Linkedin Dissertation

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Ewom-How do consumers evaluate online product reviews when making a purchase decision? Louise Elizabeth Carver Dissertation

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Linkedin Dissertation

  1. 1. 07026579 Ewom-How do consumers evaluate online product reviews when making a purchase decision? 1
  2. 2. 07026579AcknowledgementsFirstly I would like to thank my family, boyfriend and best friend for all theirsupport and guidance in times of struggle. Secondly I would like to thankmy participants for their time and completing my questionnaire. And finallyI would like to thank my dissertation supervisor Richard Gay for hissupport and David Hart for his additional help in Richard‟s absence 2
  3. 3. 07026579AbstractElectronic word of mouth (ewom) is an online extension of traditional womthat offers greater scope and speed of information diffusion. It is a com-munication medium that has seen a sudden increase in popularity. There-fore, it is of particular interest to marketers to further understand consumerbuyer behaviour. This dissertation explores to what extent consumers areinfluenced by online product reviews when making their purchase deci-sions.Recent academic research suggests that ewom in the form of online prod-uct reviews can influence sales of a product and or service. Factors suchas source credibility, argument strength and community trust within theonline context are all key influencers over a consumers decision to pur-chase.This study aims to explore the influence of these factors further in order tounderstand how the consumer evaluates electronic word of mouth in theform of an online product review and to what degree it influences a con-sumers product purchase decision. The research followed a quantativedesign method by using online survey questionnaires.The primary findings from this study showed how: consumers are less like-ly to trust brand sites when conducting information seeking behaviour,product information is the primary motive for information seeking and thecredibility of the product review itself is more influential than the sourcewhen making purchase decisions and finally that a consumers evaluationof an online product review will strongly influence a consumers purchasedecision.Key words: Ewom, Motivations, Purchase decisions, Source credibilityThe study also showed how more research needs to be conducted intosource and information credibility as well as the motivations for postingonline reviews and that using a multi-methods approach in future researchto further understand motivations would benefit this topic area. 3
  4. 4. 07026579Contents PageTitle Page ................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined.Declarations................................................ Error! Bookmark not defined.Acknowledgements .................................................................................... 2Abstract ...................................................................................................... 3Contents Page ............................................................................................ 4Chapter 1.0 Introduction ............................................................................. 8 1.1 Introduction to study .......................................................................... 9 1.2 Research Objectives ......................................................................... 9Chapter 2.0 Literature Review .................................................................. 11 2.1 Introduction to chapter..................................................................... 12 2.2 From traditional to electronic wom................................................... 12 2.3 The growing popularity of ewom ..................................................... 13 2.4 How does ewom influence sales? ................................................... 13 2.5 Motivations for seeking .................................................................... 15 2.6 Electronic word of mouth platforms ................................................. 15 2.6.1 Independent product review sites ............................................. 15 2.6.2 Independent Retailer sites ........................................................ 16 2.6.3 Brand website ........................................................................... 16 2.6.4 Personal blogs, Message boards and Social networking sites .. 17 2.7 Virtual communities (VC‟s) .............................................................. 17 2.7.1 Perceived trust in a virtual community .......................................... 17 2.8 Source credibility ............................................................................. 19 2.9 Online consumer reviews ................................................................ 20 2.10 Consumer review and purchase decision ...................................... 21 2.11 Valence of views ........................................................................... 22 2.12 Information Adoption Model .......................................................... 23 2.13 Hypotheses ................................................................................... 23 Figure 2.1 Table of hypotheses.......................................................... 24 2.13 Summary of chapter ...................................................................... 25Chapter 3.0 Methodology ......................................................................... 26 Figure 3.1: Methodology map ............................................................ 27 4
  5. 5. 07026579 3.1 Introduction to chapter..................................................................... 28 3.2 Secondary Research ....................................................................... 28 3.4 Primary Research............................................................................ 29 3.4.1 Philosophical paradigms: .......................................................... 30 3.4.2 Positivism as a paradigm .......................................................... 30 3.4.3 Research Approach .................................................................. 31 3.4.4 Deductive .................................................................................. 31 3.5 Primary Research Strategy ............................................................. 32 3.5.1 Quantative versus Qualitative ................................................... 32 3.5.2 Research Method ...................................................................... 32 3.5.3 Questionnaire design ................................................................ 33 3.6 Pilot Study ....................................................................................... 33 3.7 Sampling ......................................................................................... 34 3.8 Location........................................................................................... 35 3.9 Participants ..................................................................................... 35 3.10 Data analysis techniques .............................................................. 35 3.11 Survey Limitations ......................................................................... 36 3.12 Ethical considerations ................................................................... 36 3.13 Summary of chapter ...................................................................... 37Chapter 4.0 Findings and Analysis ........................................................... 38 4:1 Introduction to chapter..................................................................... 39 Figure 4.1: Age demographics of respondents .................................. 39 4.2 Descriptive findings ......................................................................... 40 4.2.1 What is your motivation for posting an online product review? ..... 40 Figure 4.2 Motivations for posting ...................................................... 40 4.2.2 How do you rate the quality of a review based on the amount of content available? ................................................................................. 41 Figure 4.3: Rating a review based on information content ................. 41 4.3 Hypotheses ..................................................................................... 42 4.3.1 H1: Respondents are less likely to trust social networking and brand websites when seeking online product reviews ........................... 43 5
