The OII is collaborating with IN3 on a promising workshop on Internet Studies that will focus on studies of the consumer. Called Consumer and Internet Studies, the workshop is part of a series of workshops designed to inform our understanding of the scope and methods of this emerging field. I am working with Inma Rodriguez-Ardura, an Associate Professor of Marketing at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute, Open University of Catalonia (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, or UOC), and a Visiting Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute. See: http://www.uoc.edu/activitats/consumers/index_eng.html
The Internet has become a motor of change in the relationships of consumers with business and industry. Internet users have new opportunities to enhance their power as consumers. They may obtain information regarding an immense range of relevant goods and services and benefit from the enormous possibilities available to participate in social networks, express their opinions on brand names, access independent sources of expertise, and interact and dialogue with firms and other service providers. They can play an active role in marketing communication processes and participate much more in the development and consumption of products. For their part, the Internet – including the processing systems used to manage great masses of consumer data – allow businesses to define and develop marketing proposals that are more precise and more closely matched to their customers. In sum, the new possibilities offered by the Internet make possible advanced forms of exchanges and interactions within which consumers, businesses and other service providers collaborate in the creation and reproduction of the market.
This potential of the Internet to transform the marketing and commercial environment could spawn a field of research within the larger arena of Internet Studies. Early research related to the Internet-based consumer focused on obtaining user profiles and on the segmentation of online consumers. However, as use of the Internet as a marketing channel increased, resulting in its wider use as a purchasing medium, subsequent research became centred on a plethora of questions directly related to the consumer, such as the factors influencing the consumer’s involvement in purchasing behaviours; online consumer satisfaction and loyalty; trust in purchase decisions on the Internet; consumer affairs and protection; as well as the adaptation of classic theories and models to explain online consumer behaviour. In addition, with the emergence of the applications of social networking and the thrust of recent proposals in business sciences – such as, for example, new service-dominant logic and Customer Relationship Marketing (CRM), a new wave of studies has emerged. New studies examine the forms in which the Internet empowers the consumer; exploring the new routes for co-creation of value and for participation on the part of the consumer in processes of innovation and in the generation of content; evaluating the impact of personalization practices tied to CRM programmes and to the new forms of interaction; and, finally, examining the relationship with the brand in virtual communities. A closely related area of research is focused on analyzing the institutional framework of online consumer protection.
Topics of interest include, but are not limited to the following:
- Critical perspectives on the growing body of research into the Internet and the Consumer, which help to define the state of this field, its dynamism, and the critical areas in need of clarification and further research.
- Insights into the main contributions made in the research on the online consumer to the larger domain of ‘Internet Studies’, in terms of new theories, data and methods.
- Comprehensive overviews of key issues in Internet Studies on the Consumer -such as, for example flow, trust, eCRM, brand communities, co-creation and empowerment, which include major findings and directions for further research.
For more on the workshop, see the Web site.
William H. Dutton (B.A. University of Missouri; M.A., PhD. SUNYBuffalo, 1974) is Professor of Internet Studies, Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford, and Fellow of Balliol College.