As stated by Brown (2006), the internet “gives every individual a place where they can present their media online” (p. 68). As such, the internet and interactive media are increasingly being used by marketers as a new form of advertising tool. The ads designed for use on such mediums are usually designed for the mass market and are often published for a general audience regardless of whether they want to see the ad or not. This research seeks to establish some of the determinants that affect consumer behavior towards such ads.
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This study intends to find out the factors that affect consumer behavior towards the internet and interactive media-based advertisements. This is in recognition that the web and other interactive media in use in the twenty-first century have expanded the consumer market thus giving marketers the to reach an increased audience. It is however notable that the number of advertisements targeting the mass market as placed on the web has increased tremendously. This raises the question of the effectiveness of the same especially considering the intrusive nature of some of the advertisements. This study however seeks to find out how the indiscriminate nature of the ads affects consumer behavior towards the same.
The following hypotheses were formulated for this study:
H1. Consumers subjected to extensive online and interactive media advertising reacts in a negative way towards the same.
H2. Consumers subjected to extensive online and interactive media advertising will have decreased levels of willingness to participate in the advertised programs of services.
The research done by Wang Et al (2002), gives some invaluable insight regarding the attitudes that consumers portray towards advertising to researchers. The research covers both traditional media advertising and internet-based marketing and borrows further knowledge from other studies. Notably, this study notes that information systems based advertising are easily ignored by the consumers or perceived as having little value (p. 1143). Citing earlier research by Bogart (1985), Wang et al (2002) state that the probability that consumers would take an advertisement in any media seriously is lowered by the mere number of advertisements that compete for their attention in the various media (p. 1143). The intrusive tactics that advertisers use to capture consumer attention do not help either. Often, a consumer who is bombarded with advertising content on the screen, which he perceives as valueless will be annoyed by the same and as a result, will not care much about the content of the advertisement.
Wang et al (2002) however note that the shortcomings of internet advertising and other forms of interactive media do not mean that the advertisements placed in such forms of media do not convey the intended messages to the intended audiences. Quoting an earlier study by Ducoffe (1996), Wang et al states that “The vast majority of advertising exposure reach individuals when they are not shopping for the product or service being advertised, so most messages are simply not relevant to consumer concerns at the time of exposure” (p. 1143).
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According to Wang et al (2002), most advertisements used on the internet and interactive media can be classified as brand-building ads (p.1144). They are intended to create a positive image of the advertised product, create demand, and eventually lead to purchase. The communication in the ads is modeled for the mass audience and uses an “intrusion tactic” to capture the attention of as many people as possible.
Heinonen & Strandvik (2003) on the other hand state that consumer behavior towards interactive media-based advertising is mainly dependant on the perceived relevance of the ad and the acceptance of the advertising message on the channel used (p. 4). As such, they suggest that consumer behavior towards advertisements depends on the “how, when, and where” the ad messages get to them. When the acceptance of the message through the channel used is combined with the right timing, the consumer will be more willing to read through the advertisement and maybe even take the content therein to heart. However, if the consumer sees the advertisements as an intrusion to his personal space, he will most likely ignore the content therein, thus registering less response to the advertising content.
Rodgers and Thorson (2000) have also addressed consumer behavior towards new media and states that researchers have a lot to learn from traditional media (p. 43). As such, they suggest that advertising should be understood from the consumer’s perspective and his goals since such an approach will give the researchers an adequate base to deal with complex consumer behavior that is portrayed towards online advertisements and other interactive media (p. 430). Rodgers and Thorson (2000) state that although the advertisers controlled the advertisements that consumers were exposed to in the traditional media, the tables have turned and now the consumer has all the power to determine whether he is going to pay attention, be involved or simply ignore an ad on the web (p. 430). This argument is based on the fact that consumers log on to the web out of their own volition and usually have some goals or plans in mind. They, therefore, choose how to interact with the advertisers, the ads ad the websites. This study further indicates that consumer behavior towards the use of the internet and interactive media in advertising is affected by the balance between aspects of the advertising that are consumer-controlled vs. those that are controlled by the advertiser (Rodgers & Thorson, 2000).
Consumer-controlled aspects on the web include internet motives, internet modes, and cognitive tools. Advertiser-controlled aspects on the web on the other hand include all structural elements of a web advertisement. This includes advertisement type, ad format, and ad features. This argument is shared by Edwards et al (2002) who state that the structural features of an advertisement placed on the web or other interactive media can impose constraints or afford opportunities to an individual consumer. This then affects consumer behavior because a person who sees an opportunity in the ad will use the platform granted by the same to take action in the hope that their goals or motives will be met.
