Internal and external factors influencing online purchase decision

By Jaideep Bhattacharjee & Priya Chetty on February 21, 2019

The online purchase decision is highly influenced by internal and external factors (Zhang et al., 2013). Internal factors reflect one’s personal traits and experiences which impact their decision-making approach towards online buying and even leads to impulsive buying. On the other hand, external factors are more controlled by the nature of the products or services, recommendations and reviews from other customers, cultural and social impact. This article illustrates both internal and external factors which highly influence the online purchase decision of the consumers.

Internal factors influencing online purchase decision

Internal factors that influence the online purchase decision of the consumers
Internal factors that influence the online purchase decision of the consumers

Ease of use

E-commerce companies provide a wide spectrum of products with multiple options keeping in mind the expectations of the consumers (Gong et al., 2013). The fact that consumers are able to have the option of selecting from a wide spectrum of products or services at the comfort of home is a huge advantage that influences the online purchase decision. Consumers also have the luxury of selecting the payment mode and in some cases, try the products before paying. For example, retail giant Amazon offers a “try before you buy” option which caters to the current expectation of the consumers (Amazon, 2019). There is a growing dependency on online shopping due to the ease of use of the online medium.

Personal experience

The user’s previous experience with the e-tailer also influences current purchase decisions (Wu, 2013). If the consumers have a good experience with a specific e-commerce firm then it influences the online purchasing behaviour and on the contrary. The essence of the feel-good factor is required to impact online purchase decisions in a positive way.

Personal traits

Personal traits reflect the attitudes, self-image and perception of the consumers. The attitude of the consumers’ outlines if the consumer believes in having the feel-good factor through brick and mortar outlets prior to purchasing. Consumers are likely to go with the current trend of the masses buying first through e-commerce sites and then experiencing it (Chen et al., 2016). Self-image illustrates the image that the individual carries and what they think about themselves when it comes to online shopping. The perception of the consumers also holds significant value as it is going to influence their online purchasing decision. These three personal traits change according to the values of the consumer at a certain point in time.

Time management

It is one of the internal factors which influence the online purchasing decision. If the consumers face a paucity of time then they are likely to opt for online shopping for their required products or services (Gong et al., 2013). On the other hand, if they are not bound by any time constraints they might select both brick and mortar outlets and online shopping. This internal factor is highly influenced by how consumers manage their time.

External factors influencing online purchase decision

External factors that influence the online purchase decision of the consumers
External factors that influence the online purchase decision of the consumers

Service quality

A consumer is attracted to a particular product or service on the basis of its quality and the price bracket it comes within (Malik & Guptha, 2013). The quality of the product or services is also critical for the growth and profitability of the business. If it does not meet the expected standard of the consumer then it is going to influence their online purchasing decision. On the other hand, if the quality of the product matches the consumer satisfaction level then it leads to a surge in sales, revenues and market share of the firm. For example – ASOS through their quality products is ensuring to meet the standards of the consumers (Asosplc, 2019).

Easy payment options

It is one of the key external factors which has highly influenced the consumer’s online purchase decision. Payment options have been never so easy with e-commerce firms adapting different strategies regarding payment options such as cash on delivery (COD), EMI options, payment through net banking, lazy pay options etc (Wu et al., 2014).

Easy accessibility

Gone are the days when consumers had to stand in a queue in supermarkets to get their dairy products. With a few clicks, consumers are able to get a wide variety of goods and services on their doorsteps. This easy accessibility option facilitated by the majority of e-commerce firms has been a key driving factor towards online purchasing (Chocarro et al., 2013). Nowadays many companies like Warby Parker, designer glasses brand, offers the consumer a set of five frames to try on before making any purchase and the firm also uses face mapping to suggest glasses that perfectly fit the face of the client (Wired, 2019).

Consumer reviews and recommendations

The reviews, ratings and recommendations of other consumers on a particular product or service also influence the buying decision (Jiménez & Mendoza, 2013). Feedbacks from other consumers help to get a general view of the quality of the products or services which impacts the decision-making process. On the other hand, reviewing thousands of comments and feedbacks take a huge amount of time and can be confusing at times. For example, ratings provided by users of Zomato on the services of a particular restaurant and influence a prospective consumer.

The positive relationship between different factors and online choice of customers

Apart from the internal and external elements identified above, there are several other factors that influence online shopping behaviour. These factors include:

  • returns policy of the service provider,
  • non-delivery of the products, 
  • cultural differences,
  • innovativeness of the firm,
  • consumer’s attitude while purchasing and,
  • perceived usefulness of the products.

As the e-commerce market evolves and consumer requirements become increasingly dynamic, this matrix undergoes a constant change. Therefore the research on internal and external factors affecting online purchasing decisions needs to be regularly updated.


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Priya is the co-founder and Managing Partner of Project Guru, a research and analytics firm based in Gurgaon. She is responsible for the human resource planning and operations functions. Her expertise in analytics has been used in a number of service-based industries like education and financial services.

Her foundational educational is from St. Xaviers High School (Mumbai). She also holds MBA degree in Marketing and Finance from the Indian Institute of Planning and Management, Delhi (2008).

Some of the notable projects she has worked on include:

  • Using systems thinking to improve sustainability in operations: A study carried out in Malaysia in partnership with Universiti Kuala Lumpur.
  • Assessing customer satisfaction with in-house doctors of Jiva Ayurveda (a project executed for the company)
  • Predicting the potential impact of green hydrogen microgirds (A project executed for the Government of South Africa)

She is a key contributor to the in-house research platform Knowledge Tank.

She currently holds over 300 citations from her contributions to the platform.

She has also been a guest speaker at various institutes such as JIMS (Delhi), BPIT (Delhi), and SVU (Tirupati).