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Apparel Industry Csr Online Reporting Strategy On Product Webpage: Exploring Consumers In Usa And China

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Abstract

Communication of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) information to consumers is integrated within the apparel industry's marketing strategy to generate consumer trust and to influence consumers' behavioral intentions. The definition of CSR was adapted from Managing Corporate Social Responsibility (Coombs, 2012) for this study and presented to the participants: "CSR is the voluntary actions that a corporation implements as it pursues its mission and fulfills its perceived obligations to stakeholders, including employees, communities, the environment, and society as a whole"(p67). This study proposes that the gap between consumers' low awareness of CSR and companies' high involvement in CSR reporting can be filled by the introduction of an effective online consumer-facing CSR reporting method through product webpages, which might affect consumers' perception of webpages about social responsibility, increase their trust level, and eventually affect their shopping behavioral intentions. Companies in the apparel industry began investing in CSR reporting more than a decade ago (Internbrand, 2014). However, studies with stakeholders revealed that awareness of a company's CSR activities among its external stakeholders (e.g., consumers) is typically low (Xu, Yu, & He, 2014). There is a disconnection between consumers' low awareness of CSR and companies' efforts to report CSR. Specifically, this study proposed a possibility of reporting CSR online under online-shopping scenarios by embedding a CSR reporting message-using three different CSR reporting formats employed in the apparel industry: certification, action, and strategy-in a product information webpage to study participants' trust and behavioral intentions of buying and recommending the website. These were tested with consumers to find the relationship between each reporting format and behavioral intentions. The sample included 1,220 online participants, mainly covering young online consumers from ages 18 to 29 with education from high school to graduate school in China and the United States. Significant differences were found between treatment groups as well as with the control group in both trust levels and behavioral intentions after participants viewed the product website. The results of this study will help provide a validated method for communicating with consumers about CSR online. Their perceptions of the experimental simulations were analyzed based on the different demographic groups they belong to. The results will also provide insights about current online shoppers in the United States and China. It was recommended by this research that apparel industry companies and organizations treat consumers in China and the United States separately when it comes to CSR reporting. Members of different age, gender, and education groups differ in terms of how they think about CSR online reporting in the apparel industry. Reporting a CSR message on a product webpage in the apparel industry affects consumers' trust in the website and, furthermore, their behavioral intentions such as shopping on the website and recommending it to friends. To implement CSR online reporting in a global scale, companies need to consider many elements, including the factors tested in this study as well as other potential factors that might be tested in future studies.

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2016-02-01

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Apparel Industry; CSR Consumer Communication; USA and China

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Committee Chair

Lewis,Tasha Lenise

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Giebelhausen,Michael D.

Degree Discipline

Apparel Design

Degree Name

M.A., Apparel Design

Degree Level

Master of Arts

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dissertation or thesis

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