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The Keys to Successful Online Customer Engagement [Digital Strategies]

The Keys to Successful Online Customer Engagement [Digital Strategies]

Alexander Bleier, Colleen M. Harmeling and Robert W. Palmatier

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Teaching Insights

Data from 16 lab experiments and one field experiment provide evidence that the online customer experiences comprises four dimensions, informativeness, entertainment, social presence, and sensory appeal, that act as the underlying mechanisms by which the design elements of a product webpage influence customer purchase. Using the online customer experience “design guide” developed in this research, students can learn to strategically orchestrate design elements in ways that shape effective online experiences through three steps.

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Related Marketing Courses: ​
Principles of Marketing, Core Marketing, Introduction to Marketing Management; Digital Marketing; Marketing Communications;

Full Citation: ​
Bleier, Alexander, Colleen M. Harmeling, and Robert W. Palmatier (2019), “Creating Effective Online Customer Experiences,” Journal of Marketing, 83 (2), 98–119.

Article Abstract
Creating effective online customer experiences through well-designed product web pages is critical to success in online retailing. How such web pages should look specifically, however, remains unclear. Previous work has only addressed a few online design elements in isolation, without accounting for the potential need to adjust experiences to reflect the characteristics of the products or brands being sold. Across 16 experiments, this research investigates how 13 unique design elements shape four dimensions of the online customer experience (informativeness, entertainment, social presence, and sensory appeal) and thus influence purchase. Product (search vs. experience) and brand (trustworthiness) characteristics exacerbate or mitigate the uncertainty inherent in online shopping, such that they moderate the influence of each experience dimension on purchases. A field experiment that manipulates real product pages on affirms these findings. The results thus provide managers with clear strategic guidance on how to build effective web pages.


Special thanks to Kelley Gullo and Holly Howe, Ph.D. candidates at Duke University, for their support in working with authors on submissions to this program. 

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Alexander Bleier is Associate Professor of Marketing, Frankfurt School of Finance & Management, Germany.

Colleen M. Harmeling is Assistant Professor of Marketing, Florida State University.

Robert W. Palmatier is Professor of Marketing and John C. Narver Chair in Business Administration, University of Washington, USA.