Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Award

12-31-2020

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems - (Ph.D.)

Department

Informatics

First Advisor

Michael J. Lee

Second Advisor

Yi-Fang Brook Wu

Third Advisor

Xinyue Ye

Fourth Advisor

Shaohua David Wang

Fifth Advisor

Cody Buntain

Sixth Advisor

Bruce Ferwerda

Abstract

The combination of online shopping and social media allow people with similar shopping interests and experiences to share, comment, and discuss about shopping from anywhere and at any time, which also leads to the emergence of online shopping communities. Today, more people turn to online platforms to share their opinions about products, solicit various opinions from their friends, family members, and other customers, and have fun through interactions with others with similar interests. This dissertation explores how collaborative online shopping presents itself as a context and platform for users' interpersonal interactions and social relationship formation through a series of studies.

First, a qualitative interview study shows that online shoppers believe that shopping-related interactions have a positive impact on their social bonds. However, there is uncertainty around the appropriateness of discussing shopping in online marketplaces, forums, and social networking sites between strangers and friends. These uncertainties act as strong deterrents that limit further interactions between users with shared shopping interests. Next, a mix of lab experiments and focus groups demonstrate how informational support and social support affect user participation and relationships, the impact of social structure on interpersonal relationship formation between community members, and the development of desire to be socially connected with others through real-time text conversations on shopping topics. Moreover, a combination of interviews, focus groups, and online survey identify four types of personas to help illustrate the complex nature of user participation and behaviors in online shopping communities: Opportunists, Contributors, Explorers, and Followers.

Finally, an online experiment study with 50 participants implements problem-solving tasks to examine users’ relationship building in computer-mediated online shopping groups and the effects of interpersonal relationships on user behaviors in collaborative online shopping contexts. The results suggest that users may develop desire to be socially connected after working on implemented collaborative problem-solving tasks within the group, and the perceived social connectedness may encourage user engagement and contribution behaviors in online shopping groups and communities. The results also show that such help-giving, collaborative tasks lead to developing social capital and facilitating social support that have more significant impacts on user behaviors over the long term.

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