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ISSN : 1226-0401(Print)
ISSN : 2383-6334(Online)
The Research Journal of the Costume Culture Vol.27 No.6 pp.539-552
DOI : https://doi.org/10.29049/rjcc.2019.27.6.539

The role of visual and verbal information on the functionality of shapewear in female consumers’ online purchase decisions

Eonyou Shin†, Ling Zhang*, Chanmi Hwang**, Fatma Baytar***
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Apparel, Housing, and Resource Management, Virginia Tech, USA
*Assistant Professor, Dept. of Apparel, Events, and Hospitality Management, Iowa State University, USA
**Assistant Professor, Dept. of Apparel, Merchandising, Design, and Textile, Washington State University, USA
***Assistant Professor, Dept. of Fiber Science & Apparel Design, Cornell University, USA
Corresponding author (eonyous7@vt.edu)
October 16, 2019 December 3, 2019 December 3, 2019

Abstract

The purpose of the current study was to examine the role of information on shapewear’s functionality in consumers’ purchase decisions in an online shopping context. Through two steps of stimulus development process, four mock websites were developed to conduct a main study. In the main study, a 2 (visual information: absent vs. present images of the shapewear’s functionality) x 2 (verbal information: absent vs. present descriptions of the shapewear’s functionality) between-subject factorial design was employed to examine the impact of visual and verbal information regarding the functionality of shapewear on the consumer decision-making process (i.e., attitudes and purchase intentions). The results showed that verbal information about how shapewear reduces the size of specific body parts (i.e., waist, abdomen, hips, and thighs) were effective in increasing perceived attractiveness in an online context, which increased attitudes and purchase intentions. In addition, attitudes toward the shapewear mediated the effects of expected physical attractiveness on purchase intentions. The results of this study provided empirical support for the importance of expected physical attractiveness in consumers’ online purchase decision on shapewear and useful managerial implications for enhancing the effectiveness of online shapewear presentations by including descriptions of the functionality of shapewear in decreasing the size of body parts.

I. Introduction

Shapewear is a type of body-contouring garment that can be used to transform women’s bodies to their ideal contoured body types (Usigan, 2018) and temporarily reshape the body to achieve a desired fashionable figure (Indiaretailing Bureau, 2014). It has become increasingly popular with women in a wide range of age groups (Burns-Ardolino, 2007). Although the function of women’s shapewear today does not cause dramatic changes in a woman’s body, shapewear still serve as a way to create an ideal hourglass figure by slimming the stomach and waist areas or enhancing body curves (Zhang, Shin, Hwang, & Baytar, 2017).

3. Main study

A 2 (visual information: absent vs. present images of the shapewear’s effects) x 2 (verbal information: absent vs. present descriptions of the shapewear’s effects) between-subject factorial design was employed to examine the impact of visual and verbal shapewear effect information on the consumer decision-making process.

After obtaining an IRB approval, we sent invitation emails to 10,000 female undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff who were 18 years of age or older, randomly selected from a list obtained from the registrar of a large Midwestern university in the US. Recipients who were willing to participate in the study visited the URL provided in the invitation email. At the URL, participants were first directed to an informed consent form. After agreeing to participate, they were asked to read the scenario. Then, they were then randomly directed to one of the four mock websites. After browsing the mock websites, a webbased survey on Qualtrics was shown to participants. In the web-based survey, participants were asked to answer several questions regarding their perceived physical attractiveness, attitudes toward the shapewear, and purchase intentions toward the shapewear. Questions about the individual’s demographic questions were also asked. To increase the level of participation, four participants received a \$10 gift card from a coffee retailer through random drawings.

4. Instruments

The instruments measured three dependent variables (i.e., perceived physical attractiveness, attitude toward the shapewear, purchase intention toward the shapewear). In addition, shapewear usage behavior, online shopping experience, and demographic information were gathered.

Perceived physical attractiveness (i.e., consumer’s perception of their physical attractiveness when wearing the shapewear) was measured using the items adopted from Loken and Peck (2005). The four items were measured: “I feel I may have a number of good physical features after wearing the shapewear”, “I may have a positive attitude toward my body after wearing the shapewear”, “I think that I may be pretty attractive after wearing the shapewear”, “On the whole, I may be satisfied with the way I look after wearing the shapewear”.

Four items measuring attitude toward the shapewear were adopted from Jiang and Benbasat (2007), Kempf and Smith (1998): “The shapewear that I’ve just seen is good”, “I have formed a favorable impression toward the shapewear that I’ve just seen”, “I like the shapewear that I have just seen”, “I find the shapewear that I have just seen pleasant.” Purchase intention toward the shapewear was measured using four items adopted from various studies (Coyle & Thorson, 2001;Dodds, Monroe, & Grewal, 1991;Putrevu & Lord, 1994): “It is likely that I would buy this shapewear”, “If I wear going to buy a shapewear, I would consider buying this shapewear”, “I would definitely try this shapewear”, “I would be willing to buy the shapewear”. All the items were measured on a seven-point Likert type scale (1: strongly disagree to 7: strongly agree).

