With a Little Help from My Friends: Cultivating Serendipity in Online Shopping Environments
29 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2017
Date Written: June 4, 2017
Many important findings and discoveries from science to everyday life are the result of serendipity, that is, the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. Serendipity is increasingly sought for in the domain of online shopping, where informational clutter and predetermined decision support systems can make product discovery a frustrating endeavor, but it is notoriously difficult to design environments that induce it. In this study, we explore how social media affordances (i.e., obtaining access to peer-generated content and being connected to online friends) might contribute to create the appropriate conditions for serendipity to manifest, and we supplement this analysis with an account of individual factors that are likely to be instrumental (intensity of shoppers’ search behaviors and shoppers’ risk aversion). Our investigation relies on a conceptualization of serendipity that has two defining elements: unexpectedness and informational value. The results of an experimental study in which we manipulated a product search environment to test the hypotheses reveal the superiority of designs that incorporate online friendships. Overall, this study contributes by offering a theoretical framework for the study of serendipity and by explaining how the integration of social media and electronic commerce affordances, and thus, social commerce, can cultivate it.
Keywords: Online Information Search, Social Commerce, Serendipity, Unexpectedness, Informational Value, Disconfirmation, Diagnosticity, Diversity
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