Executive Summary
Efficient trouble free website interactions and transactions have been shown to have psychological/emotional impact on prospective customers' cognition, brand recall, and brand association. What eCommerce websites cannot control though is where within the portfolio of consumer choices the firm falls. The consumers initial emotional mind-set prior to their entering an evaluation process is also outside the control of eMarketers and the eCommerce site at the initial stage. This means that the product/service to be purchased will be influenced by the frame of mind and hence be totally dependent on how the mood derived from these emotions affect and the decision making process itself.

Barry Schwartz (in The Paradox of Choice, Why more is less) cites the growing stress of consumer decision making within the current scenario of an ever growing multiplicity of choice. The consumer has to face and factor the growth of time invested in assessing product/service alternatives. Areas of activity such as corresponding trade-offs and their associated opportunity cost have to be taken into account within the constrains of our genetically in-built "loss aversion" behavioral response. Our psychological wiring therefore helps us cope better with gains rather than with losses. An implication of current consumer choices is that complexity of the purchasing process is growing and correspondingly the degree of involvement within the purchasing process and its associated emotional investment. Research has again demonstrated that these very factors affect the quality of evaluation and decisions themselves (pp. 131).

Negative States of emotion and the consumer purchasing & decision making process
Negative emotional states are said to narrow the decision making focus. Instead of examining all the contributing factors only a few will be considered at times ignoring aspects that would be pivotal to the final decision. The impact of a situation, event or interaction which renders a negative state of mind is known to have an impact on visual memory & its recall. The symptoms of a negative frame of mind creates tunnel vision (affecting peripheral vision), and can interrupt the natural flow and performance of established tasks. This is one of the reasons that the practice of drills are set-up, as drills serve as rehearsals that will condition our behaviour over time in case of emergency, where are frame of mind would not allow us to act rationally and within our full faculties. Drills are carried out regularly to socialize us within the context and cues derived from these rehearsed situations.

Positive states of emotion and the consumer purchasing & decision making process
A positive frame of mind has been shown to have the completely opposite impact enhancing creativity and opening up avenues of thought which would not even materialize under a negative state of mind. Therefore consumers are more likely to make decisions that are in their best interests within a positive state of mind.

Frames of mind: impact on eCommerce pole-position & decision making
But as marketers we cannot determine the frame of mind our prospective customers will bring to our eCommerce websites, let alone what position we hold within the customers' decision making process.

Under such circumstances it may be beneficial to translate and map our understanding of the impact of consumers' frames of mind onto the site's persuasive architecture elements and corresponding eMarketer controlled factors (functional, psychological, and content related). The symbiotic relationship of these factors should provide an indication on the degree of engagement, consumers' cognition and the overall efficacy of the consumer's web-experience - as designed and controlled by the firm. Indeed given the strong uncertainty of the consumers' "emotional-frame-of-arrival" at an eCommerce site it would be wise to adopt a "reactio-nary" framework from the consumer perspective as a counter perspective to the designed web-experience. This can be approached in terms of Visceral (perceptually-induced), Behavioural (expectation-induced), and Reflective (intellectually induced). The proposition of this consumer reaction-ary perspective has been borrowed from "product design", specifically showcased by Norman D. A. author of "The design of everyday things", re-issued as The psychology of everyday things, and "Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things".

The overall understanding of the web experience and its definition has been described as:

"...the consumer’s total impression about the online company (Watchfire Whitepaper Series, 2000) resulting from his/her exposure to a combination of virtual marketing tools . . .under the marketer’s direct control, likely to influence the buying behavior of the online consumer (Constantinides, 2002, p. 60). The virtual customer’s total impression and actions are influenced by design, events, emotions, atmosphere and other elements experienced during interaction with a given web-site, elements meant to induce customer goodwill and affect the final outcome of the online interaction."

[Constantinides, Internet Research, Volume 14 • Number 2 • 2004, pp. 112
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 1066-2243]

The Ying-Yang of Web interactions at Lufthansa's eCommerce site an A-typical Experience
The research as far as I have been able to uncover has not actually covered my A-typical experience, which I wonder how many others have faced.

