Posted on January 7, 2024 by Rebekah Alegria

With the digital era offering endless opportunities for people to shop online with just a tap of a button, marketing to shoppers is impacted by this shift as well.
Headshot of Dian Wang

Dian Wang, assistant professor of marketing in the Carlos Alvarez College of Business, is studying how online shopping affects marketing aspects such as brand loyalty, a vital marketing metric, in his paper “Will Online Shopping Lead to More Brand Loyalty Than Offline Shopping? The Role of Uncertainty Avoidance.”

Published in one of the elite marketing journals, the Journal of Marketing Research, Wang’s research explores what behaviors predict customer loyalty in an online versus offline shopping environment. In particular, he was studying uncertainty avoidance.

"Uncertainty avoidance is an essential cultural dimension that describes an individual’s attitude toward ambiguities: avoid versus embrace. Uncertainty avoidance is the most important individual difference that explains people’s different attitudes toward the predictability of their shopping experience-- whether they like it or not,” explained Wang.

Research conducted by Wang and Bingxuan Guo, co-author of the study and assistant professor of marketing at Wake Forest School of Business, suggests that since the product experience in online shopping environments is often less predictable than that in offline shopping environments (e.g., lack of sensory information such as touch and smell; lack of human-based customer service), consumers who dislike the less predictable outcomes (high uncertainty avoidance customers) would tend to stick with the brands that they have used before when shopping online versus offline. In comparison, consumers who embrace such a less predictable experience (low uncertainty avoidance customers) would be more likely to switch among different brands to experience the thrilling excitement.

While each consumer aspires to make the best consumption decisions as far as shopping modalities are concerned, the research conducted by Wang and Guo suggests that there might not be a “best decision” since the decision often varies by person. If you tend to avoid uncertainties, then shopping in person may make you happier than shopping online. However, if you embrace uncertainties, then your heart may belong to the online shops.

Hoping to shed light on this marketing phenomenon, Wang recognizes the potential implications of the online shopping era. “We are living in an age where online shopping becomes more and more critical to firms. As the growing shift from offline to online shopping becomes prominent, some urgent questions have emerged for marketers: how will online shopping affect brand loyalty? Will online shopping make consumers less loyal, as many marketers have feared?” he stated.

Born in Xi’an China, a historical town famed for the terracotta warriors, Wang emigrated with his parents to Texas at the age of 16. Fascinated by creative thinking and how an individual’s creativity can fuel the innovation of a group, firm and nation, Wang pursued a career in marketing. He earned his Ph.D. in marketing from Texas A&M, his MBA from UT Arlington and his bachelor's degree in marketing from Texas Tech.

Throughout his academic career, he fostered an interest in cross-cultural marketing, behavioral science and behavioral decision theories.

“My interest in cross-cultural marketing is rooted in my unique background. I have been deeply influenced by both eastern and western cultures. Indeed, I have realized how culture plays a vital role in shaping individuals’ psychology and behavior. I believe that studying cross-cultural marketing will better the understanding of consumers and help marketers to optimize their strategies,” said Wang.

Wang teaches undergraduate marketing classes on consumer behavior and a doctoral course on experimental design. Honored to have his work published in a top research journal, he looks forward to pursuing other projects in the areas of creativity, behavioral decision theory and cross-cultural marketing.

— Rebekah Alegria