  6. 6. 07026579 4.3.2 H2: Respondents primary motivation for information seeking is to find out more information about the product .......................................... 44 Figure 4.5: Primary motivations for information seeking .................... 44 4.3.3 H3: The credibility of the product review itself is more important to the respondents than the site it is hosted on or the individual reviewer. 46 Figure 4.6: Credibility of the information and the source .................... 46 4.3.4 H4: A consumer‟s evaluation of online product reviews will strongly influence their decision to purchase ...................................................... 47 Figure 4.7: How consumers evaluate the credibility of review content ........................................................................................................... 48 Figure 4.8: How do respondents rate the influence of online product reviews on their purchase decisions .................................................. 49 4.4 Hypotheses Confirmation ................................................................ 50 Figure 4.9: Hypotheses ...................................................................... 50 4.5 Summary of chapter ........................................................................ 51Chapter 5.0 Discussion and Conclusion ................................................... 52 5.1 Introduction to chapter..................................................................... 53 5.2 H1: Respondents are less likely to trust social networking and brand websites when seeking online product reviews. .................................... 53 5.3 H2: Respondents Primary motivation for information seeking is to find out more information about the product. ......................................... 54 5.4 H3: The credibility of the product review itself is more important to respondents than the site it is hosted on or the individual reviewer ...... 55 5.5 H4: A consumer‟s evaluation of online product reviews will strongly influence their decision to purchase. ..................................................... 56 5.6 Limitations ....................................................................................... 57 5.7 Further Research Recommendations.............................................. 57 5.8 Summary of chapter ........................................................................ 58 References ............................................................................................ 58 Bibliography .......................................................................................... 65Bibliography ................................................ Error! Bookmark not defined.Appendix A- Reflective statement............................................................. 66Appendix B: Cheung et al (2008) Information Adoption Model ................. 68Appendix C- Pilot Questionnaire............................................................... 69 6
  7. 7. 07026579 Appendix D: Pilot Questionnaire- Changes made ................................. 74 Appendix E: Final Questionnaire ........................................................... 87 Appendix F: Questionnaire Justifications .............................................. 92Appendix G: Ethics Forms ........................................................................ 99 7
  8. 8. 07026579 Chapter 1.0 Introduction 8
  9. 9. 070265791.1 Introduction to studyTraditionally “Word of mouth is a consumer dominated channel ofmarketing communication where the sender is independent of the market”.Brown et al (2007) since the advent of the internet, this method hasevolved and now has an additional element in the form of electronic wordof mouth (ewom).Key ewom thinkers Hennig-Thurau et al (2010) refer toewom as “any positive or negative statement made by potential, actualand former customers about a product or a company via the internet”.ewom as a communication method has opened up a world of opinions byintroducing avenues that were not readily available in the past including“social networking sites, blogs, wikis, recommendation sites and onlinecommunities” Hennig-Thurau et al (2010) ,Wuyts et al (2010). This is acurrent area of interest in the marketing field as marketers begin todevelop their knowledge of consumer information exchange online, inorder to further understand motivations for seeking and posting ewom andhow this information contributes to purchase decision behaviour. The topicis also of particular interest to the researcher to understand howconsumers share and adopt information posted online.The researcher will conduct a quantitative study to find out how consumersshare information online. Areas that will be addressed include: Platformpreference, motivations for information seeking, how they evaluate thecredibility of a product review and how this influences a product purchasedecision. By researching these interactions the author hopes to discoverhow perceptions are developed, how and why consumers purchase theirparticular products and what is their motivation for sharing theirexperiences with others using ewom communication.1.2 Research ObjectivesThe researcher has formulated a set of research objectives in order toidentify areas of exploration and assist in structuring this report. Saunders 9
  10. 10. 07026579et al (2003) define these as “are clear specific statements that identifywhat the researcher wishes to accomplish as a result of doing theresearch”.The research objectives for this study were:  To explore the concepts and theories surrounding the topic of electronic word of mouth  To find out what factors of electronic word of mouth help shape a person‟s perspective of a product  To gather information from a sample of 100+ participants from various age groups who already engaged in electronic word of mouth and are part of a virtual community  To find out what sites these participants use and their reasoning  To find out what participants motivations for information seeking  To find out how consumers evaluate the credibility of a product review  To find out how consumers evaluation of an online product review influences their purchase decisions. 10
  11. 11. 07026579 Chapter 2.0 Literature Review 11
