The effect of online store atmosphere on consumer s emotional responses an experimental study of music and colour

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1 Behaviour & Information Technology Vol. 28, No. 4, July August 2009, The effect of online store atmosphere on consumer s emotional responses an experimental study of music and colour Fei-Fei Cheng a, Chin-Shan Wu b and David C. Yen c * a Department of Information Management, Southern Taiwan University of Technology, Yung-Kang, Tainan, Taiwan, Republic of China; b Department of Electronic Commerce, WuFeng Institute of Technology, Ming-Hsiung, Chia-yi, Taiwan, Republic of China; c Department of Decision Sciences and Management Information Systems, Miami University, Oxford, OH, USA (Received February 2007; final version received October 2007) The current study is a convergence of two research orientations: the effect of ambient factors (e.g. music and colour) in physical stores and the website design in cyber context. The former emphasises the influence of sensory stimuli on the shoppers responses; whereas the latter address the relationship between website design factors (e.g. usability) and the performance of a virtual store. This article aims to bridge the gap between the above research orientations and explores the impact of two environmental elements music and colour of an online store on the consumers emotions considered as direct antecedents to shopping behaviours by employing a laboratory experiment. The results indicated that both music and colour reveal significant effects on respondents emotional responses. To be more specific, participants felt more aroused and pleasant when they were under fast music and warm colour conditions than those who were exposed to an environment with slow music and cool colour. In addition, the congruency of these two atmospheric factors enhances the effects of atmosphere on people s emotional responses. Keywords: internet shopping; atmosphere; laboratory experiment; emotional response 1. Introduction It is conventional wisdom for retailers to design store environments in a manner that enhances consumers positive feelings, assuming that this will lead to a desired shopping outcome, such as a higher willingness to purchase or even longer stay (Mano 1999). In fact, many studies have shown that emotional evaluation of the environment is a key determinant of one s approach behaviour towards the environment (e.g. Donovan and Rossiter 1982, Baker et al. 1992, Spies et al. 1997, Yalch and Spangenberg 2000, Sweeney and Wyber 2002). As consumers emotions are affected by the environment, it is strategically important to understand what can foster or sustain pleasant emotional reactions. Also, it is logical to expect that a certain atmosphere of online shopping context is likely to influence the internet surfers emotions and thus in turn affect the outcome (e.g. satisfaction, re-patronage, amount purchased, and time spent in the virtual store) of online shopping (Eroglu et al. 2001). The importance of studying Internet shoppers emotions during online shopping was also addressed in E thier et al. (2006). There are two reasons to explain why the effect of store atmosphere on potential customers emotional responses is especially important in the cyber context. First, Internet shopping makes purchase decisions more difficult and can increase the complexity of the Internet shopping task (Elliot and Fowell 2000) because the shoppers cannot touch the real product online. Research has shown that when faced with complex tasks, mood may be used as heuristic information in facilitating decision making (Kelley 1972, Schwartz and Clore 1983). Therefore, in the Internet shopping context, positive moods may increase Internet purchase intentions. Second, it is much easier (only one click is needed) for the online shoppers to withdraw from the website if they feel unpleasant when they are surfing. Therefore, the impact of store atmosphere delivered by website elements (e.g. background colour and music) on consumer s feelings should be of critical concern to the online retailers. During the last few decades, the importance of the environment has become prominent in environmental psychology (e.g. Mehrabian and Russell 1974) and in marketing (e.g. Baker et al. 1992). Although considerable literature addresses how store atmosphere affects shopping outcomes (see Baker et al. (2002) and Turley and Millman (2000) for reviews of this literature) and shoppers emotional responses (e.g. Kotler , *Corresponding author. ISSN X print/issn online Ó 2009 Taylor & Francis DOI: /

2 324 F.-F. Cheng et al. Milliman 1982, Bellizzi et al. 1983, Baker et al. 1992), the main context of this literature is physical stores. For online retailers, through controlling atmospherics and service environment to influence Internet surfers emotions, attitudes and behaviours is a possible and manageable way to create market share, just as physical stores do. Unfortunately, practitioners over the past few years have highlighted the functional design of website interfaces. In addition, these researches mainly focus on the relationship between website design factors such as usability, human computer interaction, and layout and the success of a virtual store, rather than the role of ambient factors such as music and colour on Internet shoppers responses. The differentiation between design and ambient cues is important because ambient cues tend to be processed at a more subconscious level than are design cues (Baker et al. 2002). Empirical evidence regarding the different effect of design and ambient elements on consumer responses can be found in Wakefield and Baker (1998). In addition, as suggested by Kotler ( ), atmosphere is apprehended