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The impact of reference effects on online purchase intention of agricultural products: The moderating role of consumers’ food safety consciousness

Xiaofei Zhao (School of Management, South-Central University for Nationalities, Wuhan, China)
Shengliang Deng (Goodman School of Business, Brock University, St Catharines, Canada)
Yi Zhou (Economics and Management School, Wuhan University, Wuhan, China)

Internet Research

ISSN: 1066-2243

Article publication date: 3 April 2017

3790

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to analyze the impact of reference effects on online purchase intention (OPI) of agricultural products in B2C context and to examine how consumers’ food safety consciousness (FSC) moderates that impact.

Design/methodology/approach

An empirical survey was used to test the hypotheses. Data were collected from a total of 297 online consumers in China. A structural equation modeling is utilized to assess the relationships proposed in the research model.

Findings

The findings of this study show that reference effects have a significant impact on OPI of agricultural products. Both perceived value (PV) and perceived risk (PR) play a mediating role in the relations between reference effects and OPI, but the mediating effect of the PV is found to be significantly greater than that of the PR. Consumers’ FSC significantly and positively moderates the impact of reference effects on OPI, meaning that the more attention consumers pay to food safety, the greater the impact of reference effects on OPI will become.

Research limitations/implications

First, this study mainly analyzes the positive impact of reference effects on OPI. Future research could discuss the negative impact of reference effects and compare the differences between them. Second, this study only takes the PV and PR as mediators into the research model. Future research could consider adding trust, attitude, and other variables and further explore and clarify the influencing mechanism between reference effects and OPI. Third, this study examines the moderating role of consumers’ FSC but does not fully discuss the moderating role of product categories. Further research could compare the influence of reference effects among multiple product categories.

Practical implications

This study provides valuable insights for agricultural enterprises and online vendors that reference effects are one of the most important factors to influence OPI. It suggests to agricultural enterprises and online vendors that reference effects can be used as a new instrument to influence consumers’ online purchase decisions.

Originality/value

This study for the first time defines reference effects in an online setting and introduces the perspective of reference effects to establish a theoretical model to explain consumers’ OPI of agricultural products. The study reveals the influencing mechanism of reference effects on OPI and thus enriches the theory of online purchase behavior.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to gratefully acknowledge the guidance and insightful comments by the editor and three anonymous reviewers.

Citation

Zhao, X., Deng, S. and Zhou, Y. (2017), "The impact of reference effects on online purchase intention of agricultural products: The moderating role of consumers’ food safety consciousness", Internet Research, Vol. 27 No. 2, pp. 233-255. https://doi.org/10.1108/IntR-03-2016-0082

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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