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The influence of consumers´ perceived fit between gender of the virtual character and product gender on consumers’ Web experiences

Hoppen, Jip (2013) The influence of consumers´ perceived fit between gender of the virtual character and product gender on consumers’ Web experiences.

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Abstract:More and more consumers shift to Internet shopping. The communication process between the consumer and the vendor is dramatically altered. Compared to offline shopping, the online shopping experience may be viewed by consumers as anonymous, automated, unreliable and lacking human warmth. Consumers do not trust online retailers enough to engage in online transactions. A solution is the use of virtual characters on websites. A virtual character can be seen as a social element of a website. The number of websites that use virtual characters to deliver product information and help consumers during their buying process are increasing. Until now especially the general influence of virtual characters on consumers’ shop experiences has received attention. However, there is little research dealing with the influence of the gender of the virtual character with regard to different product gender. This experimental research investigates the influence of consumers’ perceived fit between the gender of the virtual character and the product gender on the variables satisfaction with the virtual character, credibility of the message, trustworthiness of the virtual character, trust in the retailer and buying intention. A 2 (gender virtual character: men and women) X 3 (product gender: masculine, feminine and neutral) between-subjects factorial design was conducted. Ninety-four male and eighty-nine female participants (N = 183) performed the experimental study and filled in the online questionnaire. The results show that people perceive a fit when the gender of the virtual character matches the gender of the product (highly masculine product – male virtual character, highly feminine product – female virtual character). In the neutral situation no significant differences are found. Another notable finding is that people’s perceived fit is an important predictor for the rating on the other variables. People who perceive a higher fit are more satisfied with the virtual character, perceived the message of the virtual character as more credible, perceived the virtual character and the retailer as more trustworthy and were more likely to buy the product. Finally, theoretical and practical implications are discussed and suggestions for future research are presented.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:05 communication studies
Programme:Communication Studies MSc (60713)
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