The persuasiveness of online safety cues: The impact of prevention focus compatibility of Web content on consumers' risk perceptions, attitudes, and intentions

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Abstract

Safety cues are frequently used in online stores to relieve consumers' risk perceptions concerning online purchases. This paper uses regulatory focus theory (RFT) to predict the persuasiveness of online safety cues. According to RFT (Higgins, 1997), people process information differently depending on whether they strive for achieving gains (promotion focus) or avoiding losses (prevention focus). The aim of the present study is to examine the impact of the regulatory focus compatibility of Web content on online consumer behavior. Using different online stores, two experiments show that the effect of online safety cues depends on the consumers'regulatory focus. A pilot study demonstrates that safety-oriented Web content lowers consumers' risk perceptions, but only when in a prevention focus. The main study replicates and extends this finding by showing that online safety cues both lower consumers' risk perceptions and engender more favorable attitudes and intentions, depending on the regulatory focus.

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