  12. 12. 070265792.1 Introduction to chapterIn this chapter the researcher will detail and critically analyse a wide rangeof literature surrounding electronic word of mouth and its effects on aconsumers purchase decision. In particular it will cover: traditional womand ewom, influence on sales, platforms, virtual communities, valence ofviews, individual reviewers, online product reviews and Cheung et al(2008) information adoption model. The chapter will conclude with a set ofhypotheses the author wishes to test.2.2 From traditional to electronic womWord of mouth (wom) has a “strong influence on product and serviceperceptions, leading to changes in judgements, value ratings and thelikelihood of purchase” Arndt (1967) Fitzgerald Bone (1995). It is viewedby Cheung et al (2007) as one of the” most powerful communication toolswe use today, due to its influence on product and service judgement”.However since the advent of the internet providing “online interaction anduncapped sharing benefits”, wom has expanded into the online context inthe form of electronic word of mouth Bikhart and Schindler (2001). Thisgives consumers the “chance to share information on a series of platformsonline” Brown et al (2007). This revolution has extended the traditionalword of mouth medium (an informal conversation with trustedacquaintances) to “an online archived directory available to over 1.6 billioninternet users” Internet world stats (2010). One of key ewom thinkersHennig Thurau et al (2004) defines ewom as a communication that;“refers to any positive or negative statement made by potential, actual orformer customers about a product service or company which is madeavailable to a multitude of people via the internet”. Litvin et al, (2005)further updates this definition by saying that ewom is “the informalcommunications through internet based technology concerning the usageor characteristics or particular goods and services, or their sellers orproviders”. This illustrates how the definition has evolved over a 4 yearperiod, and has further established the importance of viewer perceptions 12
  13. 13. 07026579to particular characteristics and people involved. Ewom as an online toolenables users to “discuss and share opinions on a variety of topics in realtime anonymously”, in what Litvin et al, (2005) defines as a “virtual reality”.2.3 The growing popularity of ewomThe popularity ewom as a tool has increased to a dramatic extent over thelast 5 years with over “500 million internet users using social networkingsites alone” Internet world stats (2010).The introduction of ewom platformssuch as: “social networking, blogs, opinion forums and product reviewwebsites has opened up endless possibilities with consumers to discuss arange of interests, products and services” Bikhart and Schindler (2001).The informal nature of ewom is unique in the way it draws consumers in bygiving them a voice and a choice of platforms tailored to their needs.Whilst also eliminating more traditional physical barriers and “providingmore direct channels to experts in a variety of fields and utilizing searchfunctionality to do so” Buda and Zhang (2000). Using ewom platforms tosearch for information on products and services has become the norm inmany respects as using the “specificity of discussion topics” and using the“internet as an enabler” allows the users to “find opinions and reviewvariants on near enough any potential purchase decision in the world”Fong and Burton (2010). Authors Sun et al (2006) also believe that ewomhas the potential to “influence the adoption and use of products and orservices due to the informal nature in which the information is deliveredand interpreted by the receiver” further verified by Cheung and Rabjohn(2008). Therefore it a topic of interest to marketers to further understandhow consumers evaluate their purchase decisions using thiscommunication medium Goldsmith and Horowitz (2006).2.4 How does ewom influence sales?Traditionally ewom has had a “higher impact in the services contextprimarily the travel and hospitality industry” due to the nature of a “serviceexperience” requirement Litvin et al, (2005). However, due to the increaseof the internet popularity with more emphasis on “search” with consumers 13
  14. 14. 07026579using popular search engines such as “Google and Yahoo” andemphasising online marketplaces such as “Amazon and Ebay” this hasextended more recently to cover the product context also Jarvenpaa andTractinsky (1999). Key authors Godes and Mayzlin (2004) say there is an“increasing need for marketers to better understand the relationshipbetween ewom and offline sales”. A study by Chevalier and Mayzlin (2006)investigated the impact of ewom on product sales using existingdatabases from amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. Its findingssuggested that positive review improvement for a book at each site leadsto increased sales of that book at the same site. Sorensen and Rasussen(2004) also suggest that positive reviews can increase book sales. Ye et al(2009) believe that this concept is applicable to both RPS and EPSpurchases. Research into the influence of online accommodation reviewson hotel room sites in china provided results indicating how a 10%increase of positive reviews reflected a 4.4% rise in sales. However, Davisand Khazanchi (2008) discovered from their research into ewom attributesand their effect on ecommerce sales that although “online product reviewshave potential to influence a consumer‟s purchase decision, they are notthe sole contributor for product sales”. Their findings dictate how the”interaction between fellow consumers when posting ewom, is moresignificant in a consumers purchase decision than the basic attributes”.This can be made up by valence of views, volume of information and isdependent on the product that is been discussed. Clemons (2008)disagrees with Davis and Khazanchi (2008) and believes that onlinereviews are the sole contributor for increased sales. His study into “howinformation changes consumer behaviour” provides an example of a smallbeer wholesaler in Pennsylvania “with 90% of its customer base within a10 mile radius. Whose sales rose dramatically by a 2/3 after theimplementation of a website and exposure to rateabeer.com (online beerreview community) with 1/3 of demand coming from outside the state”.Hence these results would indicate that there is a positive correlationbetween an increase in positive reviews and increase in sales for a given 14
  15. 15. 07026579product and or service however Davis and Khazanchi (2008) believe thatthere are other influences that still need to be considered.2.5 Motivations for seekingWolfinbarger and GIlly (2001) say that when consumers have” an idea of aproduct they require further product information to clarify their decision”.Hennig-Thurau (2004) study into consumer motivations provided thefoundations to information seeking behaviour. This was further backed upGoldsmith and Horowitz (2006) study into “scaling measurementmotivations” to measure consumer‟s motivations for information seeking.Its findings concluded that there are 8 main motivations for informationseeking:” Risk, Other opinions, Price comparison, Ease of access, byaccident, it‟s cool, Product information, and to seek information to followup traditional advertising methods”. Bikhart and Schindler (2001) state thatthe availability of uncapped product information is an attractive feature inthe information seekers decision making process the consumers seekinformation to clarify their purchase decision and to interact with fellowconsumers who have a shared interest in the product in order to find outmore product information Sher (2009). Goldsmith and Horowitz (2006).2.6 Electronic word of mouth platformsBikhart and Schindlers (2001) study into ewom provided the followingplatforms as the most popular used in product information exchange:“Product review websites (e.g. consumer review) retailer‟s sites(e.g.amazon.com), brands websites (e.g. forum.us.dell), personal blogs,message boards and social networking sites (e.g. Facebook, MySpace)”.2.6.1 Independent product review sitesIndependent product review sites are generally known to be free ofmarketing ploys Xue & Phelps (2004). The goals of such websites are tohelp consumers make informed buying decisions by providing a platformto share their product experiences. Ewom posted on an independentproduct review website may be more likely to be attributed to the 15