through the sense and thus, the atmosphere of a particular setting is delivered through sensory channels such as sight, sound scent, and touch. In view of the above considerations, more effort is needed to understand the influence of ambient cues on potential buyers emotions in virtual settings. Moreover, atmospherics research tends to operationalise the effect of single stimulus of the retail environment on consumers responses (e.g. Grossbart et al. 1990, Yalch and Spangenberg 1990, Bellizzi and Hite 1992, Hornik 1992, Spangenberg et al. 1996), and especially absent is research on the simultaneous impact of multiple store environment cues. It has been suggested that the shopping environment is perceived in an ambient holistic manner and the combined effect of multi-environmental variables will have a significant influence on customers emotional and behavioural responses. Research aimed at better understanding the congruency of environmental factors in influencing consumers responses is still needed. To address the aforementioned research voids, the current study addresses the following issues. First, the influence of two most applicable atmospheric variables in a virtual context background music and colour on Internet shoppers emotional responses was investigated by conducting a laboratory experiment. Second, the interactive effect of background music and colour in shaping Internet buyers emotional responses was considered. 2. Conceptual background 2.1. Research focus in cyber context Researches investigating the influence of website environment on Internet shoppers responses and the shopping outcome mainly hinge on the human computer interaction factors, interface usability and key elements of website design (e.g., Palmer and Griffith 1998, Liu and Arnett 2000, Agarwal and Venkatesh 2002, Liang and Lai 2002, Kim et al. 2003, E thier et al. 2006, Wulf et al. 2006, Zviran et al. 2006). Yet, somehow, there are some other environmental factors that create the shopping experience. One of the key environmental factors has been proven to be sensory stimulation. This research stream can be drawn from Kotler ( ) who defined the atmospherics as the effort to design buying environments to produce specific emotional effects in the buyer that enhance his purchase probability. Thus, when consuming a product/service, one usually experiences pleasure, arousal, and/or other emotions from the environmental stimuli. Although the influence of sensory-based environmental stimuli on Internet shoppers responses has received little attention, there are few studies devoted to address the atmospherics in the environment of online retail stores. Eroglu et al. (2001) proposed a conceptual model to examine the potential influence of atmospheric qualities of a virtual store. Their model is couched in the stimulus-organismresponse framework and posits that the online environmental cues will influence shoppers organismic states. The empirical evidence of their proposed model was given in Eroglu et al. (2003). The text colour, layout and graphics of their experiment website were manipulated in terms of high and low task-relevant conditions. The result suggested that the online atmosphere does influence the shoppers emotion and attitude, which in turn affect the shopping outcome. Unfortunately, studies of Eroglu et al. (2001, 2003) focus on visual cues including text colour, graphics, layout and design in the store environment but not ambient cues such as background music and colour discussed in conventional retail store. In line with this claim, Koernig (2003) proposed the concept of the escape to describe a new type of electronic physical environment in which the in-store variables such as music and colour typically conceptualised in physical environment were included. However, the research focus of Koernig (2003) is on the role of tangibility in maximizing the effectiveness of an e-scape for service firms, rather than the role of atmosphere cues in an e- scape. In addition, Parsons (2002) applied Sheth s (1983) non-functional motives to the online environment and found that aural and visual stimuli are most applicable to the online environment. More recently, Parsons and Conroy (2006) examine the use of sensory stimuli in the creation of store atmosphere in the online context. The result of their study suggested that Internet shoppers strongly indicated their desire for particular aural and visual stimuli when shopping

3 Behaviour & Information Technology 325 online. However, at present, many online retailers do not provide attention-getting stimuli. What was not apparent from Parsons (2002) and Parsons and Conroy s (2006) studies was how the Internet shoppers were influenced by sensory stimulation in a controlled environment. That is, other things being equal, how did ambient factors, such as background music and colour, affect the shoppers emotional responses? 