Thorson & Levitt (2008) states that consumer behavior is determined by a combination of consumer-controlled features and advertiser controlled features. He identifies the consumer-controlled features as things that appeal to the consumer such as the overall appeal of the host website, the attitude the consumer has towards the advertised product or service, information that the consumer has regarding the product or service advertised, and the flow of the advertisement. The advertisement should have a good flow, should create empathy, and should be engrossing, interesting, and exciting. In other words, it should be able to capture consumer attention and interest (Thorson & Levitt, 1998). Advertiser-controlled features that affect consumer behavior on the web and other interactive forms of media include color, size, typeface, product class, animation, interactivity, vividness, realism, telepresence, appeal type, movement, and sound type and clarity (Thorson & Levitt, 1998).
Al-alak & Alnawas (2010) shares the views expressed by Thorson & Levitt(1998) and states that the acceptance of advertising messages depends partly on the quality of advertising and the perceived benefits that the consumers associates with the advertisement. As such, the relevancy of an advertisement to the consumer plays a major role in the behavior that the consumer will portray towards the same (p. 32). The study states that when the consumer likes the content of the advertisement, he can contact the advertiser through the same means hence suggesting that there is an increased level of interactivity between the consumer and the advertiser when compared to traditional modes of advertising (Al-alak & Alnawas, 2010). Further, the study argues that consumer behavior relating to new modes of advertising (web and interactive media) resonate with the theory of reasoned behavior, whereby one would need to understand the behavior of the consumer. According to this study, perceived entertainment, perceived usefulness and personal use are the three major factors that affect consumer behavior, and which have a high likelihood of conversions. Indirectly though, the study identifies that Extensive advertising, personal use, perceived usefulness of the advertised product or service, and the perceived entertainment are all factors that affect the consumer’s intention to participate in the action as suggested by an ad, and this ultimately leads to the intention to purchase (Al-alak & Alnawas, 2010).
Hoffman & Novak (1996) found that consumers related better to online and interactive media advertisements when there is an entertainment aspect to the ads. According to their study, consumer behavior is more favorable to advertisements that are enjoyable, entertaining, and has valuable content. However, for such ads to have an impact on the consumer they have to be well-timed. The study also states that personalized (or at least ads that addressed the consumer as an individual rather than as part of a bigger group) seemed to appeal more to consumers and were therefore more likely to capture and retain their attention. In the end, such ads would have more sale conversion as opposed to ads that were boring and addressed to the mass market.
Haeckel (1998), states that consumers view most of the interactive mediums in their possession as “their own space”, which should be devoid of advertisements unless when prior consent has been (p. 63). When advertisers impose messages on consumers using such devices (especially mobile phones), then the consumer regards this as an invasion of the “personal space”. It is however notable that some of these ads are quite effective in communicating their intended messages regardless of whether the consumer had consented to the same or not. Often messages that resonate with the consumer will be followed by favorable consumer behavior while irrelevant messages will be frowned upon.
Other literature reviewed includes Edwards et al (2002), which found out that pop-ads are perceived by a majority of consumers as intrusive and hence the clicking patterns on such have decreased over the tears. This study states that pop-ads irritated most internet users, who viewed them as forced exposure (p.56). Novak & Hoffman (2000) indicates that the uncertainties regarding the effectiveness of web advertising among marketers and agencies lie in the fact that pricing models are based on exposure and clicks; methods that provide no certainty about conversions. They however note that banner ads are more likely to attract consumer attention than pop-up ads due to their resemblance to ads that appear in newspapers and magazines (p. 3). According to Novak & Hoffman (2000), banner ads affect consumer awareness and the consequent interaction (p.3). This in turn affects the consumer’s comprehension of the advertisement message.
Over the years since its advent and the consequent popularized use, the internet has become a “place” where every manner of good and bad things has happened. Good deals have been reached; people have been duped of their hard-earned cash, while others have followed “dead leads” which left them far from satisfied. For these reasons, and the conclusions reached by researchers highlighted in the literature review segment, this concludes that everything about consumer behavior towards the internet and interactive media as a mode of advertising revolves around how people feel. This means that issues of trust, appreciation, and liking play a major role in how consumers behave when confronted with unsolicited advertisements that pop up on their computer screens or the unsolicited short messages that are sent to them by advertisers.
When faced with advertisements on the web, consumers have to like it, before deciding whether to trust the content therein. The purchase decision is influenced by the likeability, the convincing nature, and the trust that the message evokes from the consumer. This is especially so because many consumers have learned that the internet is not a very trustworthy “place” and therefore they always need to examine something intently, before deciding whether they want to take up any offers or make purchase decisions as encouraged by the advertisements.
However, the study also found out that disinterested consumers have simply learned to ignore or navigate away from a page that is seen as having too many inappropriate adverts. Bezjian-Avery et al (1998) confirmed this and thus justified Hypothesis 1.
