy, but it would
exercise an impact on the conceptual mode which
would influence the type of adopted strategy. This
result emphasizes the importance of distinguishing
between the cognitive part (conceptualization) and
the behavioural (strategy) of offer retrieving.
Our study puts in evidence that individual ability
to retrieve the offer on a commercial Web site would
depend on the strategy adopted and on the Internet
familiarity level. So, this study confirms the idea
according to which there is a narrow link between
the usability and offer accessibility on the site.
Therefore to improve commercial sites usability,
it would be important for marketing practitioners to
discover how it’s possible to adapt the
characteristics of sites to every type of strategy.
In other words the designers of sites should take
into account users individual characteristics during
the development of e-commerce sites.
So, if the results of the present search are verified
with a wider sample, it would be evident that clear
and simple category links as well as the presence of
position and direction indicators will facilitate
product retrieving for beginners. While the use of
complex functions as the advanced search, will stay
the privilege of the most experimented Internet users
for some time.
However, the present study suffers from several
limits. The First limit lies to the sample size. The use
of a single site and a single task type constitutes
another limit for our research. It would be interesting
to make this same study with various sites, and
different tasks.
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