2.2. Emotional responses Mehrabian and Russell (1974) proposed a threedimensional schema of basic emotional states: pleasure, arousal and dominance (PAD). Pleasure displeasure dimension refers to the degree to which the person feels good, joyful, happy, or satisfied in the resulting situation; arousal nonarousal refers to the degree to which a person feels excited, stimulated, alert or active in a specific situation; and dominance submissiveness refers to the extent to which the individual feels in control of or free to act in a particular situation. Studies that were designed to test the model have found that the pleasantness and arousal dimensions described well the affective space evoked by environments, while dominance was found to be of little predictive value in similar situations (Russell and Pratt 1980, Russell et al. 1981, Ward and Russell 1981, Donovan and Rossiter 1982, Donovan et al. 1994). Thus, more recent summaries of the model define two rather than three basic dimensions: pleasantness and arousal. Accordingly, the dominance factor was not included in current study. Although it is not the focus of current study, emotion has been considered as direct antecedents to shopping behaviours. For example, pleasant shopping environments have been found to have a positive impact on approaching orientation (Donovan and Rossiter 1982, Hui and Bateson 1991, Baker et al. 1992, Spies et al. 1997, Sweeney and Wyber 2002), purchasing intention (Sherman et al. 1997, Spies et al. 1997), duration of the visit (Donovan and Rossiter 1982, Sherman et al. 1997, Spies et al. 1997), satisfaction/attitude (Sherman et al. 1997, Spies et al. 1997, Yoo et al. 1998, Wirtz and Bateson 1999, Yalch and Spangenberg 2000) and product evaluations (Obermiller and Bitner 1984, Bitner 1992, Yalch and Spangenberg 2000). Environmental stimuli that induce arousal emotions were also found to be related to increases approaching orientation (Baker et al. 1992) and duration of the visit (Sherman et al. 1997) Atmospheric cues in virtual environment In the current study the authors consider two atmospheric cues in an online retail store: the background music and colour. According to Kotler ( ), atmospherics are important in situations where the seller can control over the service environments. In physical surroundings the atmosphere can be delivered by four sensory channels including visual, aural, olfactory and tactile dimensions, while the fifth sense, taste, does not apply directly to atmosphere. When the situation moves from the traditional store to the online one, the channels that deliver environmental cues reduced to two and they are visual and aural. This argument was supported by Parsons (2002) who found that two stimuli that are most applicable to the online environment are aural and visual. Eroglu et al. (2003) argues that although the atmosphere lacks the tactical and olfactory cues of the offline store environment, the online retailer can manipulate the visual cues and auditory cues that can produce affective reactions in site visitors. Also, Sautter et al. (2004) note that for virtual settings, the range of ambient conditions is constrained by current technology; specifically, only visual and auditory stimuli are now used. Thus, two environmental stimuli that were delivered by aural (background music) and visual (background screen colour) channels were applied in the current study. Related works regarding the effect of music and colour on emotions in prior literatures are summarised as follows Emotional responses to background music and colour Emotional responses to background music Bitner (1992) argued that music is one key ambient condition of the servicescape. It has been proposed that music influences behaviour due to its effect on people s emotional and related physiological changes (Zimny and Weidenfeller 1963, Anand and Holbrook 1986) and mood (Alpert and Alpert 1990, Bruner 1990). In the marketing domain, music has been shown to affect consumer behaviours, particularly shopper behaviour (e.g. Milliman 1982, 1986) as well as emotional responses (e.g., Kellaris and Kent 1994). As for cyber context, Parsons (2002) surveyed a sample of online shoppers and 61% of the respondents indicated that online shopping could provide aural simulation, primarily through music as a background stimulus. However, there has been relatively little consideration given to sound as an important cue of online shopping environment in academic research (Fiore and Kelly 2007) even though many online retailers have incorporated music as the background in their store. Therefore, literatures of current study regarding the influence of music on emotion in virtual setting are mainly borrowed from researches conducted in physical stores.

4 326 F.-F. Cheng et al. Music can vary along various dimensions including timbre (the texture of the music, which incorporates volume), rhythm (the pattern of accents given to notes) and tempo (the speed or rate at which the rhythm progresses). Cumulated literatures have studied the effect of music. For example, highly arousing music is defined as loud, erratic, with a quick tempo, while music with low arousal qualities is soft, monotonous, and with a slow tempo (Berlyne 1971). Also, numerous studies have found that fast-tempo and high-volume music increase people s arousal levels (Rohner and Miller 1980, Holbrook and Anand 1990, Vanderark and Ely 1992), which then lead people to walk faster and to talk and eat more quickly in restaurants (Milliman 1986) because people tend to adjust their pace, either voluntarily or involuntarily, to match with the tempo of music. Likewise, low tempo and low volume music tend to have the opposite effect on arousal (Holbrook and Anand 1990, Holbrook and Gardner 1993, Kellaris and Kent 1993) and thus lead the shoppers to walk less rapidly and hence, increased their level of impulse purchases (Milliman 1982). Music has also been believed to induce emotion of pleasure. For example, musical compositions played at a fast tempo are generally rated as happy songs and music played at a slow tempo are generally considered to be sad songs (see Bruner 1990). Similarly, with all other factors being equal, fast music is considered to be more happy and/or pleasant than slow music (Gundlach 1935, Rigg 1940, Scherer and Oshinsky 1977). Overall, past research has shown that in general, fast music is considered more arousing than slow music and also more pleasurable than slow music (Bruner 1990, Kellaris and Kent 1991, 1994, Sweeney and Wyber 2002). Accordingly, when an Internet shopper is surfing an online store, it