This research also found out that when a consumer relates and proves that indeed a particular ad is genuine, there is an increased possibility that he would refer other people to the advertiser for the same product or service. This finding is in line with the social capital theory as noted by Bordieu (1986), which states that “resources embedded within, available through and derived from the network of relationships by an individual or social unit provides a basis for cooperation, trust, and action”. Evidence that people refer to each other to items or services advertised on the internet can be found through various blogs where people discuss the performance of purchased items. However, just as referrals are good in adverting and creating brand awareness, they have a dissuading effect if the performance of an item is seen as substandard.
This study also found out that there is a need for advertisers to choose their audiences well and place advertisements where they will most likely be appreciated by the consumers to avoid bombarding consumers with marketing messages that are of little effect to them (Haeckel, 1998). Just like in traditional media, ads need to be placed where they are most likely to have maximum effect on the consumer (p. 68). This means that one cannot put advertisements on female condoms on a male targeting audience. While men frequenting the website could be fascinated by the condoms, their fascinations will unlikely result in sales in the long-term.
In line with the study conducted by Bezjian-Avery (1998) comparing the effect of advertisements published in traditional media with ads published in the interactive media, this study has established that consumers are more likely to spend time viewing advertisements that were similar to what they were used to in the traditional media as opposed to the overly colorful interactive ads placed on the web and interactive media (p. 40). This in turn means that the conversion rates would be higher in ads that were designed and presented to the consumer in a model similar to traditional media.
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Overall, it is notable that ads that are forced on consumers are received negatively (Shavitt et al, 2004), are avoided at a higher rate (Speck & Elliot, 1997) and consumers tend to have little recall on the same products later (Mehta, 2000, p. 70). Even more serious is the fact that the forced ads help consumers form subsequent attitudes towards similar ads in the future. These studies justify hypothesis 2 of this study. Shavitt et al (2004) state that the negative effect that most interactive media-based ads have on consumers relates to their intrusive nature, the disruption they cause to normal communication, and the annoyance that the consumer feels when exposed to them. Different consumers will perceive the value of an advertisement differently depending on their individual needs, convenience, and goals. Perceived usefulness is also a key affecting factor in consumer behavior towards adverts in the interactive media (Davis et al, 1989). As indicated elsewhere in this paper, the internet is a ‘place’ where good and bad things happen. As such, consumers always perceive a lot of commercial content on websites with a cautious approach. Trust once again is a big issue that affects consumer behavior towards the use of the internet and interactive media as a new medium of advertising.
This study has raised the need for advertisers to research the needs and preferences of consumers first before formulating an advertising strategy for interactive media. It seems there is no enough research to guide advertisers on how to incorporate consumer’s preferences into interactive marketing and no doubt this needs further research. Notably, however, advertisers should recognize that web surfers have different likes and preferences and should therefore target developing ads suited for the diverse consumer preferences presented by the different groups. More importantly, there is a need to find less intrusive ways of placing ads on interactive media to reduce the rate at which the consumers ignore them. This is in line with Duncan & Moriaty(1998) who noted that “communicating effectively with consumers is a two-way exchange built on balance, symmetry, and reciprocity.” This means that advertisers need to build relationships with consumers rather than pushing the products up the consumer’s faces in the way of advertisements.
Access To Data
Data for this study were accessed through physical libraries as well as through internet searches. Searches using keywords such as “consumer behavior” “factors affecting consumer behavior”, “perceptions by consumers regarding internet marketing”, “interactive media” and “consumer perception” among others were used. I used search engines such as Google Scholar, Data-Sheet search engine as well as Questia online library to access some of the invaluable resources I cited in this study. I also observed some of the consumer trends displayed in popular consumer websites such as Amazon and eBay to gain more insight into the subject. My greatest resource however was the research findings published by other scholars.
|Phase 1:||This phase will cover the basic research on and about the topic. During this phase, relevant literature will be studied to gain as much information as possible for the study. I plan to visit libraries to access relevant books and journals. I will also use the internet as another research tool to access the different published research works that are published on the web.|
|Phase 2:||This phase will include drafting the study and conducting further research as may seem necessary.|
|Phase 3:||Writing the final research paper. During this phase, all relevant data gathered during phase 1 and drafted in phase 2 will be written down in a comprehensive manner ready for the final submission|
The internet and interactive media present advertisers with missed fortunes. While it gives them an expanded marketing platform, it gives consumers more control, which makes them more demand and even less tolerant of any content forced on them. This means that advertisers need to be more creative to develop ads that will be more acceptable by the consumers. This means that they need to develop non-offensive ads that should be presented passively on the interactive media and only interacts with the consumer when he shows some interest in the same, maybe by clicking on the advertisement.
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