  16. 16. 07026579reviewer‟s “true feeling about the products actual performance making theewom on the product review website more persuasive thanrecommendations posted on a more formal platform such as a brandwebsite” Senecal & Nantel (2004), Xue and Phelps (2004), Bikhart andSchindler (2001).2.6.2 Independent Retailer sitesIndependent retailer sites such as amazon.com are independent sites thatsell a wide range of products Senecal & Nantel (2004), Bikhart andSchindler (2001) however they differ from traditional brand websites asthey do not own the product names themselves. These sites offer theconsumers the chance to read product reviews and to also purchase theproduct directly of the site is required. Bikhart and Schindler (2001) believethat the “all in one site functionality” is attractive to a consumer whenseeking a product review evaluation because it offers them a variance ofviews and a site to directly purchase products.2.6.3 Brand websiteWhen ewom is posted on a brands website, consumers may perceive apossibility of the reviewer being “influenced by the marketer” Xue andPhelps ( 2004).Therefore the persuasion of a consumer generated productreview is “decreased due to the extent that there is a high possibility of amarketer involvement that would influence the reviewer to provide abiased representation of the products actual performance” Senecal andNantel (2004) Xue and Phelps (2004) Schindler and Bikhart (2001).Theconsumer may also attribute the ewom towards a certain circumstance“(e.g. the communicator is compensated by the brand for reviewing theproduct favourably)” Therefore the discounting principle in attributionaltheory Kelley (1973) suggests that ,”consumers may discount the productsactual performance as a reason for writing the review and not bepersuaded by the reviewers product recommendation”. 16
  17. 17. 070265792.6.4 Personal blogs, Message boards and Social networking sitesBikhart and Schindler (2001) found that the subjects who gathered productinformation from these types of online forums showed greater interest inthe product topic than those who acquired information on corporatewebsites. However Xue and Phelps (2004) found that the superiority of anonline forum (versus a brands website) to influence brand attitudesappeared only when participants had more experiences with offline womand less involvement with the product.2.7 Virtual communities (VC’s)In order for EWOM platforms to be effective they need to have followers.Followers in the EWOM context are what we refer to as virtualcommunities (VC‟s). Rheingold (1993) refers to virtual communities as a“social aggregate that emerges when enough people carry on a publicdiscussion long enough with sufficient human feeling to form webs ofpersonal relationships in cyberspace” this is further backed up by Kollock(1996). The awareness of VC‟s has grown considerably as Evans et al(2001) makes reference to VC‟s as a “relatively unexplored source ofewom”. However Godes and Mayzlin (2005) research conducted 5 yearslater describe VC‟s as a “collection of likeminded people who cometogether to discuss and share areas about a wide range of topics usingewom platforms, for ease of access whilst also to read and post messagesfor discussion”. Further thinking on VC‟s by authors Park and Lee (2008)refer to them more as a “collective group focused on sharing informationon a many to many basis” and that their “online interactions are basedupon shared enthusiasm for and knowledge of a specific consumptionactivity”.2.7.1 Perceived trust in a virtual communityVC‟s within the consumers preferred platform offer “an inclusive mind-setand shared group identity, around the consumers area of interest” Blanton(2001). The difficulty that consumers face using these platforms is built inthe very nature of ewom in the form of anonominity Chatterjee (2001). 17
  18. 18. 07026579However, even though the identity of the communicators making up thevirtual community is unknown, the consumer indirectly believes that thereis a “greater likelihood of finding people with product expertise amongweak tie communicators and is therefore more likely to trust therecommendations”. Duhan et al (1997). Moorman et al (1991) Furtherdefines trust within these communities as “the willingness to rely on anexchange partner in whom one has confidence” further supported byGranitz and Ward (1996). Without this trust there would be no basis forvirtual communities to exist Lifen (2010). In the VC context the” importanceof confidence and reliability” act as the “sole basis of the relationshipdevelopment between a trustor and trustee, due to the lack of control thetrustor has over the actions of a trustee”. Jarvenpaa et al (1999) Lyons(2004)Therefore the VC provides a virtual space for consumers withsimilar interests and” expert knowledge in a particular field to share thisinformation in an environment they trust” Goldsmith and Horowitz (2006).The perception is that these members are “motivated to share honestexperiences of a product in the most beneficial way for both the credibilityof the consumer and the reliability of the VC as a whole” Goldsmith andHorowitz (2006), Corritore et al (2003). Nelson and Otnes (2005) studyinto” cross-cultural ambivalence” provides the perfect example of trustwithin a virtual community. Their study investigated the element of trust in„bridal virtual VC‟s‟. Their findings concluded that brides within these VC‟scame together to discuss wedding related “marketing activities, personalexperiences and useful websites whilst also providing emotional support,social comparison and camaraderie”. Indirectly they left a left a trail ofproduct service recommendations to archive their experiences for futuremembers. Gruen et al (2006) The members of this community were seenby new members as “weak-tie” experts Pitta and Fowler (2005) as theyshared similar information and experiences focused on wedding planning.Which a novice information seeker would see as a product or servicerecommendation and providing they have the same interest would most 18
  19. 19. 07026579likely base their purchase decisions on the information provided by thecommunity.2.8 Source credibilityAnother interesting theme that appears in the literature surrounding onlineconsumer reviews is the motivation and “credibility of the source” providingthe individual reviews Rains (2007).Source credibility identifies the“expertise and bias” as elements that determine the credibility of aninformation source Buda and Zhang (2000), Birnbaum and Stegner (1979).Chaiken (1980) furthers define it as the extent in which the informationsource is perceived to be “believable, competent and trustworthy byinformation recipients”. Bikhart and Schindler (2001) made the suggestionthat this information source may have greater credibility than traditionalmarketing generated information, as the personal opinion and account of aparticipant who has experienced the product first hand is judged to be atrustworthy source Corritore (2003). Eagly and Chaiken (1975) believe thatthe persuasiveness of a message depends on the “number of positiveattributes that the communicator posses. Authors Ko et al (2005) furtherdefine this in an online context as an information source that is highlycredible, i.e. an expert in the field and the information provided by thesource will lead to the facilitation of knowledge transfer and reliability”Grewal et al(1994). Consumers desire for “social interaction, economicincentives, concern for other consumers and potential to enhance theirown self-worth are the primary factors leading to articulation behaviour”Hennig Thurau et al (2004).In the online context these evaluations must be made from the relativelyimpersonal text-based resource exchange provided by actors on aparticular site network. Hung and Li (2007) Because of the lack of physicalcues this evaluation takes place in a reduced or altered cues environment.If the individual possess greater awareness and knowledge about amarket and products within it Mitchell & Dacin, (1996), they are more likelyto be ranked highly in the expertise by other reviewers. The individuals are 19