5. Data analysis

Cronbach’s alpha was used to evaluate reliability of the six variables (perceived performance risk, perceived physical attractiveness, attitude toward the shapewear, attitude toward the website, purchase intention toward the shapewear, and patronage intention toward the website). We conducted confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) to assess Unidimensionality, convergent validity, and discriminant validity using Mplus 8.0 (Muthén & Muthén, 2007).

In Part 1, the effects of verbal and visual information about shapewear performance on expected physical attractiveness (Hypotheses 1-3) were tested using univariate analysis of variance (ANOVA). In Part 2, we used (CFA) and structural equation modeling (SEM) Mplus to test Hypotheses 4 and 5. Descriptive statistics were generated using SPSS to analyze participants’ demographic information.

Ⅳ. Results

1. Sample

A total of 454 participants responded to the survey, out of which 433 responses were usable. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 70 years old (M=30 years old. The majority of the respondents were Caucasian American (n=386, 89.1%), followed by Asian/Asian American (n=19, 4.4%), and Latino/Hispanic American (n=8, 1.8%). Participants were mostly undergraduate students (n=191, 41%), followed by staff (n=127, 29.3%), graduate students (n=56, 12.9%), and faculty (n=38, 8.8%). The weight of the participants ranged from 97 lbs to 320 lbs (M=156.8 lbs and their height ranged from 4’9” to 7’ (M=5’3”. A little more than half of the participants (n=228, 52.7%) reported that they had never worn shapewear prior to this study. A majority of the participants (n=317, 74.2%) indicated that they purchase clothing online one to two times a month, followed by those who never shop online (n=82, 19.2%), and those who shop online three to four times a month (n=21, 4.9%).

2. Measurement model specification

We conducted CFA for three latent constructs with 12 items using the maximum likelihood estimation in Mplus. Results indicated that the model had a satisfactory fit to the data (χ2=199.952, df=51, p≤.001, RMSEA=08 [90% C.I.=(.07; .09)], CFI=.97, TLI=.96, SRMR=.03). CFA of the measurement model also assessed convergent validity and discriminant validity. According to the results of CFA, convergent validity was achieved (all path coefficients ≥.72, p≤.001). Discriminant validity was also confirmed because the corresponding correlation coefficient between factors were smaller than the square root of the AVE for each construct.

3. Hypotheses testing

There were two parts to hypothesis testing. In Part 1, hypotheses were tested using a two-way ANOVA to examine the effects of verbal and visual information regarding shapewear performance on expected physical attractiveness. There was no main effect of visual information regarding the shapewear’s functionality on expected physical attractiveness (M=4.45, SD=1.26, M=.55, SD=1.04) [F(1, 425)=.705, p=.401, partial η2=.001]. Moreover, expected physical attractiveness was not significant different whether or not participants were exposed to visualized body changes between the before and after images of models wearing the shapewear. It was surprising that no main effect for visual information was found, despite findings from previous literature supporting the effectiveness of visual information. Thus, Hypothesis 1 was not supported.

There was a significant main effect for verbal information regarding shapewear performance on expected attractiveness [F(1, 425)=4.45, p=.036, partial η2=.010]. Participants who were exposed to written information regarding the shapewear’s functionality expected greater attractiveness when wearing the shapewear (M=4.63, SD=1.09) than those who were not exposed to the verbal information regarding the shapewear’s functionality (M=4.37, SD=1.19). Thus, Hypothesis 2 was supported. However, because there was no interaction effect of visual and verbal information regarding shapewear performance on expected attractiveness [F(1, 425)=.35, p=.56, partial η2 =.001], Hypothesis 3 was not supported.

An additional analysis was performed to see if there were simple main effects between any two of the four conditions. The results of post hoc tests using LSD multi-group comparison to examine pairwisegroup differences between all four groups revealed that the mean values of expected physical attractiveness were significantly different (ΔM=.36, p<.05) between participants exposed to visual or verbal information condition (M=4.36, SD=1.46) and those exposed to both visual and verbal information (M=4.72, SD=1.07). There were no differences in expected physical attractiveness if participants were exposed to either visual (M=4.39, SD=1.16) or verbal information (M=4.54, SD=1.36) compared to those who did not see both visual and verbal information.

In Part 2, Hypotheses 4 and 5 investigated the relationships between expected physical attractiveness, attitudes toward the shapewear, and purchase intention for the shapewear. The results of SEM using maximum likelihood showed the model had an adequate fit to the data (χ2=183.806, df=52, p≤.001, CFI=97, TLI=.96, and RMSEA=.08, SRMR=.04).

