Abstract

Online shops almost always display products in isolation (i.e. with no background and shadow). As a result, products do not appear natural because they do not rest on a surface but rather appear to be floating in the air. The overall objective of this research is to explore the negative consequences of displaying products in isolation in online shops. Moreover, we aim to show how such unnatural product images can shape customer attitude and affect purchase intention. Drawing on scene perception theory, we hypothesize that products depicted in isolation impede processing fluency and thus negatively influence customers’ attitude towards the product and purchase intentions compared to products depicted on a spatial background (i.e. with a shadow). The results of an experimental study with three products (furniture and table items) show that isolated product depictions negatively affect customer attitude towards the product and purchase intention. Moreover, consistent with theory, these relationships are fully mediated by processing fluency. Our research contributes to literature on product depictions and points to future research paths in the area of scene perception in information systems and human behavior. Further, the results have practical implications in terms of abandoning the common practice of displaying products in isolation in favor of displaying products with a simple (computer generated) spatial background.

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