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Online Consumer Psychology: Understanding and Influencing Consumer Behavior in the Virtual World

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This volume contains edited versions of papers that were presented at the 2001 Advertising and Consumer Psychology Conference in Seattle, Washington. This annual conference was sponsored by the Society for Consumer Psychology (Division 23 of the American Psychological Association) with sponsorship assistance from Accenture Institute for Strategic Change.

The conference and this book follow from the 1996 Advertising and Consumer Psychology Conference and subsequent publication, Advertising and the World Wide Web (Schumann & Thorson, 1999). This book contains definitions of Internet terms, historical presentations, discussions of theoretical foundations, the structure of Web advertising, public policy issues, and applications of the medium. This important volume served to better acquaint advertisers with the medium and the important research questions at that time. The authors challenged researchers to think about the potential advantages and disadvantages of the Web as an advertising medium. Specifically, the authors mentioned the need for greater use of theory as well as studies that take advantage of the unique situations created by the Internet. The present volume addresses many of these issues and goes beyond the topic of advertising and the Web to include topics such as customization, site design, word-of-mouth processes, and the study of consumer decision making while online. Some of the research methods employed by authors in the current chapters allow us to gain more insight into the consumer's thought processes while online. Many of the chapters move beyond research that is descriptive of consumer activities. The theories and research methods employed by the present authors help provide greater insight into the processes underlying consumer behavior in online environments.

The book begins with a section on Community. One advantage of the Internet is the ability to bring like-minded individuals from around the world into one forum. Alon, Brunei, and Siegal examine the way in which ritual activities maintain and develop the culture of the community forum. Schindler and Bickart examine published word-of-mouth comments to determine the way in which product experiences and information are communicated from consumer to consumer within a community. People who pass-along emails to others are examined by Lewis, Phelps, Mobilio, and Raman; these authors provide some insight into the issue of viral marketing on the Internet. This section concludes with Boush and Kahle's discussion and research agenda for using online consumer discussion communities to understand products, companies, and brands.

The second section in the book examines issues related to Advertising. The first two chapters in this section examine the issue of click-through rates, albeit from different perspectives. Chandon and Chtourou examine factors that affect the rate at which individuals will click on a banner ad. Mitchell and Valenzuela consider the banner ads that are not clicked—and reason that even without a click through, banner ads will still influence consumer judgment and choice. The other two chapters in this section examine advertising content that is placed in a different content—first within the context of gaming online (Nelson's article on Advergaming) and next within the context of wireless networks (Lynch, Kent, and Srinivasan's chapter on mobile advertising).
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