Do Digitally Embedded Workforce Make Decisions Differently? Evidence from B2B Purchasing
35 Pages Posted: 22 Apr 2017 Last revised: 4 Aug 2018
Date Written: March 1, 2017
Business scholars and thought leaders suggest that increased reliance on digital sources (e.g., blogs, social media, and online forums) exhibited by the emerging millennial workforce may affect purchase decisions. This argument contends with extant research, which indicates that organizational buyers rely on decision shortcuts (e.g., brand, loyalty, and peer opinions) to mitigate risks or to simplify purchase decisions. One can argue that decision makers gain more information from digital sources and, hence, buyers may be more objective in their decision-making and rely less on decision shortcuts. At the same time, digital sources may strengthen prior beliefs, which can increase reliance on decision proxies. In this study, we evaluate the role of digital sources of information in decision-making using information processing theory. We introduce a Digital Embeddedness construct to conceptualize the extent to which information from digital sources is integral to an individual’s decision-making. This construct is developed using the Accessibility-Diagnosticity framework, which posits that information processing depends on information’s ease of retrieval (accessibility) and its perceived relevance (diagnosticity). Analysis of survey responses from 196 purchasing managers suggests that more digitally embedded buyers are more willing to adopt innovations, yet interestingly, rely more on decision shortcuts such as brand and peer opinions. We also find that while more digitally embedded buyers feel more attached to their existing vendors, they are less likely to re-purchase from them. Thus, while digital sources may help buyers make decisions more objectively, they might also help buyers justify their prior beliefs. By systematically justifying their use of decision shortcuts, buyers may effectively rely on some of these shortcuts even more. This research elucidates individual-level differences in the use of digital sources to make decisions, and thus has implications for other contexts in which the interpretation of digital information may affect judgments.
Keywords: digital embeddedness, digital information, millennials, b2b purchasing, decision-making, information processing theory, Accessibility-Diagnositicy, dual process theory, heuristic systematic model
JEL Classification: M15, L86, D81, D83, D79
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation