The Internet has changed the way people purchase tourist souvenirs. In China, buying museum merchandise online has become a new trend. Nowadays, tourists can purchase museum merchandise online before and after physically visiting sites, whereas previously they were only able to do so in the museum’s retail shop (i.e., offline). However, little is known about how such a change in consumption behaviour has influenced people’s perception of tourist souvenirs. What motivates people to purchase museum merchandise online rather than, or in addition to, buying it immediately after visiting sites? Do souvenirs purchased online and purchased offline have different meanings? The present study takes a semi-structured interview approach to address these and other questions. Ten young Chinese museum e-shop purchasers participated. The results show that people mainly purchase museum merchandise online, both before and after their embodied visit to the site. The study introduces two new concepts to describe online museum merchandise purchase behaviour: pre-travel purchase and post-travel purchase. Satisfying cultural needs was one of the primary motivations for the participants’ online museum merchandise purchases. Another motivation was the consequence of the long-lasting influence of the previous travel experience. The regret they felt from not having purchased souvenirs during their visit led them to buy online in the post-travel phase. Pleasant memories of their visit encouraged them to pay attention to product updates after returning home. Another finding was that people bought hardly any postcards online, but they always did so offline and regarded them as tourist souvenirs. They also tended to consider utilitarian and aesthetic values more when they bought museum merchandise online. The souvenir purchased in the post-travel phase does not entirely traverse the boundary between the sacred place and the profane place, which makes its evocative power weaker than that of the souvenir purchased at the destination itself. In addition, the pre-travel souvenir can be regarded as a catalyst of desire and a constant reminder to visit a location. Finally, according to the theory of the tourist gaze, museum merchandise can act as a symbolic medium; for example, photos elaborately designed by the supplier side construct purchasers’ impressions and imaginings of museums in distant locations.

, , ,
Nicky van Es
Place, Culture and Tourism
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Dongqing Shen. (2021, June 27). Purchasing Museum Merchandise Online: An Analysis of the Effects of E-commerce on Tourists’ Consumption Behaviours and Perception of Souvenirs in the Chinese Context. Place, Culture and Tourism. Retrieved from