A dual systems model of online impulse buying

Publication Date11 Apr 2020
AuthorHaiqin Xu,Kem Z.K. Zhang,Sesia J. Zhao
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Information systems,Data management systems,Knowledge management,Knowledge sharing,Management science & operations,Supply chain management,Supply chain information systems,Logistics,Quality management/systems
A dual systems model of online
impulse buying
Haiqin Xu
University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China, and
Kem Z.K. Zhang and Sesia J. Zhao
Faculty of Business Administration, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Canada
Purpose Consumers often communicate with other consumers and perform impulse buying behavior on
social commerce websites. Based on stimulus-organism-response framework and dual systems theory, the
present study examines the effects of social interactions and self-control on consumersimpulse purchase.
Design/methodology/approach An online survey consisting of 315 participants on social commerce
websites was recruited to empirically examine the proposed research model. Partial Least Squares (PLS) was
employed to analyze the research model.
FindingsOur main findings indicate that (1) source credibility, observational learning and review quality are
important antecedents of perceived usefulness of online reviews, (2) source credibility, observational learning
and perceived usefulness positively affect positive affect, which further results in urge to buy and impulse
buying, (3) self-control weakens the effect of positive affect on urge to buy impulsively and also weakens the
effect of urge to buy impulsively on impulse buying behavior.
Originality/value The present study will bring more attention to social interactions in social networks in
practice and encourage scholars to pay more attention to the reflective system in online impulse buying.
Keywords Impulse purchase, Social interactions, Online group shopping, Online reviews, Observational
learning, Dual systems theory
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
With the advance of social networking sites (SNS),such as Facebook, Weibo, and Meituan, an
increasing number of consumers and companies have realized the significance of social
commerce. Social commerce refers to online commercial behaviors which are facilitated by
social media and SNS (Zhang and Benyoucef, 2016). According to a report of social commerce,
more than 70 percent online purchases are influenced by social commerce websites (Jingdong
and Nielsen, 2017). Meanwhile, impulse buying is defined as a purchase behavior which has a
strong and irresistible urge (Rook, 1987). A recent report indicates that 54 percent of male
consumers and 61 percent of female consumers have online impulse buying behaviors
(Nielsen, 2016). Specifically, consumers are more prone to have impulse buying behaviors in
social commerce contexts, given that social commerce provides more possibilities for
consumers to influence each other (Shi and Chow, 2015).
In the extant literature, research has examined how various factors influence online
impulse buying behavior in e-commerce contexts, such as website factors (Chen and Yao,
2018), marketing factors (Liu et al., 2013), consumerfactors (Bellini et al., 2017), and situational
factors (Park et al., 2012). A few recent studies empirically investigate impulse buying
behavior in social commerce contexts (Chen et al., 2016;Leong et al., 2018;Leong et al., 2017;
Xiang et al., 2016). In such contexts, it is likely that social factors(e.g. social influence of peers/
strangers) may play a critical role in online impulse buying behavior (Chen et al., 2016;Xiang
et al., 2016). Nevertheless, the impacts of various social factors on impulse buying have not
Dual systems
model of online
impulse buying
The work described in this study was supported by a grant from the National Natural Science
Foundation of China (No. 71671174).
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Received 3 April 2019
Revised 3 January 2020
29 September 2020
Accepted 18 January 2020
Industrial Management & Data
Vol. 120 No. 5, 2020
pp. 845-861
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/IMDS-04-2019-0214
been fully uncovered on social commerce websites(Leong et al., 2017;Leong et al., 2018). In the
present research, we focus on the social influence of a largely uninvestigated area: online
reviews, and investigate howthey may influence impulse buying in social commerce contexts.
Prior research contends that other consumersrecommendations can increase the
curiosity of potential consumers and impulse purchase (Floh and Madlberger, 2013). As one
of the most common form of online social interactions, online reviews are shown to be
significant forces of consumersbuying behavior. Previous studies have also shown that
consumers purchase decision is influenced by online reviews (Xiang et al., 2018). Although
scholars have recognized the important role of online reviews (Lee, 2018), few of them have
examined the effect of online reviews, as social factors, on impulse buying.
To understand the role of such social interactions in consumersimpulse buying process,
the present paper firstly follows the stimulus-organism-response (SOR) framework. We
suggest that social interactions (i.e. stimulus) can influence consumersperceived usefulness
and positive affect (i.e. organism), which then affects their urge to buy impulsively and
impulse buying behavior (i.e. response). Next, we argue that consumers who have high
positive affect may not always develop urge to buy impulsive and impulse buying behavior.
We refer to dual systems theory to explicate that there may be a moderating mechanism
between organism and response.
Previous research has proposed four categories of impulse buying and pointed out
cognitive recall and visualization in the impulse buying process (Parboteeah et al., 2009). It
indicates that impulse buying not just act impetuously, it is also a matter of cognitive thought.
In this regard, dual systems theory is a well-established theoretical lens to investigate
impulsive behaviors (Evans, 2008). This theory suggests that social behaviors can be
attributed to an imbalance between impulsive and reflective systems (Strack and Deutsch,
2004). The impulsive system is largely automatic and reflexive, while the reflective system is
a controlled and inhibitory system (Turel and Qahri-Saremi, 2016). In the context of online
reviews, consumers can follow recommendations within reviews to take quick actions, they
can also refer to reviews with rich information and have more cognitive thoughts before
making any move (Park and Lee, 2008). Therefore, we expect that the dual systems occur and
may play an important role in the current research context. We refer to this theory and further
use self-control to denote the reflective system, which may function as the moderating
mechanism between organism and response, and then finally lead to consumersimpulse
buying behavior. Before developing our research model, we explain relevant literature, SOR
framework, and dual systems theory in the next section.
2. Literature review
2.1 SOR framework and impulse buying
The stimulus-organism-response (SOR) framework posits that stimuli such as environmental
cues affect individualscognitive and emotional reactions, which further result in individuals
behavior (Mehrabian and Russell, 1974). It has been utilized by scholars in different retailing
contexts to interpret consumer decision-making process (Parboteeah et al., 2009).
Particularly, in social commerce and impulse buying contexts, the SOR framework has
also been widely applied by scholars (Chan et al., 2017;Zhang and Benyoucef, 2016). Based on
this framework, environmental stimuli can trigger individualsinternal cognitive or affective
states (e.g. organism) and then result in response behaviors in online shopping contexts.
For the organism in the SOR framework, one of the mostly examined cognitive reaction
variables is perceived usefulness (Parboteeah et al., 2009). In this study, perceived usefulness
refers to the extent to which consumers perceive that their shopping process is more efficient
when using online shopping websites (Koufaris, 2002). In a similar vein, positive affect such
as enjoyment has been found to be a well-established construct for capturing affective
reactions to stimuli (Koufaris, 2002). Positive affect refers to the feeling of enjoyment,

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