The particular A-typical and unique circumstances are that the consumer has identified the preferred supplier and wants to purchase their goods/services even though functionally the site has created barriers, transactional dead-ends (form related) and limitations due to the mismatch of the consumer's preferred choice of browser and the firm's functional support for a preferred set of browsers.

Some persistent customers will bite the bullet like I did...Why? Because Lufthansa had the cheapest deal I could get based on the hours of research I had invested and my usual truck-load of associated travel requirements, constraints and trade-offs. Instead of three simple steps, I was put through the paces and forced to become involved in ten, as the following adventure illustrates:

(1) Search Transaction
(2) Form Processing
(3) Browser dead end/error
(4) Browser refresh reaction (conditioned)
(5) Browser Switch - Firefox-to-IE
(6) Recall/Refer to flight search details as in (1)
(7) Anger/resentment tipping point (think about cheap flight mantra!)
(8) Re-start Search again as in (1)
(9) Process forms/credit card - await results
(10) Completed Transaction/Confirmation

Lufthansa's eBusiness team could have tested the flight booking process across multiple browsers. But as an outsider I'm not aware whether Lufthansa deemed that the trade-off relating to the associated costs of ensuring compatibility with Firefox far outweighed the potential revenue from prospective customers using Firefox. If this was the case, a simple visual sign-post could alert potential Firefox users that the site's web-forms do not support Firefox.

Jumping through these hoops and functional limitations I had to overcome in order to get hold of my ticket, inspired me to turn this experience into a visual representation which I have termed the Ying-Yang of emotion while browser switching during an eCommerce transaction.

The Ying & Yang of online interactions-dont make me angryWill your company ensure that you do not build negative word of mouth by ensuring that you build a positive website experience?

Conclusion and implications
Standard practice can be applied in addressing the usual eCommmerce short-comings. These generally accepted bread-and-butter building blocks of eCommerce that can pre-empt patchy or poor web experiences including but not limited to: Functional, Psychological.

Within the functional aspect for example, cross-browser testing usually avoids many eCommerce transactional related challenges. But limiting activities to the usual suspects does not address how the human mind, emotion, cognition and decision all blend into a thick broth of complexity.

Here lies the opportunity that research, psychology and understanding of the workings of the human brain can bring bottom line benefits currently addressed by very few.

Research has shown that decision making within the purchasing process is not as completely rational as it was once thought to have been. I have substantiated the impact of emotion and the mood it creates and its knock-on effect on the process of evaluation and decision making. Accordingly consumer surveys and research that attempt to address consumer purchasing intent and satisfaction without addressing the emotional side of purchasing will sell itself short. Gerald Zaltman (How Customers think) has developed a methodology of methodology that facilitates the elicitation process of unconscious emotional cues and perceptions that shape consumer purchasing intent and experiences.

In addition customer profiling needs to embrace the influential and corresponding impact of emotion and mood within the decision making process. There are a multitude of wholly rational means of profiling customers and their related behaviour. Fortunately I have discovered through my reading and research that Mr. Schwartz's (The Paradox of Choice - Why more is less) has cited attractive, compelling and relevant emotion related profiles that fit within the aforementioned paradigm of consumer decision making. These consumer profiles were identified as being Maximizers and Satisficers. The former group usually have a deep degree of involvement and emotionally invest quite heavily as maximizers are seen to be perfectionists - who only settle for what they perceive and are influenced to perceive is the best choice. Consequently when the wrong choice is made they are said to be the ones who suffer the most and have an inability of letting go of the associated emotions. Satisficers can be summed up as pragmatists who will make a purchase decision based on various constraints without obsessing over things. Consequently they are likely to get over wrong choice much more easily than Maximizers.

Useful & Recommended Reading (amazon-through tinyurl)
Barry Schwartz (2005), The Paradox of Choice, Why more is less

Donald A. Norman (2002). The design of everyday things. The re-issue, with a new preface, was apparently re-titled The psychology of everyday things.

Donald A. Norman (2004). Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things.

Gerald Zaltman (2003), How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market

Lazarus, R. S. (1994). Emotion and adaptation.

