Website providers are increasingly empowering their users through customization (i.e., user-driven personalization) of website content. However, many users consider the provided customization options to be insufficient and seek workarounds by engaging in "shadow customization", in which users modify web environments without explicit approval or even knowledge of website providers. An example of a particularly detrimental form of shadow customization is the practice of ad blocking (i.e., employing third-party technology to reduce the quantity of displayed ads). Given the serious consequences of ad blocking for the profitability of many websites, we propose website providers to fight fire with fire by empowering users through ad quantity customization (AQC). Drawing on person-environment fit theory and IS web customization literature, we demonstrate in an online experiment with 395 participants that this concession in power can pay off: A website offering AQC elicits significantly higher website stickiness than a website without AQC. We furthermore find that perceived empowerment mediates the effect of AQC on website stickiness. Our study thus contributes to IS knowledge on web customization and specifically ad customization, and provides practitioners actionable recommendations to respond to the challenges of shadow customization.
Werner, Dominick; Adam, Martin; Wittor, Sebastian; and Benlian, Alexander, "Overcoming Shadow Customization by Empowering the Users: The Role of Ad Quantity Customization" (2020). ECIS 2020 Research Papers. 117.
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