Current research into online consumer behaviour seems to be limited in two respects, firstly it treats online interaction as a stand-alone phenomenon and secondly it focuses on discrete steps in consumer processes, neglecting links between the steps. This paper proposes a research method to investigate relative values and complementarity between online and offline interactions in a consumer's buying process, examining differences within and between steps. A range of information source types and functional resource options will be researched for both effectiveness and efficiency benefits as well as emotional preferences for both online and offline interactions.
The research will focus on online and offline steps in (a) information gathering, (b) evaluation and decision making and (c) eventual purchase of the components required for an unfamiliar long haul recreational travel experience. The antecedent step of destination selection and post purchase service consumption and behaviour will be excluded owing to subjective factors that could interfere with the findings of the 3 steps selected for investigation. The research will be based on consumer buying pr ocess models for high involvement and low involvement as well as transformational and informational recreational travel products, applied to limited elements of a service bundle required for a recreational travel experience.
One of the research's key outcomes will be an understanding of the internet's relative ability to satisfY consumer needs in coordinating a range of components using self service relative to the satisfaction derived from an offline service provider. In effect this will function as a test of the relative value derived online and offline for both transformational (greater complexity of attributes and experientially based value) and informational (greater levels of standardisation and rationality in valuation) service product components within and between different stages of the consumer's buying processes.
A recommendation will be offered for research methodology and analysis to deal with the issues involved in this proposed study.