Curbing shopping cart abandonment in C2C markets — an uncertainty reduction approach

Abstract

Shopping cart abandonment (SCA) is the phenomenon whereby an online buyer places items into her virtual shopping cart but eventually chooses to abandon payment. This research examines the effect of buyers’ uncertainty perceptions on SCA behaviour, and prescribes the ways to mitigate them. Building on the e-commerce literature, we identify seller uncertainty, description uncertainty, and performance uncertainty as the key antecedents of SCA and explore their relative influences on customers’ intention to finalize the transaction. Drawing upon uncertainty reduction theory (URT) from the communication literature, we theorize critical communication capabilities and discuss their relative effectiveness and boundary conditions in reducing different types of uncertainty perceptions. Survey data were collected from 237 online shoppers who were hesitating to checkout items in their virtual shopping carts. The results provide support for our structural model and hypotheses in general, with a few interesting exceptions. We suggest a plausible explanation of these results and point out their implications for future research. Suggestions for e-commerce practices are discussed.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    A rich body of literature offers multiple conceptualizations of purchase decision-making stages, which vary in their granularity. We adopt the widely accepted one proposed in (Engel et al. 2006) that pre-purchase decision-making involves the stages of need recognition, search for information, pre-purchase evaluation, and purchase.

  2. 2.

    Behavioral intention is often used as a proxy of the actual behavior to evaluate marketing effectiveness because behavior, as the conative response, is a result of cognition and/or affect (Stephen J. Hoch and Ha 1986).

  3. 3.

    Performance uncertainty is originally defined as uncertainty due to the seller’s unawareness of hidden defects in the context of used-item auctions (second-hand cars, see (Dimoka et al. 2012)). Our definition generalizes the original concept into a more common situation in the C2C market. This extended conceptualization is particularly relevant as C2C sellers’ lack of product knowledge becomes a new challenge due to the high product segmentation granularity in consumer markets and the experiential nature of many products (Quester et al. 2007).

  4. 4.

    We focus on first-time buying in this research. Consumers behave differently in first-time and repeated purchases, with SCA occurring much more frequently for first-time purchases than repeated ones (Nicholls 2014). Such a premise satisfies the “initial encounter” context in which URT is applicable.

  5. 5.

    In the current research, we adopt the conceptualization of interactivity that involves three dimensions: active control (the extent to which an interactant has active control of the communication process), reciprocity (the degree to which the communication is reciprocal) and synchronicity (the extent to which the communication is synchronized) (Y. Liu 2003; H. H. Teo et al. 2003).

  6. 6.

    Pavlou et al. (2004) define “effectiveness of the feedback mechanism” as “feedback mechanism in an online marketplace being able to provide accurate and reliable information about the past transaction behavior of the marketplace’s sellers.” Extending this conceptualization, we argue that feedback mechanisms function not only as seller reputation systems, but also to provide supplemental referential information to buyers for the inference of product characteristics that sellers are unable (instead of unwilling) to offer.

  7. 7.

    The central assertion of MST is that a communication process is enhanced when the medium’s synchronicity fits the needed synchronicity by a task (Dennis et al. 2008). MST proposes two major types of processes: conveyance and convergence. The former focuses on transmitting, understanding, and integrating large amounts of new information into a mental model, and it is therefore cognitively expensive. The latter is mainly related to the attempt to achieve mutual understanding and agreements. Convergence is favorably enhanced by media with high synchronicity (Dennis et al. 2008).

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Acknowledgements

This research was fully supported by research grant numbered MYRG2017-00020-FBA, University of Macau.

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Correspondence to Heng Tang.

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Responsible Editor: Christopher Patrick Holland

Appendix

Appendix

Table 4 Measurement Items for Focal Constructs of This Study

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Tang, H., Lin, X. Curbing shopping cart abandonment in C2C markets — an uncertainty reduction approach. Electron Markets 29, 533–552 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12525-018-0313-6

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Keywords

  • Shopping cart abandonment
  • Seller uncertainty
  • Product uncertainty
  • Uncertainty reduction theory

JEL classification

  • L81 Retail and Wholesale Trade
  • e-Commerce, L86 Information and Internet Services
  • Computer Software