A Good Web site Can Convey The Wrong Brand Image!
Authors: Jennifer E. Chang, Timothy W. Simpson, Arvind Rangaswamy, Jayesh R. Tekchandaney
Consider two web pages from two popular Web sites, one from IBM and the other from Apple: Which one conveys an "aggressive" versus a "charismatic" image? Which one is considered more "professional"? more "fun"? more "honest"? easier to navigate? Which one has greater impact on changing a consumer’s perception of the brand? In this white paper we summarize results from a preliminary study to answer such questions and understand the importance of building a good online customer experience by an often overlooked, yet effective, means: the design characteristics of the website.
Web sites are becoming increasingly popular vehicles for people to gather information, browse, or purchase products. In the offline world, firms have used various marketing strategies (e.g., advertising, public relations, etc.) to build their brand equity among consumers. In today’s marketplace, a compelling online presence can enhance not only traditional marketing communications but also a consumer’s brand experience. Interactions between consumers and firms in the online environment can make consumers feel integrated with, or a part of, the company as well as the brand. A well designed website represents a rich online playground that facilitates exploration by consumers without the presence of salespeople or spokespersons. In some sense, the website can substitute for salespeople, and as a result, is often perceived by consumers as having a "personality" much like a real-life salesperson or even a friend. In our study, we focus on Web sites from computer companies that enable consumers to customize a product online. Unlike other modes of purchase, the process of customization engages a consumer in both the short-range goals of transactional activities, and in the relationship-building process of experiential consumption. We examine how Web site design elements relate to personality characteristics that users attribute to the brand and the company during product customization. We account for design elements that are both functional (e.g., number of drop-down boxes, check boxes) and symbolic (e.g., background colors, font, visual aids). Our results offer several intriguing insights about how design characteristics influence a consumer's brand experience.