is expected that stores that are playing fast music will lead to higher level of arousal and pleasure than stores playing slow music. This study thus hypothesises that: H1: Respondents exposed to fast music have higher level of arousal than those exposed to slow music. H2: Respondents exposed to fast music have higher level of pleasure than those exposed to slow music Emotional responses to background colour In addition to music, colour is a strong visual component of a physical setting (Eiseman 1998) and has a strong impact on consumers affective states (Crowley 1993, Gorn et al. 1997). Based on Crowley s (1993) study which demonstrated that cool colours (blue end of the spectrum) lead to more positive evaluation of products, while the red end lead to greater activation, Parsons and Conroy (2006) infer that for online stores there would be the predominant use of blue for positive effect, perhaps with red highlights to generate purchase activity. Although it has been suggested that the background screen colour is a feature that is ubiquitous in the Web environment (Gorn et al. 2004), empirical works that study the effect of background colour on Internet shoppers emotional responses are lacking. Therefore, literature references for the current study regarding the influence of colour on emotion in virtual setting are mainly drawn from researches in conventional stores. Prior studies have shown that colours have a psychophysiological effect on the human organism (Bellizzi et al. 1983). Specifically, people exposed to red light generally have increased blood pressure, respiratory rate and frequency of eye blinks than those exposed to blue light (Gerard 1957). Gerard s results were supported by Wilson (1966), who indicated in an experiment that red is a more arousing colour than green. Clynes (1977) found that red is inherently exciting to the human brain. Accordingly, retailers have traditionally used colour to create a desired atmosphere. The most popular system used in academic research is the Munsell System, which defines colours in the three dimensions: hue, value and chroma (Munsell 1969, Thompson et al. 1992). Hue is the pigment of the colour, what we normally understand as blue, red, yellow, etc. and also are classified as warm colours and cool colours. Value is the degree of darkness or lightness of the colour relative to a neutral scale that extends from pure black to pure white. Chroma refers to saturation; highly saturated colours have a greater proportion of the pigment in them. Low chroma colours are dull and high chroma colours are rich and deep. In this study we consider the hue dimension of the background screen colour because the chroma and brightness of the monitor can be adjusted by consumers, whereas hue is more controllable by the website designer but not the Internet surfers Colour hue and arousal In consideration of the relationship between hue and mood, it has been shown that warm colours possess strong excitation potential and high arousal qualities (Schaie and Heiss 1964, Valdez and Mehrabian 1994) and is associated with arousal (Cahoon 1969), stimulating, exciting and attractive (Lu scher and Scott 1971). Studies of the autonomic nervous system response to colours have also found that warm colours elicit higher levels of autonomic arousal than cool colours (Wilson 1966, Jacobs and Hustmyer 1974). Some other evidence regarding the relationship between hue and level of arousal can be found in Wilson

5 Behaviour & Information Technology 327 (1966) who claimed that red is a more arousing colour than green. Clynes and Kohn (1968) also found that red colour is inherently more exciting to the human brain than other colours with equal intensity. Other researches also suggested warm colours to be associated with arousal and higher levels of anxiety (Jacobs and Suess 1975), excitement (Bellizzi et al. 1983) and elated mood sates (Zollinger 1999). Conversely, the cool colours such as green and blue are associated with feelings of peacefulness, calmness, love and happiness (Burris-Meyer 1940, Sharpe 1974, Zollinger 1999, pp ) and relaxation (Bellizzi et al. 1983). These colours have relatively low arousal value and limited excitation potential (Schaie and Heiss 1964) and were known to be calming and cooling (Lu scher and Scott 1971), and are thought to be calm, secure, peaceful, and restful (Sharpe 1974). Kueller and Mikellides (1993) and Valdez and Mehrabian (1994) have similar findings that warm colours increase arousal. Overall, warm colours, especially red, are physically and emotionally arousing, exciting and distracting; whereas cool colours, especially, blue, are relaxing, peaceful and calm (Bellizzi and Hite 1992). Thus, the study proposes that: H3: Respondents exposed to warm colour condition have higher level of arousal than those exposed to cool colour condition Colour hue and pleasure Prior studies suggested that people in general tend to find cool colours (blues and greens) as more pleasant than warm colours (reds and yellows) (Osgood et al. 1957, Guilford and Smith 1959). Some other studies argue that blue should produce more positive outcomes than red (Mehrabian and Russell 1974). Bellizzi et al. (1983) investigates the effects of colour in retail stores and the result suggested that respondents felt more pleasant when they were in a cool colour shopping environment. Valdez and Mehrabian (1994) also provide empirical evidence that pleasure levels for cool colour were found to be greater than those for warm colour. Similarly, Bellizzi and Hite (1992) conducted two experiments to understand the effect of colour in a retail store context. Employing the pleasure arousal dominance (PAD) measures of Mehrabian and Russell (1974), the result of their experiment 