Related Research
Constantinides, E. (2004), "Influencing the online consumer’s behavior: the Web experience", Internet Research, Volume 14 • Number 2, pp. 112, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 1066-2243.

Constantinides, E (2002), “The 4S Web-marketing mix model,e-commerce research and applications”, Elsevier Science,Vol. 1 No. 1, pp. 57-76.

Dennis, C., Harris, I. and Sandhu, B. (2002), “From bricks to clicks: understanding the e-consumer”, Qualitative Marketing Research, Vol. 5 No. 4, pp. 281-90.

ESSLER, U and WHITAKER, R. (2001), "Re-thinking E-commerce Business Modelling in Terms of Interactivity", Electronic Markets Volume 11 (1): 10-16.

Fogg, B.G., Soohoo, C., Danielson, D., Marable, L., Stanford, J. and Tauber, E. (2002), “How do people evaluate a Web site’s credibility? Results from a large study”, Persuasive Technology Lab, Stanford University, available at:

Grabner-Krauter, S. and Kaluscha, A.E. (2003), “Empirical research in online trust: a review and critical assessment”, International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, Vol. 58 No. 6, pp. 783-812.

Interactive Bureau (IAB) (2003), “FTSE-100’s Web sites are still ‘wallowing in mediocrity’”, available at: www.iablondon.com/news/news.cfm?newsID=150

Koufaris, M., Kambil, A. and LaBarbera, A. (2002), “Consumer behavior in Web-based commerce: an empirical study”,International Journal of Electronic Commerce, Vol. 6 No. 2,pp. 115-38.

Lee, P-M. (2002), “Behavioral model of online purchasers in e-commerce environment”, Electronic Commerce Research, Vol. 2, pp. 75-85.

Liang, T.-P. and Lai, H.-J. (2002), “Effect of store design on consumer purchases: an empirical study of online bookstores”, Information & Management, Vol. 39, pp. 431-44.

Lightner, N.J. and Eastman, C. (2002), “User preference for product information in remote purchase environments”,Journal of Electronic Commerce Research, Vol. 3 No. 3,pp. 174-86.

Loebbecke, C. (2003), “E-business trust concepts based on seals and insurance solutions”, Information Systems and E-Business Management, Vol. 1 No. 1, pp. 55-72.

McKnight, D.H., Choudhury, V. and Kacmar, C. (2002), “The impact of initial consumer trust on intentions to transact with a Web site: a trust-building model”, The Journal of Strategic Information Systems, Vol. 11 No. 3-4, pp. 297-323.

Nantel, J.-HEC Montréal, Sénécal, S.-HEC Montréal and Berrada, A. M.-HEC Montréal (2005), "THE INFLUENCE OF « DEAD-ENDS » ON PERCEIVED WEBSITE USABILITY", Cahier de recherche N° 05-08-02, ISSN : 1714-6194.

Scheffelmaieer, G., Vinsonhaler, J., and Paper, D. (2004), "Purchase Time and User Satisfaction as Effected by Website Convenience", Issues in Information Systems, Volume V, No 1, 294-300

Silverman, B.G, Mintu Bachann,M., Al-Akharas,K., Dept. of Systems Engineering, University of Pennsylvania (2001), "Implications of Buyer Decision Theory for Design of eCommerce Websites". Possibly working paper as found on the web and no reference was made to a journal.

Vrechopoulos, A., O’Keefe, R.M. and Doukidis, G.I. (2000),“Virtual store atmosphere in Internet retailing”, Proceedings of the 13th International Bled Electronic Commerce Conference, Bled, Slovenia, 19-21 June.

Wikstrom, S., Carlell, C. and Frostling-Henningsson, M. (2002),“From real world to mirror world representation”, Journal of Business Research, Vol. 55 No. 8, pp. 647-54.

Wong, A., "The role of emotional satisfaction in service encounters", Managing Service Quality Volume 14 · Number 5 · 2004 · pp. 365–376, Emerald Group Publishing Limited · ISSN 0960-4529.


  1. Mich said...

    I like the design of your blog (esp. the header ;o)! Interesting post here... look forward to reading more.  


Creative Commons 2007 to William Doust| Blogger Templates by GeckoandFly.