Gender effects on e-commerce.

Author:Parsa, Faramarz

    There is little doubt that the Internet is the fastest growing medium of all time. In 1997, it was judged to have experienced higher initial and continuing growth than any other medium in history (Zeff & Aronson, 1999). Since that time, the number of users has grown exponentially. Today, due to its widespread use, it has developed into a ubiquitous source of news and information.

    Along with the huge rate of growth of e-commerce has been the demand for Web advertising. As early as 1995, the Internet was recognized as an important marketing and advertising medium because of its global reach and interactive nature. It is different from traditional advertising media because of its location in both business and home. It can serve as a communications channel as well as a transaction and distribution channel. Users are able to initiate a shopping process by visiting a Web site and then clicking on hyperlinked text for more information. Due to the rapid expansion of broadband networks, there is an unprecedented capacity for multimedia content including text, graphics, audio, and video.


    Web advertising takes the form of solicited and unsolicited banners, logos, animation, pop-up messages, text-based hyperlinks to official Web sites, sponsor identifications for Web sites, and e-mail messages (Ducoffe, 1996; Schlosser et al., 1999). Adapting traditional advertising to the new medium presents challenges and opportunities. Not surprisingly, there is increasing interest among scholars in online shopping and advertising. Although beliefs and attitudes toward off-line advertising have been studied for many years, a growing amount of research attention is being devoted to perceptions of the Web as an advertising medium. Researchers from a variety of disciplines such as information systems, business, and psychology have examined this issue from different perspectives.

    A number of studies have compared Web advertising to conventional advertising. Calisir (2003) examined perceptions of Web advertising compared to eight traditional media. Using 15 attributes, he found that Web sites are perceived as the most reliable source of information about products and services and "the best medium for precipitating (a purchase) action, surpassing even point of purchasing and telemarketing" (p. 361). It should be pointed out that the participants in Calisir's study were mostly undergraduate Turkish students. He urged researchers to "build on this study by extending it to other countries" (p. 362). Interestingly, although 100 females and 100 males participated in the study, no attempt was made to determine whether there were perceptual differences between the genders.

    There is a significant body of evidence outside the domain of information systems supporting the view that "gender (does) indeed play a crucial role in influencing behavior in a wide array of domains" (Venkatesh & Morris, 2000, p. 116). For traditional media advertising, researchers have concluded that males exhibit more positive beliefs and attitudes than females (Hirschman & Thompson, 1997; Prakash, 1992). Do the differences and similarities between the genders transfer to the new dynamic internet environment? Clearly, such differences, if they do exist with respect to Web advertising, would be of critical importance to advertisers. Although practitioners, regulators, and scholars have been interested in this question, a limited number of studies have explored it.

    To date, the only such study was conducted by Wolin and Korgaonkar (2003). They reported that males exhibit more positive attitudes toward Web advertising and are more likely to purchase from the Web than females. Although this study provided many useful insights by broadening traditional media research into the Web, each survey item was measured on a three-point scale, which limits the choices available to the respondents thus affecting the questionnaire's sensitivity and reliability.


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