The expected perceived attractiveness evoked by information about shapewear performance was positively associated with attitudes toward both the shapewear (γ=.663, SE=.031, t=21.226, p<.001). Attitudes toward shapewear was positively related to purchase intentions toward the shapewear (β=.709, SE=.029, t=24.594, p<.001). Purchase intentions toward the shapewear had a positive effect on patronage intentions toward the website. Thus, Hypotheses 4 and 5 were supported.

An ad-hoc mediation test was conducted to enhance understanding of the results. Following Preacher and Hayes’ (2008) bootstrap procedure, we tested whether or not the extent to which attitudes toward the shapewear mediated the effects of expected physical attractiveness on purchase intentions. The results showed a significant and partial indirect effect of expected physical attractiveness on purchase intentions through attitudes toward the shapewear (b=.50, t=7.206, p<.001) and a significant direct effect of physical attractiveness on purchase intentions (b=.17, t=2.099, p<.05).

Ⅴ. Conclusions and Implications

This study investigated the influence of information regarding shapewear functionality on female consumers’ online purchase decisions. The effects of both visual and verbal information in relation to the effects of shapewear were examined using a 2 (visual: absent vs. present) x 2 (verbal: absent vs. present) between- subject design. We included a detailed description of the shapewear’s effects on specific body parts (i.e., stomach, waist, hip, thighs) as verbal information. As for visual information on the shapewear’s performance, we used 3D body scanning technology that revealed the changes in one’s body both before and after wearing the shapewear. In particular, the study focused on whether and what kind of information increases women’s expected attractiveness as a function of shapewear in an online shopping context, and whether such information enhances attitudes and purchase intentions toward the shapewear. The results provided empirical evidence that written information and the combination of written and pictorial information about how shapewear reduces the size of specific body parts (i.e., waist, abdomen, hips, and thighs) were effective in increasing perceived attractiveness in an online context, and increased attitudes and purchase intentions. The findings partially supported dual coding theory (Paivio, 1971) in that individuals process two formats (i.e., visual and verbal) of information differently and separately.

The results of this study provided empirical support for the importance of expected physical attractiveness and have useful managerial implications for enhancing the effectiveness of online shapewear presentations. While many online shapewear retailers do not present information about shapewear’s functionality, despite the fact that it is a major motivation for wearing shapewear, this study shows that specific verbal information to describe shapewear’s functionality in decreasing the size of particular body parts can help consumers evaluate how shapewear would perform on their bodies to increase physical attractiveness. Thus, the results of this study suggest that online retailers can enhance consumers’ expected benefits of wearing shapewear (i.e., attractiveness) by including written descriptions of how much the shapewear will change the consumer’s body in terms of size reduction.

Also, contrary to previous research findings (Yoo & Kim, 2014), this study found that visual information (i.e., images) regarding the shapewear’s functionality did not influence expected physical attractiveness. It is possible that the pictures of shapewear used in this study did not include sufficient detailed information about how much the size of the body would be changed. This implies that in- depth textual information may be more effective in helping consumers imagine the shapewear’s functionality in an online shopping context. Additionally, the results of SEM demonstrated that expected attractiveness increased attitudes and intentions toward purchasing the shapewear. This finding provides empirical support for the importance of expected attractiveness in online presentation of shapewear in terms of increasing consumers’ attitudes and purchase intentions.

Ⅵ. Limitations and Future Research

This study had several limitations. The scope of the study was limited because participants were females recruited from a single Midwestern university. This group may not be the representative of all female online shoppers in the U.S. Thus, future research should include a more diverse group of online shoppers for greater generalizability.

Another limitation pertained to the type of pictures used. We used realistic 3D scanned data from a participant’s body in the stimulus development to create verbal information by extracting body measurements before and after wearing the lower body shapewear and visual information by creating a Caucasian 3D model. This could be a reason for the insignificant results of the effect of visual information on expected physical attractiveness. The insignificant effects of images resulted in because participants might notice less differences in body changes when exposed to visual information compared to verbal information of size changes. Further, if other’s 3D scanned body shown in image looked different from participants’ own body, it might make them difficult to imagine and relate changes in their own bodies. Thus, future studies should consider using participants’ own images of their bodies to present information on shapewear’s functionality, to see how effective it is in enhancing expected attractiveness.

This study examined the effects of absence and presence of visual and verbal information on physical attractiveness. Mental imagery is an important factor when consumers shop online and therefore future research should explore more on how verbal and visual information is processed from consumers’ mental imagery perspectives. Lastly, the amount of verbal information and the quality of visual information (e.g., movement and posture) should be explored to improve our understandings of the role such information that plays in shapewear’s online purchase decisions.

Figure

Visual stimuli for shapewear functionality (front views and size views)

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