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Wilfrid Laurier University School of Business & Economics
August 22, 2014
 
 
Canadian Excellence

Dr. Peter R. Darke



FEELING CLOSE FROM AFAR: ROLE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL DISTANCE IN MULTICHANNEL RETAILING

ABSTRACT

Consumers who purchase online tend to prefer local hybrid retailers over physically distant hybrids or completely virtual retailers. We draw on Construal Level Theory (CLT) to suggest that psychological distance plays an important role in understanding this advantage. A pilot study shows that both the existence of a retail store and its physical proximity increase psychological proximity, and that the latter mediates positive downstream consequences for trust and online purchase intentions. Two follow-up experiments then examine CLT’s interchangeability hypothesis to determine whether lack of a local physical store can be offset using other aspects of psychological proximity. Consistent with predictions, Exps 1 and 2 show that website images of a physical office building (i.e., increased tangibility) improve trust and purchase intentions for virtual and physically-distant retailers by increasing perceptions of psychological proximity. Exp 2 shows parallel effects for a website picture of the business owner (i.e., increased social proximity). Overall, the findings are consistent with CLT and suggest simple, cost effective website strategies that can be used to better compete with local retailers.