  20. 20. 07026579referred to as experts or opinion leaders by Katz & Lazarfeld (1955) andthey assist in accelerating the diffusion of information Tadelis (2002) Somesites request that a background of the reviewer, photograph, some historyand location must be provided in order to use it, this is not the case in allconsumer review websites Therefore other users must rely solely on theprofessionalism of the reviews and whether or not the views are plausibleSchindler and Bikhart (2005). Authors Brown et al (2007) investigation intoonline source credibility discovered that the website factors were morepredominant factors in an individual‟s evaluation of source credibility ratherthan review contributor individuals themselves, therefore the website actsas a mediator and actor in the social networking process.2.9 Online consumer reviewsOnline consumer reviews are defined by the Opinion ResearchCorporation (2010) as the consultation of online reviews, blogs and othersources of online customer feedback with 70% of respondents consultingthese before making a purchase decision. These reviews cover a majorityor products, services and experiences Chatterjee (2001). For the purposeof this study the author will define and further explore online consumerreviews in a product context and discuss how these are used byconsumers to assist them in evaluating ewom when making their productpurchase decisions. Online consumer product reviews as defined byauthors Park et al (2007) state that an “online consumer review has a dualrole; it provides information about products and services and also servesas a recommendation of a particular product or service”. The researcherbelieves that due to the popularity of ewom in recent years and supportingevidence provided by the Opinion Research Corporation (2010) statingthat 61% of their research sample used online consumer reviews in theirevaluation of a product purchase. Therefore it is essential to furtherresearch how and why these reviews influence product decision making.Xiofen and Yiling‟s, (2009) study into the “most effective advertisingmethods”, concluded that consumer opinions on the network in the form of 20
  21. 21. 07026579ewom are more effective than traditional advertising methods”. This couldbe down to the scope and depth of information it provides without beingrestricted to the consumers local social network. This is further supportedby authors Brown and Reigan (1987); Biyalogorsky et al (2003). This isfurther supported by Nielsen‟s annual global online survey (2010) whichdiscovered that 70% of consumer trust opinions online.2.10 Consumer review and purchase decisionOnline consumer reviews are posted by users who have had a personalinteraction/experience with a particular product Park et al (2007). Thisshows that how individuals personal usage and taste preferences aremore likely to affect this dependent on the consumers own productpreferences. I.e. if someone buys an apple ipod for use in a daily commutesituation without any outstanding loyalty to apple as a brand then theirreview will differ to that of a Brand loyal apple consumer who uses the ipodall day every day (www.apple.com). It is for this reason that the authorfinds it appropriate to discuss that the product discussed in an onlineconsumer review differs depending on whether and how a productspecifically fulfils a consumers needs on a more individualistic basisGoldsmith (2006). Rather than primarily focusing on the product attributes,the online consumer review offers more context on how the usability,adaptability and relevance differ between consumers Flavian (2005).Authors Chen and Xie (2008) conducted further research investigating thisas part of the marketing mix and concluded that consumer reviews aremore “user orientated and able to find products matching specificconsumer‟s interests and needs which are more notably applicable whenapplying to the unsophisticated novice consumer”. Senecal and Nantel(2004). State how novice consumers are more likely to “disregard thetraditional 3rd party product reviews” as they perceive them as more biasedtowards the needs of a company rather than them as an individualconsumer .Chen, xie This is further backed up by Doh (2009) who saysconsumers also evaluate the ways in which the product value could 21
  22. 22. 07026579contribute to their daily lifestyle activities This study although limited to anEPS product (digital camera) and using American review sites gives theauthor some indication of how these reviews are viewed and provides abasis for further research.2.11 Valence of viewsMore out-dated studies by authors Adaval (2001) and Chatterjee (2001)have provided a basis to examine the effects of ewom valence and to seehow both positive and negative reviews influence a consumer‟s purchasedecision Lerman and Sen (2007). Traditionally a negative review (nwom)of a product would be valued more highly than a positive review (pwom) ofthe same product Yang and Mai (2008). However, the ideals are morefocused around the consumers existing relationship with the product andwhether or not they already have a positive association with it. If this is thecase then consumers will seek out online reviews that put the product in apositive light to confirm their decision Dargan (2008) These consumers aremore likely to disregard negative reviews as it goes against their productperception. Ward and Ostrom (2001) In contrast Lerman and Sen (2007)examination into negative reviews on the web hypothesised thatconsumers are more likely to seek negative reviews than positive ones fortheir purchase decisions, as in offline consumer behaviour. However theirfindings depicted the opposite by concluding how consumers are actuallymore likely to look for positivity review bias in reviews and „weigh up thenegativity options, due to the nature of the reviewer using the product andhow it was fit for that individual‟s purpose” . Lee et al (2008) furthers thisby saying that reviews that offer a variance of views influence a purchasedecision due to shared consumer interest, number of reviews and furtherresonation with individual reviewers. Sun et al (2009) further backed thisup using findings from their investigation into “how consumers evaluateewom” which suggested that the presence of NWOM can actually increasethe credibility of ratings therefore gaining the trust of the consumer andreducing marketer bias. 22
