An overview of online consumer behaviour theory and model

By Jaideep Bhattacharjee and Priya Chetty on February 25, 2019

The internet has become a constant key platform in every sector through which companies are able to create a globally interconnected network of information and business. It has been the most fundamental factor in the rise of e-commerce business across the globe, with the generation of sales of over USD 2,800 billion in 2018 (Digital Commerce360, 2019). The proliferation of e-commerce business across the globe is mainly due to some key factors such as easy accessibility, innovative marketing strategies, and service delivery satisfaction. The aim of this article is to explore different online consumer behaviour theory.

Technology acceptance model

Technology acceptance model has been developed by Fred Davis on the basis of the Theory of Reasoned Action. Furthermore, this model is structured to foresee how users are going to accept and apply new technology like e-commerce (Marangunić & Granić, 2015). This model has been formulated to identify the acceptability of the technology and perform the modifications to ensure that it is acceptable to the users. This model also explains the fact that acceptability to users is dependent on two key factors such as perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness. Perceived ease of use reflects the standard to which people believe that they are able to use the system effortlessly. Moreover, perceived usefulness outlines the standard to which people believe that they would be able to increase their performance with the use of system. The figure below represents this model.

Figure 1: Technology acceptance model of online consumer behaviour (
Marangunić & Granić, 2015

This model is broadly used to elaborate on why customers go online for shopping (Rauniar et al., 2014). Perceived usefulness of the technology acceptance model in context to online shopping describes savings in time and efficiency in spending. Perceived ease of use of technology acceptance model illustrates how easily and conveniently the online shopping system works. Both perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use influence positive attitude and behavioural intent towards online shopping and eventually lead to users using the product or service.

Theory of reasoned action

Theory of reasoned action was formed by Icek Ajzen and Martin Fishbein in 1975. It tries to establish the relationship between human action and their behaviour and attitudes. With the help of this theory, one would have the idea of how individuals will act on the basis of their intentions and existing attitudes (Mishra et al., 2014). Furthermore, the main objective of the theory of reasoned actions to understand the behaviour of individuals by evaluating the deep-lying behavioural intention to do an action. It was formed as an improvement of the Information Integration theory.  This theory explains the behavioural intention depending on three key elements; attitude of individuals, subjective norms and individual’s perceived control of the behavior.

  • Attitude of individuals: It signifies the personal point of view towards a specific behaviour, whether good or bad.
  • Subjective norms: It underlines the social pressure from the expectations of people. This is viewed from the perspective of the individual (Head & Noar, 2014). A subjective norm has two parts; individual’s motivation and normative beliefs of the individual. Individual’s motivation is derived from the desire or expectation of other people. On the contrary, normative beliefs of the individual explain what the individual perceives about the expectancy of others.
  • Individual’s perceived control of the behaviour: Describes the individual’s perception on the ability that individual possesses to do a specific behavior (Glanz et al., 2015).

Therefore, it is observed that the theory of reasoned action highlights the reality where a person might have a specific behavior but the subjective norms of that person might contradict it, facilitating a different behavior completely. The prediction of behavioural intention is based on the contradiction of this difference.

Theory of reasoned action of online consumer behaviour (Mishra et al., 2014)

Figure 2: Theory of reasoned action of online consumer behaviour (Mishra et al., 2014)

Theory of reasoned action suggests that marketing strategies of online business aim to change the attitude of the consumers towards the brand (Burak et al., 2013). This attitude is impacted by the individual’s belief towards online shopping to save money and time. Attitude towards online shopping generally formulates the actual habit of online buying. If users have a buying attitude towards online shopping from their past experiences then they are likely to buy it. Subjective norm explains the pressure from the marketers on the potential consumers to make them buy or not to buy.  Thus this attitude and subjective norms are inclining towards behavioural intentions that shape the behaviour of online buying.

Planned behaviour theory

Theory of planned behaviour is an extension of the theory of reasoned action. This theory explains that the basic elements of the theory of reasoned action such as perceived control of the behaviour, subjective norms and intentions impact the intention to follow the behaviour (Kautonen et al., 2015). Thus, this theory states that all or some of the above-stated elements would influence the intention which eventually predicts whether behaviour would happen or not.

Planned behaviour theory of online consumer behaviour (Kautonen et al., 2015)

Figure 3: Planned behaviour theory of online consumer behaviour (Kautonen et al., 2015)

The introduction of perceived behavioural control in the theory of the reasoned action model has paved the way for the theory of planned behaviour model and mitigated many limitations in the theory of reasoned action (Ajzen & Sheikh, 2013).

For example, if a user has the subjective norm, right attitude and behavioural intention to buy from online, they might have a behavioural intent of buying. But it is not necessary the buyer will buy online as they might not know about online payment process.

This is known as perceived behavioural control.

Role of behaviour theories in framing marketing strategies

This article reflects the three theories which explain how attitude, subjective norms and perceived behavioral control of individual influence their specific behavior. With the help of these three theories, online businesses are framing the marketing strategies; highlight perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use of online shopping. Online shopping businesses have an idea on how to exploit the advantages of online shopping to change the attitude of consumers. With the application of these models, e-commerce companies have ensured that there need not be any negative perceived behavioural control.

For example, e-commerce firms have come up with so many payment options like cash on delivery, net banking, Lazypay etc. As part of their marketing strategies for consumers to reduce negative perceived behavioral control.


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