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The Internet offers immense opportunities for companies to reach a wide base of consumers and efficiently market their products through an electronic channel. According to the Boston Consulting Group, online retailing will reach $168 billion by 2005 (Mark, 2001). Such an estimate substantiates that the Internet has emerged as a powerful alternative channel for selling products and services. However, the recent failure of a large number of e-tail companies exemplifies the challenges of operating through virtual channels and also highlights the need to better understand key factors that drive consumer behavior in online market channels. The infusion of the Internet technology into customer-supplier interactions requires a reconsideration of existing theories and frameworks regarding consumer behavior. Explicit attention should be made to understanding the factors that can explain a consumer's interaction with the technology, their purchase behavior in electronic channels, and their preference to transact with an electronic vendor on a repeat basis.
Although online consumer behavior has been the subject of considerable research in the last few years, there is a paucity of research that attempts to integrate research findings across studies. Online consumer behavior research is a young and dynamic academic domain that is characterized by a diverse set of variables studied from multiple theoretical perspectives. Researchers have relied on the Technology Acceptance Model (Davis, 1989; Davis et al., 1989), Theory of Reasoned Action (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975), Theory of Planned Behavior (Ajzen, 1991), Innovation Diffusion Theory (Rogers, 1983, 1995), and Flow Theory (Csikszentmihalyi, 1988) in investigating consumers' adoption and use of electronic commerce. Studies have examined various aspects of consumer behavior such as web site use, future use, purchase, future purchase, unplanned purchase, channel preference, and satisfaction. In terms of explanatory factors that drive such behavior, researchers have explored the role of attributes of the web site, attributes of the vendor, consumer characteristics, individual perceptions, and the social context (Agarwal & Karahanna, 2000; Agarwal & Venkatesh, 2002; Gefen & Straub, 1997; Gefen & Straub, 2000; Jarvenpaa et al., 2000; Koufaris, 2002; Limayem et al., 2000; Moon & Kim, 2001; Torkzadeh & Dhillon, 2002). While these studies individually provide meaningful insights, a single study does not resolve a major issue (Hunter & Schmidt, 1990). By integrating research findings across multiple studies, we can accumulate knowledge, develop a comprehensive understanding of the phenomena, and identify remaining research issues.
The objective of this study is to provide a comprehensive review of the extant information systems (IS) literature related to online consumer behavior and rigorously integrate the literature in order to enhance our knowledge of consumer behavior in electronic markets and provide clear directions for future research. Toward that end, we not only review and analyze the studies that have been published in the major IS journals, but we also propose an integrative framework that describes the relationships between the key variables that predict and determine consumer behavior in electronic channels. Such an approach should provide insights on factors that need to be carefully considered by companies starting or operating electronic businesses as well as researchers developing and testing models to further understand online consumer behavior.
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