  23. 23. 070265792.12 Information Adoption ModelThe information adoption process is what Nonaka (1994) defines as the“internalization phase of knowledge transfer, in which explicit information istransformed into internalized knowledge and meaning”. This process hasevolved over the years and is a theory in which Cheung et al (2008)believe to directly link to a consumers purchase intention. The” informationadoption model” Cheung et al (2008) was formulated from the foundationsof the elaboration likelihood model (ELM) devised by Sussman and Siegal(2003). This model was created to explain how consumers are „influencedto adopt information posted in “computer-mediated communicationcontexts”. ELM depicts how consumers can be influenced by a messagethat influences attitudes and behaviour both centrally and peripherally i.e.the quality of an argument and external influences to that argument. Withinthis model, these are broken up into information quality and sourcecredibility. Due to the ever-changing developments in technology thismodel is now seen as out-dated. Cheung et al (2008) proposes theinformation adoption model chosen to be adapted by the author to fulfil thepurchase decision objective. This model looks into receiver‟s behaviourwhen evaluating the credibility of a source and a review. McKnight andKacmar (2002) discuss how information credibility is a vital predictor onthe online consumer‟s further action and how a consumer that „believesthe online information has no reason not to adopt it‟. (Model can be foundin Appendices B)2.13 HypothesesThe author has devised the following hypotheses based on the evaluationof the literature that this study will aim to measure in order to see howconsumers evaluate reviews 23
  24. 24. 07026579Figure 2.1 Table of hypotheses Hypotheses Supporting Authors H1 Respondents are less Bikhart and Schindler likely to trust social (2001) Xue and Phelps networking and brand (2004) Senecal and Nantel websites when seeking (2004) Gruen et al (2006) online product reviews Sen and Lerman (2007) Dellocras (2003) H2 Respondents primary Bellman et al (1999) motivation for Bikhart and Schindler information seeking is to (2001) Park et al (2007) find out more Hodkinson et al (2000) information about the Wolfinbarger and Gilly product (2001) H3 The credibility of the Park et al (2007) Cheung product review itself is et al (2008) Brown et al more important to the (2007) Bhatterjee and respondents than the Sanford (2006) Mcknight site it is hosted on or the and Kacmar (2002) individual reviewer Grewal, (1994) H4 A consumers evaluation Sun et al (2006) Jarvanpaa of online product et al (1999) Lee et al reviews will strongly (2008) Park and Lee influence their decision (2008) Litvin et al (2005) to purchase Cheung et al (2008) Goldsmith and Horowitz (2006) Mcknight and Kacmar (2002) 24
  25. 25. 070265792.13 Summary of chapterThe author has discussed a wide range of literature focused around theevaluation of electronic word of mouth and its possible influence on asconsumers purchase decision. The information adoption model has alsobeen discussed in order to see to what degree do consumer view theinformation credible and decide to purchase as a result.The next chapter will discuss the authors chosen research method in orderto explore this topic further and further discover to what extent onlineproduct review influence purchase intention. 25
  26. 26. 07026579 Chapter 3.0 Methodology 26
  27. 27. 07026579The researcher has chosen to put together this methodology map toprovide the reader with a more visual overview of the chosen researchmethod for this study.Figure 3.1: Methodology map 27
  28. 28. 070265793.1 Introduction to chapterThe literature review in chapter two provided a set of gaps in which theresearcher wanted to further explore, classed as hypotheses. In order todo this it is imperative to distinguish, both the set process and rationale ina methodological way, to ensure any replication or future study has acredible background. Lewis, Saunders and Thornhill, 2003 state that thisallows the methodology to be re-tested in future studies. For the purposesfor this study the methodology aimed to explore the relationship betweenparticular attributes that influence electronic word of mouth adoption andwhether or not this has any influence over a consumers purchasedecision.In this chapter the author considered the research scope, philosophy,approach, strategy and method. The author then analysed the limitationsand ethical considerations of the primary research in this project to ensurethe data was obtained by correct ethical means and all limitations wereextensively justified.3.2 Secondary ResearchSaunders et al (2003) State that: „Secondary data can provide a usefulsource from which to answer your research question (s)‟.In order toeffectively define the primary research question the researcher hasconducted a thorough analysis of secondary research with a direct link toelectronic word of mouth. It is from this that the researcher thendiscovered gaps in the literature when determining its influence on aconsumers purchase decision. Initially, a variety of online journals andstatistical databases were consulted on the above. The researcher thenfurther consulted some of the more dated traditional word of mouth theoryin a variety of books to establish more credibility in the field. Websites andonline forums were also explored by the author to provide examples of thereviews in action, therefore giving the author a feel for the online 28
  29. 29. 07026579environment and further understand how this information wascommunicated, and whether or not this varied in different online situations.From the secondary research findings the author found that most of theliterature around electronic word of mouth had a direct focus on itsevaluation with brief articles looking for links between this and aconsumers purchase decision. It is from this that the author decided on thefollowing key themes, providing the primary research with a more directfocus of enquiry.  Electronic word of mouth platforms  Virtual Communities  Individual reviewers  Online opinions  Information adoption model as a means of product evaluationAccording to Burns and Bush 2010 and further verified by Saunders et al2003, there are both advantages and disadvantages when usingsecondary data in your research project, although the information gainedfrom these sources are easy to obtain, inexpensive, readily available, andhold the possibility to enhance primary data. Other elements such as theinformation being: misinterpreted, outdated, differing measurement unitsand false interpretation of the academic terminology when analysing thesecould prove problematic. Therefore the researcher understands theimportance of being aware of these issues in order to overcome them.3.4 Primary ResearchBurns and Bush (2006) define primary research as the ‟process by whichdata is developed and gathered by the researcher specifically for researchprojects‟. The researcher will be conducting primary research in order tofurther verify some of the secondary research mentioned above. Theauthor believes that the electronic word of mouth topic as a whole does 29
  30. 30. 07026579not offer a vast amount of secondary data that investigates the linkagesbetween electronic word of mouth evaluation and purchase decision andtherefore wishes to investigate this further.3.4.1 Philosophical paradigms:Research philosophy is the way that researchers look at the developmentof knowledge. Without having a solid philosophical position the researcherbelieves there would be problems when interpreting the research that willbe collated, as it „provides a basis to examine these assumptions,challenge them and behave in a different way if there is a quantifiableneed to‟. Saunders et al (2003) Hussey and Hussey (1997) claim thatresearchers basic beliefs about the world will be reflected in the way whichresearch is designed, collected, analysed and presented. Within this thereare two primary conflicting philosophies that determine the principles andmethods of the author‟s research. Positivism and Interpretivism. Positivismtakes a more scientific law-like generalizable approach in contrast toInterpretivism which has a focus on understanding the more complexissues that differ between situations Saunders et al (2003) However due tothe researchers scientific approach to the topic the researcher has decidedto use „Positivism‟ as a foundation research philosophy.3.4.2 Positivism as a paradigmThe researcher believes that due to the core principles of positivism,reflecting that of a „natural scientist‟ combined with the observation ofsocial reality and establishment of factual generalizability, will in effectmake the results from this research more succinct, credible and applicableto answering the research question. Salkind (2009) Due to the nature ofthe research question and the currency of ewom topic, the researcherbelieves that the positivism approach will provide a solid ground forreplication of this study and that the highly structured method will alsoprovide a feasible foundation for further study into electronic word ofmouth as a new area of interest. The author relied heavily on the use ofquantitative data which is objective in nature and concentrates on 30