2 reported that respondents feel more pleasant in the blue store than the red one. In a more recent examination of colours on emotions, Valdez and Mehrabian (1994) systematically controlled hue, saturation and brightness and utilised a pleasure arousal dominance emotion model for conceptualizing user responses. Overall, the expected relationship between pleasure and wavelength was found, and short wavelength (cool) colours were preferred. Zollinger (1999) also reported that cool colours are associated with happiness. According to the above literatures, the study proposes that: H4: Respondents exposed to cool colour condition have higher level of pleasure than those exposed to warm colour condition The congruence of music and colour To date, there is ample empirical evidence to support the in-store effects of various atmospheric factors individually (e.g., Grossbart et al. 1990, Yalch and Spangenberg 1990, Bellizzi and Hite 1992, Hornik 1992, Spangenberg et al. 1996), and rare studies have examined the interactive impact of multiple sensory stimuli in a single study (Baker et al. 1992, Eroglu et al. 2005). In fact, environmental psychologists have determined that factors of an environment can work together in a synergistic fashion to influence persons in the environment (Mehrabian and Russell 1974). Sharma (1996) also suggested that consumer judgments and decision-making activity could be influenced not only by single cues in the store environment but also by the combinations of related cues. To the best of our knowledge, there is only little empirical study that has attempted to investigate the interaction of multiple sensory stimuli. For example, Mattila and Wirtz s study (2001) is one of the few that examines the interaction effect of scent and music on consumer s in-store evaluations and their behaviour. Eroglu et al. (2005), based on the schema incongruity theory, examined the interactive effects of retail density and music tempo and their impact on shopper responses. More recently, Morin et al. (2007) draw on a dual model of environmental perception (Ohno 1980, 1985, 2000, Ohno and Komuro 1984) to test the role of music in service environments and its effects on consumer outcomes. The above review suggests that the synergistic effect of background music and colour has not been examined in prior literatures neither in the physical nor in the online environment. Undeniably, both background music and colour are commercially significant retail atmospheric factors that are of interest to marketing researchers. Given this significance, the combined effect of these two variables should have practical and theoretical implications and there are reasons to suspect a joint effect between the two factors. According to the dual model, a person s response to an environment as a whole depends on his or her integration of multi-sensory information. Thus,

6 328 F.-F. Cheng et al. when the two emotional-consistent (or congruent) stimuli appear simultaneously, the joint effect of both factors is expected to intensify the shoppers emotional responses. For example, the fast music is believed to induce a higher level of arousal than slow music, whereas warm colour is related to a higher level of arousal than the cool colour background. Accordingly, it is expected that fast music and warm colour background screen should result in the highest level of arousal than any other combination of these two factors. A similar result is expected to occur in inducing shoppers emotion of pleasure. Based on the aforementioned studies and also to address the aforementioned void, we propose that H5: The congruency of music and colour will strengthen the participants level of arousal. H6: The congruency of music and colour will strengthen the participants level of pleasure. 3. Conceptual framework The conceptual framework in this study includes two independent variables (music and colour) and two dependent constructs (pleasure and arousal). The two independent variables were taken into consideration because of the characteristic of the online storefront environment. A major difference between dot-com (clicks-and-mortar) and bricks-andmortar environment is the window of sight it is much narrower in the e-commerce environment. All the environmental factors can influence Internet consumers emotional state only through the narrow window, in which Internet consumers have to perceive the online storefront mainly through their eyes and ears. Therefore, music and colour were selected as the two variables to be manipulated in our experiment. To understand the consumers emotional responses in an online storefront context, two dimensions were measured. Though three emotional states (PAD) had been proposed by the earlier study of Mehrabian and Russell (1974), a modified model that deletes the dominance dimension was further proposed by Russell and Pratt (1980). They found that the two orthogonal dimensions of pleasure and arousal were adequate enough to represent people s emotional or affective responses to a wide range of environment. In addition, after empirically testing the Mehrabian-Russell environmental psychology model in retail settings, Donovan and Rossiter (1982) also suggest that consumers experience in store environments are in terms of only two major emotional dimensions and these are arousal and pleasantness. From the above discussion, only pleasure and arousal were used to measure the participants emotional states in this study Definition and manipulation The music tempo refers to the speed or rate at which a musical passage progresses. Music is a quantifiable measurement and can be manipulated by using a metronome to vary the number of beats per minute (BPM). Listeners tend to prefer tempos that fall within a range of 68 to 178 bpm (Kellaris and Altsech 1992). Therefore, the music tempo in this study is varied by quantifying 72 BPM or less as slow tempo compared to 92 or more as fast tempo. The manipulation was also supported by Milliman s (1986) study of the effect of music on customers behaviour in a restaurant. Moreover, in this current study, red and blue were selected based on the findings in prior research that these two colours are opposite on the colour spectrum and there exists extreme different characteristics and influences between these two colours Control variable Potential confounding variables controlled in this study include the experimenter, music type, product type and facilities (computers). 