E-scapes: The electronic physical environment and service tangibility



Tangible cues in a firm's physical environment play an important role in affecting consumer attitudes and behavior (Baker, Berry, & Parasuraman, 1988; Bitner, 1990, 1992; Darden & Babin, 1994; Donovan & Rossiter, 1982; Zeithaml, 1981). The physical environment has typically been conceptualized as in-store variables such as lighting, music, color, smell, and store layout, but the Internet has created a new type of electronic physical environment, the e-scape, based in cyberspace. This research investigates the role of tangibility in maximizing the effectiveness of an e-scape for service firms. The effectiveness of the Berry and Clark (1986) documentation, physical representation, and association strategies is explored by empirically examining the impact of Web sites employing these strategies on attitudinal and behavioral measures. The results suggest that the documentation strategy is effective for increasing the tangibility of services and elicits more positive evaluations of the service and the Web site, higher unaided recall, and higher loyalty. The results also indicate that the physical representation strategy is more effective than the association strategy in certain conditions. The mechanism driving these effects is described and managerial implications are discussed. © 2003 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.