  31. 31. 07026579measuring phenomena. This involves collecting and analysing numericaldata and applying statistical tests.3.4.3 Research ApproachWhen deciding on the research approaches there are two conflictingviews. Deductive and Inductive. The deductive approach focuses ondeveloping existing theory which can be verified by further testablehypotheses. In contrast the inductive approach looks at the ways in whichto collect data and develop theory as a result of the data analysis incontrast.3.4.4 DeductiveDue to the scientific nature of this research paper, the researcher hasdecided to take a deductive approach as it will be the most effective whenanalysing the results. The deductive approach offers the researcher thechance to test a particular theory, in this paper Cheung‟s 2008 InformationAdoption Theory, by developing a series of hypotheses to use asquantifiable measures. Leedy and Omrod, (2010) It is then furtherinvestigated using an effective research design tailored to this. Thisapproach tends to be the most widely used by researcher that alsoinstigates a Positivism research philosophy. Due to the nature andcurrency of electronic word of mouth, the researcher wishes to testexisting theoretical research using deductive laws to provide the basis ofexplanation, permit the anticipation of phenomena, predict theiroccurrence and therefore allow them to be controlled. Hussey and Hussey(1997) Leedy and Omrod, (2010) The literature utilised in this study to datehas assisted in the shaping of the research objectives required to study,with all indication directed towards developing these perspectives forfuture ewom marketing therefore the researcher believes that this is themost effective approach to use. 31
  32. 32. 070265793.5 Primary Research Strategy3.5.1 Quantative versus QualitativeDue to the nature of the paper with its focus on modern day technologyand the scope it offers, the researcher chose to take a quantativeapproach. Quantative research provides the researcher with a set ofmeasurable data that is more resistant to bias. Saunders et al (2003)Thisdata is then measured using a number of statistical tests in order to depicthow effective a relationship is between two or more variables which in thiscase is a.) How consumers assess the attributes of electronic word ofmouth and whether this assessment leads to a product purchase decision,which is paramount in answering the research question.3.5.2 Research MethodIn order to do this the researcher has chosen to use the online surveymethod in the form of a questionnaire posted on online survey sitewww.surveymonkey.com. According to Zikmund et al, (2010), Surveysprovide a quick inexpensive, efficient and accurate means of assessinginformation about a population. This research will benefit from the use ofquestionnaires as it will form a basis for comparisons across electronicword of mouth „attributes. According to Saunders et al (2003) Surveysallow the collection of a large amount of data from a sizeable population ina highly economical way. Hair, Bush and Ortinau (2009, p.235) build onthis by highlighting the advantages of using a survey method as it givesthe researcher the ability to accommodate large sample sizes at relativelylow costs, as well as the ability to collect data which can be manipulatedwith a certain level of ease . The data from this method also usesstandardised questions that the researcher can be confident will beinterpreted in the same way by all respondents Robson, (2002) whichallows for easy comparisons, whilst also providing a visual aid to identifypatterns and tables in order to uncover trends. It also provides the ability totap into more individualistic factors which are not directly observable such 32
  33. 33. 07026579as attitudes, feelings and preferences, by using the „other‟ boxesfunctionality.3.5.3 Questionnaire designCzaja and Blair (2005,p.21) states that „often the differences between agood study and a poor one is that in the former, researchers look oranticipate problems and in the latter, researchers assume that if thequestions are answered the data is valid‟. It is therefore of greatimportance to ensure that each question is clearly written, easy tounderstand and that the responses will add to the value of the overallresearch. It is important to avoid bias questions in the design whichChisnall (2005 p.139) explains how questions should be phrased carefullyin order to avoid suggesting that certain answers are more acceptablethan others. When designing the questionnaire the researcher decided totake the approach stated by Bourque and Clark (1994) by adoptingquestions used in Cheung‟s 2008 adoption study to help give clearermeasurements from the model. The researcher also devised additionalquestions adapted from key themes within the literature such as: Productreview search, posting motivations, Influence of review and Product reviewdifferentiation. In order to write these questions the author had to depictwhich question styles would suit dependent on the question attribute andtherefore provide the most credible and reliable results when analysingusing statistical measures, in order to do this the author used a variation ofranking, category, list and rating scales style questions. (Screen shots ofthe questionnaire can be found in Appendix E and Breakdown of thequestions in Appendix F3.6 Pilot StudyA pilot test was conducted to test „weakness in design and instrumentationto ensure the research is able to run smoothly when the full survey isconducted‟ Cooper and Schindler (2003) It involves posting a smallpercentage of surveys relative to the total sample size, and receivingfeedback on which elements were difficult to understand and highlighting 33