4. Experimental design The experiment is a 2 (music tempo: fast/slow) 6 2 (colour hue: warm/cool) between-subjects factorial design, as shown in Table 1. One hundred and twenty-eight participants were recruited and then assigned into one of the four groups randomly. A gift shop served as the context of this study Materials and procedures The experiment was conducted in a laboratory quipped with 40 personal computers. To avoid the situation in which the users unintentionally turn off the voice of the computer, the music was broadcasted through the laboratory s sound system. For this reason, the experiment was actually divided into two parts according to the different music treatments. The first one is the fast-tempo condition, in which the participants were assigned into the warm or cool colour condition randomly after they entered into the laboratory. The condition for the second round of Table 1. Factorial design of the experiment. Groups Music Colour 1 Fast Warm 2 Fast Cool 3 Slow Warm 4 Slow Cool

7 Behaviour & Information Technology 329 the experiment is the same as the first one, except for the music tempo condition; the second part is the slowtempo condition. The content of the web pages browsed by participants in all conditions were the same, but the background colour varied in terms of the colour manipulation. Upon entering the laboratory, subjects were given an introduction to the experiment. They were told that this was a study aiming at understanding the possibility of their purchase among various kinds of products. After the introduction, the participants were then randomly assigned into one of the colour conditions. Finally, the participants were asked to answer a questionnaire measuring their emotional responses. Furthermore, the demographic information was also collected for analysis Measurement Mehrabian and Russell s (1974) 12-item semantic differential scale was employed to measure emotional responses to the environment. Six item pairs used to measure the arousal dimension of emotions are: happy unhappy, pleased annoyed, satisfied unsatisfied, contented melancholic, hopeful despairing and relax bored. The other six items tapped into the pleasure dimensions and they are stimulated relaxed, excited calm, frenzied sluggish, jittery dull, wide awake sleepy and aroused unaroused. 5. Data analysis and results 5.1. Tests of reliability and validity To test the construct validity, factor analysis with varimax rotation was carried out on the six emotional response measures. Table 2 provides the factor pattern matrix that shows the loadings of each item, reliability and variance explained by each construct. The result suggested that both factors emerged with no-cross construct loadings above 0.7, indicating good discriminant validity. The instrument also demonstrated convergent validity with factor loadings exceeding 0.7 for each construct. These results, therefore, confirmed that each of these constructs is uni-dimensional and factorially distinct and that all items used to operationalise a particular construct were loaded onto a single factor. In addition, the original measurement developed by Mehrabian and Russell (1974) reported that the total variance explained by the pleasure and arousal dimensions were 27% and 23%, respectively. In this current study, factor 1 (pleasure) accounted for 63% and factor 2 (arousal) for 17% of the total variance, respectively. This result suggested that the two emotional dimensions might adequately represent the human reactions to environments. The internal consistency was also assessed by computing Cronbach s alpha. These coefficients are also represented for each of the constructs. As shown in Table 2, both of the constructs in the instrument exhibited Cronbach s alpha of higher than 0.9. Thus, it appeared that the internal consistency of the constructs items had been established satisfactorily. For later analysis, the factor scores of arousal and pleasure for each subject were computed by averaging the highest loading items on each factor separately Hypothesis testing MANOVA test was performed to test the effects of music and colour on participant s emotional responses. Detailed statistics are presented in Table 3. As expected, the main effects of music and colour were significant on both of the dependent measures. Hypotheses H1 and H2 stated the effect of music on participants two emotional responses. Both of the hypotheses were supported in which fast and slow tempo music reveals significant difference effects on the two emotional measures. Specifically, most of the participants felt more aroused and pleased under the Table 2. Result of factor analysis on two emotional responses. Pleasure Arousal Despairing Melancholic Annoyed Unhappy Unsatisfied Bored Calm Relaxed Unaroused Dull Sluggish Sleepy Reliability Variance 63.09% 17.22% Table 3. Music Colour ***p Results of MANOVA test (main effect). Emotional responses Arousal Pleasure Fast 4.24 (1.75) 4.40 (1.34) Slow 2.41 (0.98) 3.71 (1.20) F 80.29*** 12.30*** Warm 3.95 (1.81) 4.50 (1.22) Cool 2.71 (1.30) 3.63 (1.27) F 39.77*** 18.16***

