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Exploring source effects for online sales outcomes: the role of avatar-buyer similarity

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Abstract:

This exploratory study investigates the role of a virtual salesperson's similarity to an online buyer in enhancing web site sales outcomes. Our findings show that under low involvement purchase conditions, the avatar's physical (gender and race) dissimilarity to the buyer positively affects buying intentions, possibly through positive emotions due to the opposite gender attractiveness. Under high involvement conditions, the avatar's characteristics do not affect buyer cognitive effort, and sales arguments alone determine purchase intentions. For moderate involvement situations, two separate routes of message processing may operate simultaneously: avatar-buyer internal trait similarity (i.e. similar need for cognition) works to facilitate the peripheral route, while argument strength works independently by facilitating the central route to persuasion. We discuss the applicability of the Social Response theory and the Elaboration Likelihood Model to online buying, and propose directions for future research.
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