Nicholson, M., University of Durham Business School, United Kingdom
Amid continued growth in online retailing, traditional retailers are increasingly adopting multichannel marketing strategies, seeking to target individual consumers via both physical and electronic channels as multiple routes to purchase. To date, however, the issue of consumer channel selection has been largely ignored by psychologists, research in the main continuing to focus upon use of individual channels in isolation; i.e. store, catalogue or Internet. But, what makes an individual consumer shop with the same retailer via different channels on different occasions? This paper explores the issue of shopping channel selection from an environmental psychology perspective. Faced with an opportunity to obtain the same product from a single retailer via multiple purchase channels, the author argues that the consumer's eventual channel selection decision must, in part, be determined by situational influences. The paper reports findings from an innovative programme of research with a leading UK fashion retailer, in which Belk's (1975) taxonomy of situational variables present in the consumer setting, normally associated with the study of in-store shopping, has been applied to the longitudinal analysis of physical and computer-mediated consumer behaviours. Results confirm the prediction that different clusters of situational variables are more dominant where particular methods of shopping are adopted by the consumer, suggesting a major role for situational variables in the channel selection process. The paper concludes by highlighting the contribution of the research to a re- design of the host retailer's Web operations, improvements in consumer satisfaction levels and electronic purchasing frequency illustrating the potential of environmental psychology in commercial application.