FLOW OFFERS A UNIQUE APPROACH TO CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE. IT IS A COGNITIVE STATE COLLOQUIALLY KNOWN AS BEING IN THE ZONE. ONE CAN ACHIEVE FLOW DURING A VARIETY OF TASKS INCLUDING WHILE WORKING, STUDYING, PLAYING A SPORT OR ADMITTEDLY DURING GAMING. FLOW ONLINE IS OFTEN DESCRIBED AS A STATE IN WHICH THE INDIVIDUAL IS ACUTELY ENGAGED IN THE VIRTUAL ENVIRONMENT.
Flow is intrinsically enjoyable and completely involves a person.
FLOW IN RETAIL ENVIRONMENTS
Customer experience is particularly complex in online retail environments due to the constraints of the virtual environment. Online customer experience is additionally more complicated due to the inability to physically examine or try on products. There is also the issue surrounding associated perceived risk which affects online retailers. Flow offers an approach to not only address customer experience but also gain a competitive advantage.
The state of flow is known to have a positive influence on a customer’s intention to make an online purchase (Ding et al. 2010) and have a positive impact on attitude towards a retailer (Florshiem and Bridges 2007). Customers who achieve flow online are also more likely to return to websites and exhibit loyal behaviours (Ding et al. 2010). Flow has been shown to lead to desired customer outcomes, such as purchase intent, loyalty and satisfaction (Ding et al. 2010), affirming flow’s strategic importance in the context of online retail.
THE INFLUENCE OF WEBSITE DESIGN ON FLOW STATE
Based on a sample of 3000+; several website design characteristics can positively influence the flow state in online retail environments. Product Presentation and Interactivity on a website can significantly affect the customer’s flow state online. Additionally, product information, searchability, recommendations and availability are known to impact flow. Less critical but still important features from a flow perspective include customer support channels and type of support available.
CHARACTERISTICS OF FLOW
Csikzentmihalyi (1990) introduced the concept of optimum experience, known as flow, in the field of psychology, describing it as a state of effortless concentration. Flow occurs when a customer is genuinely enjoying their interaction with the website.Flow is an outcome when a task is challenging enough to balance the skill, the challenge is enough, so the individual isn’t bored but not so high that the person feels anxious (Csikszentmihalyi, 1977).