Communicating online information via streaming video: the role of user goal

Date12 June 2017
Published date12 June 2017
AuthorMuhammad Aljukhadar,Sylvain Senecal
Communicating online
information via streaming
video: the role of user goal
Muhammad Aljukhadar
Department of Marketing, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and
Sylvain Senecal
Department of Marketing, Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales,
Montreal, Canada
Purpose The purpose of this paper, building on the media richness theory (MRT), is to propose that while
communicating product information via streaming video should enhance outcome measures, such an
enhancement will be evident mainly for users with equivocal, latent goals (i.e. recreational browsing) rather
than for those with less equivocal, concrete goals (i.e. the search of a specific product).
Design/methodology/approach The experiment involved 337 potential online consumers inCanada, and
had full factorial design with four conditions (two methods to communicate product information: textual vs
streaming video, and two goals: product searching vs recreational browsing). Analysis of covariance was
used to test the hypotheses.
Findings The results lent support to the hypotheses. The perceived information quality, trusting
competence, and arousal for participants with recreational browsing goals were significantly affected when
product information where communicated using streaming video. For participants with concrete goals
(product searchers), the traditional textual method was as effective as the streaming video method.
Practical implications The findings entice practitioners to use rich media such as the streaming video
method to communicate online information predominantly for users with experiential browsing goals, and to
use lean media for users with less equivocal, concrete goals.
Originality/value The resultscontribute to the sparseliterature that underscoresthe key role of user goalin
shaping theeffectiveness of online information.The results provide empiricalsupport to the prediction of MRT
that the use of rich media to communicate informationis advantageous for users with latent, equivocalgoals.
Keywords Consumer behaviour, Media richness theory, Computer mediated communications,
Online information management, Online video
Paper type Research paper
Online retailing cannot become mainstream without enhancing the experience and trust for
the online customer (Hoffman and Novak, 2009). Faced with impersonal retail channels,
customers still embrace a pleasurable shopping experience and call for supportive
communications (Lin et al., 2015). Meanwhile, the use of streaming mediaby online users
has been on the rise. Retailers have been adding to their sites short video segments to
introduce products, to educate customers of the ways to benefit from or assemble a product,
and to communicate various messages (Aljukhadar et al., 2010). The communication of
product information via streaming video is being endorsed not only by national brands such
as General Mills and Kraft Foods but also by smaller brands with limited marketing
budgets. Online video is becoming conventional in e-commerce, with high growth rates of
video view (eMarketer, 2015). Research has started assessing the influence of online video in
an e-tailing environment. Wang et al. (2007) underscore that an interactive avatar at the
e-store provided by video-like medium has a positive effect on the site socialness, which in
turn impacts utilitarian and hedonic values. Jiang and Benbasat (2007) show that product
explanations presented by online videos are as effective as product explanations provided
by VPE (a technology that enables for virtual product trial). Aljukhadar et al. (2010) indicate
Online Information Review
Vol. 41 No. 3, 2017
pp. 378-397
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/OIR-06-2016-0152
Received 4 June 2016
Revised 11 December 2016
Accepted 16 March 2017
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
that presenting the retailers privacy disclosure via video outperforms the textual method.
As such, the literature generally stipulates positive outcomes for the use of streaming media
to communicate information online. Nonetheless, to our knowledge, the literature has shown
little effort to investigate the boundary conditions for streaming video use. This research
gap has so far contributed to the rise of the online video leads to better outcomes
conventional wisdom. The current research provides an empirical examination of the latter
premise by investigating the effects of communicating online information via streaming
video vs text on the e-store performance. More specifically, it compares the traditional
method in presenting products at the e-store (the textual method) with a more recent
method: the streaming video method where the textual presentation is provided by a
salesperson at the e-store.
Despite its importance, the role of a users goal has not been investigated in this context.
Kaltcheva and Weitz (2006) suggest that goals play an important mitigating role in the
relationships between affect, cognition, and behavior. A users online goal shapes his or her
online behavior (Moe, 2003). Visinescu et al. (2015) paradoxically found that using more
realistic websites (i.e. with three-dimensional design) reduced performance measures such as
ease of use and cognitive absorption. Consistent with these findings, the current research
posits that a users online goal interacts with the online communication method to influence
his or her response. That is, using the textual method to present products at an e-store might
be as effective as the streaming video method for users with certain goals. The framework of
this research is grounded in the media richness theory (MRT), which stipulates that
performance improves when rich media is employed for equivocal goals. Indeed, a major
prediction of MRT is that performance should improve when site developers use richer
media for equivocal goals (where there are multiple and potentially conflicting
interpretations to the task-at-hand or available information) and leaner media for less
equivocal goals (Daft et al., 1987). To date, most studies asked managers to choose which
medium they would use to send hypothetical messages in order to check if the managers
choices meet MRT prediction. Dennis and Kinney (1998, p. 257) plausibly noted that
because these studies have evaluated media choice rather than measuring media use, the
central proposition of media richness theory remains largely untested: does the use of richer
rather than leaner media for equivocal tasks improve performance?To address this
research question, an experiment was performed in an online retail context. The experiment
manipulates media richness by medium modality as in Aljukhadar et al. (2010): the textual
vs the streaming video method in communicating online information. The user goal was
manipulated following Moe (2003) and Schlosser (2003): a recreational browsing goal
(i.e. navigate on the Web site and do whatever you consider interesting and/or
entertaining) vs product searching goal (i.e. Navigate on the Web site to efficiently search
for a laptop you would consider purchasing in real life). While the former goal is equivocal
and latent, the latter goal is clearer and concrete (Schlosser, 2003). According to MRT, rich
media should be relevant for consumers having the recreational browsing goal, but not for
those having the product searching goal.
Research has supported many predictions of MRT (Kahai and Cooper, 2003). Some
studies, however, have found no clear support for MRT (Dennis et al., 1999; Suh, 1999;
Rockmann and Northcraft, 2008). The current research considers the role of goal
equivocality and supports MRTs prediction that using rich media (the streaming video
method as opposed to the textual method) leads to better outcomes for users with equivocal,
latent goals such as recreational browsing, but not for users with unequivocal, concrete
goals (product searching). The results contribute to the online information management
literature by delineating the moderating role of a users goal while visiting the site on the
relation between rich media and the users responses. As such, the current research sheds
light on the effectiveness of rich media at online environments by showing that a users goal
via streaming

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