The Evolution of Interactivity in the Context of Social Commerce: A Multi-Faceted Investigation

  • Maryam Almahdi

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


At the beginning of this research project, a number of gaps pertaining to the investigation of interactivity in the current online social environment were highlighted. They can be summarized in terms of inconsistencies in identifying the relationship between structural interactivity and outcome variables, including interactivity perceptions, in addition to shortcomings in presenting an updated perspective of interactivity that appropriately captures the evolution of social technologies witnessed today. This leads to the choice of social commerce websites as the empirical setting in this thesis, as they are expected to facilitate their consumers’ interactivity in new and unique ways. Following this choice, further gaps in the social commerce literature were uncovered, particularly in regard to limitations in defining the concept, outlining its different types, and pinning down where it departs from related concepts such as social media and e-commerce.Using two empirical studies, the researcher worked towards bridging the aforementioned gaps by (1) examining the contested relationships between structural interactivity and its expected outcome variables (including perceived interactivity) in a highly sociable and engaging social commerce setting (i.e. a consumer-managed fan community), (2) focusing on consumer-consumers and content creation interactivity, alongside the widely studied human-website navigational interactivity, in order to illustrate a comprehensive picture of the concept as it stands today, and by (3) facilitating the two dimensions of structural interactivity (i.e. human-human and human-website) to develop a typology of social commerce platforms that is parsimonious, robust, and extendable. In other words, throughout this thesis the researcher’s aim was to update the understanding of interactivity through investigating it in a novel social commerce context, while simultaneously exploring the under-researched concept of social commerce through the lenses of the interactivity theory (which was determined appropriate for this goal based on the literature review).Consequently, results from study 2 uncovered that the higher the use of structural interactive features on the consumer-managed fan community the higher the interactivity, engagement, and sociability perceptions of this community. While this may seem intuitive, the findings shed a new light on the inconsistently-reported relationship between structural interactivity and perceived interactivity in past research, in addition to its relationship to other outcome variables. Indeed, the use of the highly interactive social commerce as the research setting informs these findings, mitigating the shortcomings of the empirical contexts used in prior2research which are limited in interactivity and relevance to the consumers’ interests (e.g. health-related websites). Moreover, findings from study 1 highlighted that human-human structural interactive features influence the effectiveness of the websites more significantly than human-website interactive features. This is at least in part due to human-human interactivity being less common (and therefore more enticing) than human-website interactivity across the sample of social commerce websites analysed in the study. Finally, study 1 contributed to the social commerce literature by introducing a four-category empirical typology of 73 social commerce websites based on the extent to which they facilitate human-website and human-human interactivity.This thesis offers useful insights informing both website developers whose goal is to capitalize on the current momentum and expected future growth of social commerce, in addition to marketing practitioners aiming to turn their social commerce activities into a profitable venture and implement effective strategies to achieve this goal. This inquiry concludes with recommendations on how to develop online presences that are capable of attracting their customers’ attention among a sea of competitors, facilitating their self-efficacy, and immersing them in sociable and interactive social commerce experiences.
Date of Award20 Jun 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorChristopher Archer-Brown (Supervisor), Androniki Panteli (Supervisor) & Haiming Hang (Supervisor)


  • Interactivity
  • Social Commerce
  • S-commerce
  • Interaction
  • Social Media
  • electronic commerce
  • social shopping
  • online shopping
  • social customer
  • social consumer
  • E-commerce
  • Content analysis
  • social networking sites
  • SNS
  • Stimulus organism response
  • SOR

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