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6.3.4. Conclusion

The analyses have shown that there is a structural shift in mental representations for the exemplary activity-travel task when an online shopping alternative is introduced. In this regard, the number of considered attributes and benefits increased significantly, that is MRs become more comprehensive. Yet, the ratio of benefits and attributes remains rather stable. Also the relative frequencies of cognitive subsets did not differ significantly between both scenarios.

The substantial analysis showed a shift in the underlying benefits between the two scenarios: significantly more MRs in the e-commerce scenario included the benefits time savings, ease of shopping, diversity in product choice and travel comfort. This finding suggests that individuals perceive benefits of an online shopping alternative primarily in terms of a trade-off between convenience aspects (ease of shopping and travel comfort), time saving and product diversity. Since an online shopping alternative clearly stands out favourably on convenience and time-saving aspects, this finding suggests that product diversity is the crucial factor in the overall benefit this service can offer in the perceptions of the average shopper.

No differences were however found among attributes. It is comprehensible that respondents' mindset does not change qualitatively on the attribute level although the introduction of a new shopping alternative led to a stronger benefit activation and shift in benefit activation. A possible reason might be that individuals experience anchoring or order effects in updating their mental representations when new alternatives are introduced so that it takes a long time until they integrate the new attributes and customs connected with ICT options which could contribute to a willingness to adopt this new alternative (Hogarth & Einhorn, 1992). The reluctance of the elder generation in adapting to ICT-based communication and activity modes might be exemplary of this effect. The underlying attributes are hence quite stable for the decision task at hand. This is also evident in the frequency and centrality values for the MR components.

Possibly, a more focused sample of individuals who currently make use of online (grocery) shopping services could lead to more insight in the differences between MRs of those who already adopted and those who have not adopted these services. A follow-up study with an extended sample could perhaps bring further clarity.

From the analysis other interesting insights could also be gained. For instance, there is less variation in the ranking of the three decision variables in the e-commerce scenario. Probably, this is an effect of the unlimited availability of online shopping which caused a decrease in the importance of scheduling the time of shopping.

In sum, a variation of the choice set in terms of additional ICT alternatives did not lead to a substantial shift in MRs in terms of attributes that are considered despite the fact that respondents consider quantitatively more and different collections of benefits for the experimental shopping trip. This finding suggests that the introduction of ICT services does not result in an important change of how individuals evaluate options for grocery shopping activities in time and space. Convenience and product diversity are the benefits that are specifically associated with the presence of an online alternative. In any case, our findings provide a further confirmation of earlier results that the introduction of online alternatives does not seem to fundamentally change individuals' activity-travel patterns for shopping (Corpus & Peachman, 2003; Sim & Koi, 2002). Possibly, mental representations change over a longer period of time after ICT users got acquainted with the usage and the benefits of suchlike online offers.

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