The Relative Advantage of Collaborative Virtual Environments in Multichannel Retail

  • Alexandros Zarifis

Student thesis: Phd


Collaborative Virtual Environments (CVE) have been with us for some years however the way people utilise them is evolving and their potential is unclear. This research attempts to achieve a better understanding of retail in CVEs by comparing this channel with the competing retail channels of 'bricks and mortar', or offline, and two dimensional navigation websites (2D websites), in order to identify their respective Relative Advantages (RA). This is investigated from the consumer viewpoint, as they are the ones who will ultimately shape CVEs by voting with their feet, clicks or virtual feet.By exploring the literature a model was chosen to guide the research. Furthermore, based on this model and other literature five key objectives were identified for further investigation. These objectives are categories of RA that must be explored when comparing retail channels. The first research objective is as follows: A RA of CVEs to the 2D websites for e-commerce may be the aspects of offline retail it includes that do not exist in the 2D websites. The second research objective is: A RA of CVEs retail compared to offline retail may be aspects of 2D e-commerce it includes that are not included in the offline retail environment. The third research objective is: Consumers may vary their intended usage of CVEs across the different stages of the purchase process because the significance of the dimensions of RA may vary across those stages. The fourth research objective is: Consumers' usage of CVEs may be different for simple and complex products. The fifth research objective is: CVEs such as Second Life (SL) may have the RA of a higher degree of institutional trust compared to the 2D websites.The first stage of data collection used focus groups to clarify the objectives identified from the literature. The second stage involved interviews where these objectives were explored with participants that had relevant experience. Both stages were analysed using template analysis. The first contribution was verifying the relevance of the five objectives and identifying significant dimensions within them. The second contribution was to develop the model used for comparing retail channels by adding enjoyment to the criteria. The third stage of this research is a survey. This quantitative analysis supplemented the two qualitative stages by gauging the significance of the objectives and their dimensions. This enables the findings to be more useful to retailers in making the strategic decisions to achieve the optimum synergies within and between channels. Participants showed a preference for offline and 2D in most situations however there was evidence that enjoyment, entertainment, sociable shopping, the ability to reinvent yourself, convenience and institutional trust were RA of SL in comparison to one of the other two channels.
Date of Award1 Aug 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester


  • Business Models
  • e-commerce
  • Collaborative Virtual Environments
  • Virtual Worlds
  • Trust

Cite this