Purpose ñ The purpose of this paper is to explore the roles of telepresence and fantasy in an online apparel shopping experience. Online apparel consumers undergo a virtual product experience (telepresence) that simulates the product experience in a brick-and-mortar store. Fantasy entails the pleasurable mental imagery involving product use. Design/methodology/approach ñ A total of 86 female university students completed a survey after browsing a stimulus web site in a laboratory setting. Path analysis was used to identify hypothesized relationships between telepresence, fantasy, shopping enjoyment, willingness to purchase, and willingness to patronize the online retailer. Findings ñ Results showed that telepresence influenced consumer fantasy and both telepresence and consumer fantasy led to shopping enjoyment (experiential value). Telepresence, fantasy, and shopping enjoyment directly contributed to willingness to purchase from the online retailer, whereas telepresence, fantasy and shopping enjoyment contributed indirectly to willingness to patronize the online retailer. Research limitations/implications ñ The study used a sample of female university students in the USA. This limits its generalizability to all consumers. It also examined one web site feature; other features may produce different effects. Practical implications ñ Findings suggest that business practitioners implement features on their web sites to yield telepresence and fantasy, which may enhance purchase and patronage responses towards their site. Originality/value ñ This study enhances understanding of two variables requiring further study, telepresence and fantasy, in online apparel shopping experience.
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