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Cognitive lock-in, mindset and e-shopping experience as predictors of online behavioural intentions

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posted on 17.02.2017, 02:02 authored by Gunness, Anesshta
This thesis makes three contributions. Firstly, it presents online lock-in as a situation specific variable that has the potential to impact on site choice and switching intentions for planned and unplanned purchases. Secondly, this thesis introduces mindset as a consumer and situation specific characteristic and investigates its impact on online purchase intentions, both planned and unplanned. Thirdly, this thesis uses stockout as a situational ‘backdrop’ to investigate the independent and joint impacts of lock-in and mindset on consumer emotions and behaviours. •Background and proposed hypotheses: Conventional wisdom dictates that it is more profitable to retain existing customers than acquire new ones, a notion that also extends to the Internet as a shopping platform. Given the multitude of online retailers and the availability of thousands and thousands of choices at the e-buyer’s fingertips, retailers invest considerable effort in thriving for loyalty. Lock-in, as a type of skill based loyalty, can offer a point of differentiation to lure consumers into developing preference for a site in the hope of successfully retaining these consumers. While, as stated, this thesis measures the impact of lock-in on intention to choose and stay at the high lock-in site, of further interest, it takes into account the evolving nature of an e-shopper and introduces e-shopping experience as a moderator to the proposed relationships. Based on annotated discussions, the thesis proposes and tests the following hypotheses: H1(a): Consumers who have had more opportunity to practice and learn to navigate and operate a site are more likely to return to the site for a final purchase decision. H1(b): Consumers who have had more opportunity to practice and learn to navigate and operate a site are less likely to switch to a competing site. H2(a): Experienced consumers are less likely than inexperienced consumers to purchase from a site they have recently learned to navigate and operate. H2(b): Experienced consumers are more likely than inexperienced consumers to switch to the competing site. A significant portion of online purchase decisions is made during store visits, hence reflecting the unplanned nature of many purchases. However, there is a need to study the impact of high order variables on unplanned purchasing online. This thesis introduces mindset as a predominantly psychological concept which is used as a basis to model unplanned behavioural intentions. The proposition is that the task at hand dictates the type of mental state (deliberative or implemental) that consumers adopt prior to their site visits so that the nature of the mindset will incite actions that are congruent to the mindset formed at the onset of the visits. Discussions lead to the development of the following hypothesis: H3: The likelihood for unplanned purchasing will be higher for buyers who access a website in a deliberative than in an implemental mindset. When a chosen item is out-of-stock (OOS hereafter), a consumer usually seeks to make a tradeoff amongst many costs so as to reach the best decision, of either defecting from the store, switching brand/item, cancelling or postponing the purchase. We propose that the level of lock-in felt with a site and the mindset adopted at pre-visit stages, will redefine the instrumental and non-instrumental elements of the shopping task, to shape the level of perceived costs involved in the decision processes, and ultimately behavioural reactions. We test the independent and joint effects of mindset and lock-in on emotional and behavioural reactions through the following hypotheses: H4: Buyers in an implemental mindset are more likely to demonstrate stronger negative emotions than those in a deliberative mindset. H5: Buyers who are in an implemental mindset and experience an OOS at a low lock-in site are more likely to switch to a high lock-in site and look for an item than stay at a low lock-in site. H6: Consumers will experience stronger negative emotions if OOS occurs at a low than high lock-in site. H7: Buyers in an implemental mindset will experience stronger negative emotions if OOS occurs at a low than when it occurs at a high lock-site, while the emotions of buyers in a deliberative mindset will not differ between an OOS encountered at a low and a high lock-in site. H8: Buyers are more likely to switch from a low lock-in site than a high lock-in site when an OOS is encountered. H9: Buyers in an implemental mindset are more likely to switch to a high lock-in site than those in a deliberative mindset. •Methodology – the online experiment: To test the hypotheses, we convened an online experiment embedded with a series of tasks designed to manipulate both lock-in and mindset. Lock-in served as the within subject variable, manipulated as high and low, while mindset, the between subject variable, was either deliberative or implemental. Low lock-in and absence of the mindset manipulation served as control conditions. Respondents received an e-mail with one of 56 unique experimental links that were created to accommodate the conditions. The link introduced them to a hypothetical gift purchasing task in which they were requested to visit two Australian existing websites and make a few item selections. As part of the lock-in manipulations, respondents selected either two items (low lock-in) or six items (high lock-in) from the first site (site A), and typed the items’ descriptions/names into a specific answer box in the survey; these were automatically fed into the program to make a list of items. Pre-visit instructions for each site also contained mindset manipulations. Respondents then visited site B and again typed their selections to add to their lists of items, from which they were expected to make their final purchase decision. It is to be noted that the order of each pair of sites was counterbalanced so that if respondents had selected six items at site A, they were to select only two items at site B for further consideration; those who had selected two items at site A were to select six items at site B. Two control groups were formed. The ‘semi’ control group received identical instructions except that they were to select 2 items from each site. Therefore, their lists included 4 (and not 8) items. This was also the case for the baseline group whose respondents received no manipulations at all. In fact, they were simply directed to look for 2 items at each of the two sites. Survey questions preceded visits to each of the sites that included, amongst others, measures for the success of the manipulations. Respondents were then asked to select an item (from the list) as their final purchase decision. They were later informed that the item was not in stock. A series of questions then captured their reactions, both emotional and behavioural. •Summary of pertinent findings: We find support for the positive effect of lock-in on intention to choose the high lock-in site; however, of further interest, experience level, as a shopper, moderates this relationship. Experienced buyers are more likely to defect from the high lock-in site while inexperienced buyers are more likely to be enticed to stay at a high lock-in site. Mindset, independently, is not successful at predicting purchase intentions; however, when considered jointly with lock-in, the high lock-in site is found to incite both planned and unplanned purchase intentions. More precisely, in the high lock-in condition, the implemental mindset is more likely to purchase from the planned category while the deliberative mindset is more likely to purchase from the unplanned category. This is quite interesting in that it seems to contradict literature that high familiarity to a website primarily induces planned purchase intentions. In terms of results related to OOS, we highlight the higher likelihood of buyers to switch to the high than low lock-in site when they face an OOS. This trend also applies to buyers entering the low lock-in site in an implemental mindset – they neglect to choose another item from their lists, or visit yet other online stores that they could be acquainted with, or the traditional shops and instead return to the high lock-in site.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Harmen Oppewal

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Business and Economics