Seeing It Is Like Touching It: Unraveling the Effective Product Presentations on Online Apparel Purchase Decisions and Brain Activity (An fMRI Study)

Tun Min (Catherine) Jai, Dan Fang, Forrest S. Bao, Russell N. James, Tianwen Chen, Weidong Cai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Unlike brick-and-mortar stores where consumers can use all of their senses to examine a product, online retailers must properly present products to shoppers via a computer-mediated interface. In this exploratory study, we investigate how the brain makes purchase decisions when it encounters different types of visual presentation strategies. Specifically, we use event-related fMRI to study brain activation preceding purchase decisions under three visual presentation strategies: (1) static picture, (2) image zooming, and (3) rotation video. Twenty-four (24) participants made 60 apparel purchase decisions. Utilizing machine learning, we study whether and how various neural circuits are engaged in purchase decision-making in regard to different types of visual sensory information. The functional neuroimaging results suggest high accuracy (highest: 95%, Rotation condition) in predicting purchase decisions using brain activity in the product evaluation process. Furthermore, cross-category validation reveals the activation patterns under the Rotation condition most successfully predict choices across the other two presentation conditions: this suggests a potential universal brain activity pattern in these apparel purchase decisions. Finally, we found some brain regions (such as the cerebellum) that are less likely to be associated with purchase decisions but are considered influential in predicting online apparel purchase decisions in the context of watching a rotation product video. The cerebellar activation may suggest association with spatial cognition and virtual navigation in addition to motor control. This study contributes to the research field of NeuroIS and online shopper study. The results provide empirical evidence to support the refined S-O-R theoretical model Jacoby (2002) and heuristic information process and inform the practical implications of sensory-engaging presentations in helping consumers to make online purchase decisions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)66-79
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Interactive Marketing
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Apparel shopping
  • Neuromarketing
  • Online shopper
  • Visual merchandising
  • Visual sensory information
  • fMRI


Dive into the research topics of 'Seeing It Is Like Touching It: Unraveling the Effective Product Presentations on Online Apparel Purchase Decisions and Brain Activity (An fMRI Study)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this