Situational variables in online versus offline channel choice

Since the advent and rapid diffusion of the Internet, the subject of consumer channel choice has attracted a large amount of research, mainly focused on the influence of channel, consumer and product category characteristics as its drivers. The interaction between channel choice and the purchase situation has been largely ignored, however. This paper is an attempt to fill this gap by identifying the key purchase situation variables and conducting an experiment to assess their impact on the choice between the traditional retail outlet and the online store. The results show that the key determinants of channel choice relate to time and distance. Distance-to-store and time pressures are among the factors affecting the probability of online purchase. Using a conceptual framework to explore differences in the impact of situational variables across product categories (high/low involvement, search/experience good), we show that distance-to-store has more influence on the likelihood of online purchase in situations involving search goods, while social variables are found to play a role only in the context of high-involvement goods.