Eric Brunelle, Ph.D.
Past studies showed that, to deploy the best possible consumer interface, companies must pay close attention to the factors and the consumer behavior that lead to channel preference. This study presents the results of an experiment designed to improve our knowledge of consumer channel preference by testing cognitive fit theory in a commercial context. Data from two different samples (749 students dealing with the process of buying a computer from a well-known electronic goods retailer and 290 union members attempting to buy an airplane ticket from a well-known travel agency) were analyzed. Our results show that the cognitive fit level, or the fit between how information is presented to the consumer (i.e., online store vs. bricks-and-mortar store of the same retailer) and the nature of the problem to be solved (i.e., the information search task), moderates the relationship between the individual characteristics and product characteristics identified in past studies and consumer channel preference. The findings of this research support cognitive fit theory in a commercial context and open up a new way of explaining consumer channel preference. Theoretical and managerial implications, limitations on the study and future research directions are discussed.