Online Environment–Product Congruence: The Role of Experience and Product Consumption Type on Product Liking: An Abstract
In today’s online landscape, many retailers focus their home pages, not on the products that they sell, but on the environment in which their products are used. For example, The North Face, Inc. shows an image of a user wearing their product in front of an image of a mountain range, indicating to potential buyers that these products would be suited for the worst weather. Patagonia, Inc. shows their products being used by mountain climbers in a similar fashion, while Hot Hands® places a snowy mountain behind their product to indicate a popular scenario to use them. This raises the question, why would a manager want to focus their home page design on the environment within which a product is used, rather than on the details (e.g., benefits, technical specs) of the product itself? Put in a broader scope, how do online environment–product interactions affect consumers’ purchasing habits?
This research contributes to our understanding of the complex online landscape. Theoretically, we provide evidence that prior product experience moderates the relationship between product–environment congruence and conceptual processing fluency, and that product consumption types moderate the relationship between conceptual processing fluency and product liking. Furthermore, by providing evidence for the process by which product–environment congruence can impact product liking, managers can better present their products to improve product liking. When displaying a hedonic product online, it is important to take into consideration the display of the product within the environment it is used and consumers’ experience with the product.
The findings from this research have implications for website and display ad designs. For example, a hedonic product would benefit from being displayed on a background image, which shows an environment in which the product may be used. A brand-like Razer, which focuses on the gaming peripherals (e.g., a computer mouse), should present their products on a background image showing their products in an environment they may be used (such as a desk) and target consumers with experience using their products. On the flip side, for a brand like Logitech, which sells mice known more for their user’s comfort and convenience, a product’s background and users’ prior experience with the product is less important.