Changing Perceptions of Foreign Companies' Websites: A Social Identity Perspective


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Awarding Institution
  • Choon Ling SIA (Supervisor)
  • Yaobin Lu (External person) (External Supervisor)
Award date3 Aug 2017


With the development of the Internet, an increasing number of companies now engage in global e-commerce. Website design is critical to the success of e-commerce, and different website design elements can influence consumers’ attitude toward and response to e-commerce. In the context of global e-commerce, website localization can enhance local consumers’ attitude toward and trust in foreign companies and promote their businesses in local countries. The literature on website localization has established measurement frameworks for website localization, explored the antecedents and consequences of website localization, and investigated the specific role of elements in website localization. However, the effectiveness of localization design strategies and their underlying working mechanisms remain unclear. Therefore, this study proposes two research questions: What website localization strategies can lead local consumers to perceive a foreign company’s website as local? and How do website localization strategies influence local consumers’ trust in a foreign company’s website and their purchase intention for the company’s products?

To address both questions, this study classifies website localization strategies from the social identity perspective, which is a novel and strong theoretical perspective, and divides these strategies into two types: website similarity strategy and website prosocial strategy. To better understand both types of website localization strategies, their subtypes are further explored. Website similarity strategy can be classified into website bond-based similarity strategy and website identity-based similarity strategy on the basis of the common bond and identity theory, while website prosocial strategy can be classified as website in-role prosocial strategy and website extra-role prosocial strategy from the prosocial behavior perspective.

In this study, a research model based on the cognition–affect–behavior framework is established to explore the underlying working mechanisms of the different website localization strategies. In the research model, website similarity strategy leads local consumers to perceive relatedness between themselves and the foreign companies’ websites, whereas website prosocial strategies make local consumers perceive support from foreign companies and their websites. Both perceived relatedness and support can evoke pleasantness and arousal of local consumers. Finally, both pleasantness and arousal drive the purchase intention and overall trust of local consumers. In this study, a laboratory experiment was conducted in which website design strategies were applied to fictitious websites, and 253 valid responses were collected to verify the research model. All of the hypothesized relationships were verified using the partial least squares technique. Implications, limitations and future research directions are also discussed.

    Research areas

  • Website localization strategy, social identity perspective, common bond and identity theory, prosocial behavior, overall trust, purchase intention