Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 21 Number 3 2004 pp. 111-147

Virtual Product Experience: Effects of Visual and Functional Control of Products on Perceived Diagnosticity and Flow in Electronic Shopping

Zhenhui, Jiang and Benbasat, Izak

ABSTRACT: The development of electronic commerce has been constrained by the inability of online consumers to feel, touch, and sample products through Web interfaces, as they are able to do in conventional in-store shopping. Previous academic studies have argued that this limitation could be partly alleviated by providing consumers with virtual product experience (VPE) to enable potential customers to experience products virtually. This paper discusses virtual control, a specific type of VPE implementation, and identifies its two dimensions: visual control and functional control. Visual control enables consumers to manipulate Web product images, to view products from various angles and distances; functional control enables consumers to explore and experience different features and functions of products. The individual and joint effects of visual and functional control were investigated in a laboratory experiment, the results of which indicated that visual and functional control increased the perceived diagnostic (i.e., the extent to which a consumer believes the shopping experience is helpful to evaluate a product) of their corresponding attribute factors, and that both visual and functional control increased consumer overall perceived diagnosticity and flow.

Key words and phrases: B2C e-commerce, direct manipulation, e-commerce, e-tailing, flow, multimedia, perceived diagnosticity, virtual control, virtual product experience