8 330 F.-F. Cheng et al. fast music condition than those exposed to the slow music condition. This result suggested that with other factors being equal, websites that played quick music could successfully result in a higher level of arousal and pleasure than those that played slow music. Hypotheses H3 and H4 examined the effect of colour on participants emotional responses. The result of MANOVA test indicated that participants who were exposed to warm colour condition reveal higher level of arousal than those exposed to cool colour condition. This result provided the evidence that red possesses strong excitation potential and high arousal qualities, and blue on the other hand has relatively low arousal value and limited excitation potential as suggested by many prior researches (e.g. Schaie and Heiss 1964). Therefore, hypothesis H3 was supported. The result is consistent with the findings of prior researches that faster music and warm colour are associated with higher levels of arousal (Berlyne 1971, Mehrabian and Russell 1974, Gorn et al. 1997, Caldwell and Hibbert 2002). However, the data presented in Table 3 indicated that respondents in the current study felt more pleased under warm colour condition than those who were under cool colour condition. This finding is opposite to the statement of hypothesis H4, which postulates that respondents exposed to the cool colour environment will have a higher level of pleasure than those exposed to the warm colour environment. Based on the research findings of Bellizzi et al. (1983) and Bellizzi and Hite (1992) that participants feel more aroused but less pleasant in warm colour environment than those in cool colour environment, they suggested that blue is more adequate for retail displays and the use of red colour inside the retail store must be carefully considered. However, findings in this study suggested that warm colour background in the online retail store is associated with arousal and pleasure and thus is appropriate for creating the desired atmosphere. A further examination of colour effect in the online store was thus suggested Interaction effect The overall interaction was significant (p ¼ 0.008). The interaction effect and cell means of music and colour on two dependent measures were displayed in Table 4. A significant interaction effect of music and colour on arousal was observed (F ¼ 9.44, p ¼ 0.03). The results of cell means comparison revealed that the highest level of arousal occurred in fast music and red colour condition. Participants who were exposed to slow tempo with cool colour background showed the lowest level of arousal than those who were exposed to other three conditions. A similar pattern can also be found on participant s level of pleasure in which fast Table 4. Dependent measure Arousal Pleasure Interaction effect. Music **p ; ***p Red Colour Blue Fast 5.32 (1.56) 3.31 (1.33) 30.23*** Slow 2.75 (0.95) 2.06 (0.89) 9.11** F *** *** Fast 4.97 (1.20) 3.92 (1.28) 11.05** Slow 4.08 (1.08) 3.32 (1.20) 7.12** F 9.293** music and warm colour condition can induce the highest level of pleasure. The above result revealed that although both background music and colour have impact on participants emotional responses, these two environmental factors can also act holistically. That is, the effects of environmental stimuli can be strengthened if these two variables were matched. Therefore, when highly arousing music and colour are presented simultaneously, it has the greatest power to induce participants emotional responses. In contrast, environments with slow music and cool colour were able to calm participants and thus lead to the lowest level of arousal and pleasure. 6. Conclusions and discussion The purpose of this research was to examine the effect of two environmental elements, music and background colour, on Internet consumer s emotional responses. Conventional wisdom supports the notion that fast music should result in a higher level of arousal and pleasure. In addition, warm colour is believed to be associated with higher level of arousal, whereas cool colour should result in higher level of pleasure. The result of our experiment provided partial support for this assertion. Specifically, fast music is reported to be associated with a higher level of arousal and pleasure than slow music, while cool colour is associated with a lower level of arousal and pleasure than warm colour. The inconsistency between the current finding and prior literatures is worth a detailed exploration in future study. The authors believe that the findings can be attributed to the different experience when surfing the physical and online retailing stores. Sautter et al. (2004) suggested that online shoppers place themselves in a dual environment in which the atmosphere elements in the virtual store and the operator environment should have influence on their emotion. Unfortunately, the study of Sautter et al. (2004) provided no empirical evidence on this issue. F

