With the prevalence of the Internet, the analysis of consumer behavior in a multi-channel environment has gained major attention by both researchers and practitioners. As a matter of fact, a growing number of companies is concerned with satisfying the needs of so-called multi-channel customers who seek to freely switch between various channels in different phases of the purchasing process. Such customers, for instance, may gather product information through a life chat with a shopping assistant on the company's website, purchase the product in-store, make use of a home delivery service, and then return the product in-store.
In this research project, an agent-based model for simulating the purchasing processes has been developed that differentiates between the phases of information search, transaction, delivery, and return. Consumers are represented by agents who are embedded in a social network in which interaction between them takes place. Each agent has assigned phase-specific perceptions for each available channel with respect to the corresponding channel attributes, e.g., accessibility, quality, convenience, security, and avoidance of cost. These channel perceptions basically determine the choice between the company’s channels and can be altered by either (i) communication with others, (ii) first-hand experience when using the channel, and/or (iii) marketing activities. The latter comprise channel design activities, promotional activities, and integration activities. Channel design activities allow for changing attribute performance values for a specific channel.
By means of the developed simulation tool the impact of various (combinations of) marketing activities on consumer channel choice in each phase of the purchasing process can be analyzed. For parameterization purposes, a representative empirical study was conducted among Austrian customers of an international multichannel retailer. Results from numerous simulation scenarios illustrate the scientific as well as the practical value of this research endeavor.
09.2008 - 10.2010