What motivates people to purchase Digital Items on virtual community websites? The desire for online self-presentation

Hee Woong Kim, Hock Chuan Chan, Atreyi Kankanhalli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

185 Citations (Scopus)


The sale of digital items, such as avatars and decorative objects, is becoming an important source of revenue for virtual community (VC) websites. However, some websites are unable to leverage this source of revenue, and there is a corresponding lack of understanding about what motivates people to purchase digital items in VCs. To explain the phenomenon, we develop a model based on the theory of self-presentation. The model proposes that the desire for online self-presentation is a key driver for such purchases. We also hypothesize that the social influence factors of online self-presentation norms and VC involvement as well as personal control in the form of online presentation self-efficacy are antecedents of the desire for online self-presentation. The model was validated by using survey data collected from Cyworld (N D217) and Habbo (N D197), two online social network communities that have been pioneers in the sale of digital items. This work contributes to our understanding of the purchase of digital items by extending the theory of self-presentation and adds to the broader line of research on online identity. It also lends insights into how VC providers can tap this source of revenue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1232-1245
Number of pages14
JournalInformation Systems Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Dec

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Management Information Systems
  • Information Systems
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems and Management
  • Library and Information Sciences


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