9 Behaviour & Information Technology 331 In summary, both background music and colour are elements of the environment that provide for an effective method of influencing online shoppers mood states. A well-designed website with adequate music and colour can create a desired environment and thus entice and retain target customers successfully. Findings in this study provide a direction for practical applications of such ambient factors as music and colour in online store settings Contributions and implications The most basic contributions of this study come from investigating the effect of two ambient factors, background music and colour, in cyber context. In other words, our study is a convergence of two research orientations: the effect of ambient factors such as music, colour, and scent etc. in physical stores and the website design. The former research orientation mainly draws from researches in environmental psychology which emphasises the influence of sensory stimuli on the shoppers emotion and thus in turn leads to further behavioural responses, whereas the latter has been the focus of human computer interaction (HCI) area and addresses the relationship between website design factors (such as usability and layout) and the performance of a virtual store. While studies in both research orientations are important, there appears to exist insufficient continuity and sharing of values between researches. Meanwhile, the incorporation of ambient factors into virtual store design would contribute in a worthwhile way to the online shopping activity. Accordingly, the current study contributes to bridge the gap between the above research orientations. Another contribution of this article is that the congruency of different ambient factors was considered, which tend to be ignored in the prior literatures. Our findings show that the match of different factors can enhance the effect on customers emotions. Specifically, websites with fast music and warm background colour can result in the highest level of arousal and pleasure. In contrast, slow music and cool background colour lead to the lowest level of arousal and pleasure. This phenomenon suggests that consumers respond to their environments holistically and different atmospheric elements work together as a unity in influencing people. The present results have a number of implications for research and practice. First, the current study provides a different direction in exploring the relationship between website atmosphere and Internet surfers responses. The results from our experiment suggested that the atmosphere in an online store has a similar effect on shoppers emotion to that in physical settings; the two manageable variables in the online store can be manipulated to result in desired outcome, for example, to reduce the Internet shoppers risk perception, the perceived waiting time of page downloads, and to facilitate decision making etc. With respect to risktaking behaviour, Isen and co-workers (Isen and Patrick 1983, Isen 1987, Isen and Geva 1987, Isen et al. 1988) found that the readiness to take a risk rises in a positive compared to neutral mood for low risks. Shopping in a virtual setting is perceived to be more riskful than in a physical setting because the Internet surfer cannot touch and actually see the products. Thus, it would be worthwhile to know how to reduce the shoppers risk perception through incorporating appropriate background music and colour in website environment. In addition, negative emotions generally create a desire to withdraw from an environment. For example, negative affect may encourage consumers to be less patient waiting for service (Chebat et al. 1995, Baker and Cameron 1996). In a virtual setting, a significant criticism that consumers raise about using the Internet is that it often takes a long time to download web pages (Dennis 2001). Based on the findings in the current study, one can suppose that the appropriate design of background music and colour in the online store should result in higher willingness to wait for page downloads Limitations and future research direction This study has attempted to present a laboratory experiment to test the effects of two sensory stimuli on Internet shoppers emotional states. The results are promising; there are nonetheless a few limitations to this study that should be noted and the possibilities of future research were indicated. First of all, the atmosphere effect was tested only in the online retailing store and not other store types. Thus, investigation into the atmosphere effects in different types of stores could be used to broaden these findings. Second, factors considered in this study are somewhat limited and more researches are needed to examine/investigate the effects of different structures of music and colour on Internet shoppers emotional and further behavioural response. Specifically, it would be helpful, for example, to involve a more variable level such as control group, different colours (e.g. yellow, green, in addition to red and blue considered in this study), detailed classification of music tempo level (e.g. very fast, fast, medium, slow and very slow) in the current research framework. Further research regarding the influence of emotions on shoppers attitudes, satisfaction, buying intentions and shopping outcomes (e.g. amount of money spent) may be helpful. In addition, it is hoped that future research will continue to explore new directions of how ambient factors of the online shopping environment can be used

10 332 F.-F. Cheng et al. to create more desired feelings and shopping outcomes. Finally, findings in the current study indicated that appropriate use of stimulus factors, such as music and colour, can induce positive emotions; however, it should be worthwhile to note that overuse of them can have the potential to irritate and cause discomfort. Thus, the application of atmospheric factors in online environment must be made with caution. Future research should help expand this concern and answer the questions such as under what condition will the stimuli create positive outcome and under what condition will the stimuli become an annoyance. References Agarwal, R. and Venkatesh, V., Assessing a firm s web presence: a heuristic evaluation procedure for the measurement of usability. Information Systems Research, 13 (2), Alpert, J.I. and Alpert, M.I., Music influences on mood and purchase intentions. 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