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The impact of message type and format on consumers' food quality perceptions and decision-making in online grocery purchasing




Tilak, Elizabeth Frances, author
Abrams, Katie, advisor
Anderson, Ashley A., committee member
Graham, Dan J., committee member
Long, Marilee, committee member
Mueller, Megan, committee member

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According to the Total Food Quality Model (TFQM), consumers evaluate many food messages and cues in order to assess food quality during the food purchase decision-making process. Consumers couple food cues with their own knowledge, interests, skills, memories, and values in an iterative process as they assess food quality. The presentations of food cues and messages are important in this food quality assessment process for a number of reasons. First of all, the type of food messages can impact this process. Sensory messages elicit a different impact on food quality decisions than do health-related food messages. Secondly, the presentation format of food messages can impact consumer attention to messages, in addition to the resulting attitude and willingness-to-purchase products in online purchasing decisions. When products are presented in an online format, consumers are restricted in their abilities to fully assess a product's physical, general, and abstract characteristics compared to when shopping in a brick-and-mortar store. These product characteristics of tangibility are limited in the online format; minimal tangibility can negatively increase consumer uncertainty, increase perceived risk, and decrease willingness-to-purchase online products. Presentation formats that enhance media richness, including increasing vividness and interactivity, have been shown to support tangibility and minimize consumer uncertainty and perceived risk, and strengthen attitudes. In the online grocery purchasing environment, low levels of media richness are employed; food product presentation is limited to static photos, price, size, and minimal ingredient and nutrition information. Finally, online food messages and presentation format may impact food quality decision-making. This could impact evaluations of healthful foods in the online venue in order to support increased positive attitude and willingness-to-purchase these foods. The following research experiment is an online within-subject design study in which factors of message type and message format are manipulated in six different treatment conditions. A total of 242 subjects participated in the study from a sample population of undergraduate college students. A one-way repeated measures analysis model was used to measure main effects of the message treatment conditions. Potential interactive effects of health interest and knowledge were included in the model. Results showed that no main effects were observed among any of the message treatment conditions. No interactive effects were observed from any of the potential covariates, including health interest and knowledge. It is concluded that the message type and message formats displayed in this study were not effective in impacting variations in participant attitude and willingness-to-purchase the food products in the online grocery simulation. Future research should investigate aspects of online food specific message types and degrees of media rich presentations that may positively impact participant food quality choice factors, particularly for foods that are encouraged for public health benefit.


2021 Fall.
Includes bibliographical references.

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