  34. 34. 07026579any changes that should be made to gain optimum results. The researcherposted a list of 20 questions on facebook.com site using a unique surveylink in which to fill out and to private message any difficulties,recommended changes and formatting queries/ problems. The responserate for this was 10 respondents a 10% mark-up of minimum surveyresponses as stated by Saunders et al (2003) Some of the feedbackincluded that questions 15 and 16 were too confusing and did not correlatewith the previous measurement pattern, that questions were unable to beskipped if the respondent thought they should be exempt based on theirexperiences and that some of the wording of the questions needed to bechanged to be more understandable. Overall the comments were positivewhich gave the researcher confidence when posting the final version.(Screenshots of the pilot study can be found in Appendix C andJustifications in Appendix D.)3.7 SamplingSampling techniques provide a range of methods that enables theresearcher to reduce the amount of data that they need to collect bynarrowing it down to a subgroup rather than all possible cases orelements. Saunders et al (2003) Due to the restrictions of a censusapproach (sampling the entire population) and for the purpose of thisresearch it would be impractical and also carries time, budget and dataanalysis constraints. By using a sampling technique this offers theresearcher a more manageable set of data to work with. Henry (1990)argues that using a sampling technique actually increases the credibility ofthe data by providing a higher overall accuracy than a census, andenables the researcher to spend more time devising more effectiveresearch questions. For the purpose of this study the researcher haschosen a non-probability sampling technique in the form of judgementsampling. Due to the constraints of the study when discussing electronicword of mouth and the sample being made up of online product reviewusers, the researcher used purposive judgement in order to attract the 34
  35. 35. 07026579sample. Although usually used in smaller case study research (as depictedby Saunders et al (2003) the targeting of informative samples does notnecessarily have to be small, as long as the researcher understands thelimitations of the method. In this studies case the lack of detail availablewithin the participant‟s answers. When attempting to target informativesamples this approach will allow the researcher a chance to target a largersample of 100+. This sample will answer set questions on their overallonline review experience based on the judgement that they have all hadsome contact with online reviews.3.8 LocationThe researcher distributed this online survey using a unique link posted tovarious social networking sites and independent product review sites, suchas: facebook.com , twitter.com , linkedin.com, and on forum threads withinthe sites: Onlineproductreviews.com and independentproductreviews.comin order to target those who had a previous experience or relationship withonline reviews. This location was used due to the electronic nature of thetopic and the researcher believed it would be more successful than other„more traditional‟ quantative methods due to the participants being able tocomplete the survey in their natural habitat, as they would when readingor filling out a product review online.3.9 ParticipantsThe main criterion for participation eligibility is that all participants neededto have had contact with an online product review from either a senderand/ or receiver perspective. Age and gender was not an issue only thatthe participants had to be over the age of 18. The participants remainedanonymous throughout the data collection and also had the chance to optof the survey at any stage.3.10 Data analysis techniquesData analysis techniques as quoted by Saunders et al (2003) are the wayin which data is analysed and interpreted. The way this can be done is 35
  36. 36. 07026579through the creation of simple tables, diagrams, charts and graphs to showthe frequency of occurrence through establishing statistical relationshipsbetween variables to complex statistical modelling. The researcher hasdecided for the purposes for this study to use the programs: SPSS andMicrosoft EXCEL Burns and Bush (2006) To provide a series of charts,tables and graphs The researcher believes that statistical analysis is notapplicable to these findings and that presenting the data in a series oftables, charts and graphs is the most effective method to analyse the data3.11 Survey LimitationsHowever surveys are not without fault there are some limitations in thecase of this research project the nature of the survey strategy in the formof a questionnaire and its distribution online means that the survey may besubject to a low response rate especially with the sites it has been postedon Saunders et al (2003). There is also a minimal chance that theresearcher will know the accurate age, gender of participants and whetheror not the information they provide is honest. (Due to the lack of face toface contact) and the information gained using this method will also belimited to the questions devised by the researcher. There is also some riskof misinterpretation from the researcher‟s perspective in the analysis stagewhich could also devalue the results. Saunders et al (2003) Even withthese problems the researcher has attempted overcome them by startingdiscussions throughout forum threads on the topic and posting links to thesurvey on there with follow ups on weekly intervals as recommended bySalkind, (2009). The researcher has also indicated at the start of the studythat the questionnaire will take a maximum or 5 minutes and that therespondents have the chance to opt out at any time.3.12 Ethical considerationsThe researcher has complied with all NBS guidelines throughout theresearch process from design to analysis. 36
  37. 37. 07026579  Electronic consent was obtained from participants aged 18 and over.  All participants are anonymous, the researcher only included age and gender questions and there is no way to identify the participants.  Confidentiality was detailed on the opening passage of the survey. The results will be held in the strictest confidence and only made available to the researcher, dissertation supervisor and a second marker. All other evidence of participation will be removed after the dissertation hand in. (please see Appendix C)  Participants were informed that they could remove their answers at any time if they so wished.  When reporting the results the anonominity and confidentiality of the participants will be upheld at all times.  All elements of the Data Protection Act 1998 interelatable to the data collection from surveys will be upheld.3.13 Summary of chapterThe methods outlined in this section will ensure that the research gained isvalid, ethically correct and accurate. Most importantly it will ensure that theresearch objectives are met during the course of the data collection anddata analysis stages in order to gain a thorough understanding of thetopic, whilst also providing guidelines for future research by offering astandardised method. 37
  38. 38. 07026579 Chapter 4.0 Findings and Analysis 38
  39. 39. 070265794:1 Introduction to chapterThis chapter aims to outline the results gathered from the surveyquestionnaire (Appendix E) as outlined in the methodology chapter 3.These results provide a descriptive basis for analysis and also includehypotheses which have been designed to investigate any direct linksbetween the factors affecting a consumer review evaluation and theirinfluence on purchase decisions.The researcher distributed a unique survey link from the following sites:Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, onlineproductreviews.com andindependentproductreviews.com. 113 questionnaires were completed with109 providing valid for the results of this study therefore the researchersresponse rate was 96.0%.Figure 4.1: Age demographics of respondentsThere is a high level of respondents between the ages of 18-24 this couldbe reflective of the sites that the researcher posted the questionnaire on,as social networking sites are more favourable towards consumersbetween these ages. Respondents aged between 24-65 are more likely tohave been directed from the online review forum threads on the 39
  40. 40. 07026579independent online review sites that the questionnaire was posted on.61% of the sample was female and 39% male4.2 Descriptive findings4.2.1 What is your motivation for posting an online product review?Research objective: To find out whether a respondent was more likely toreview after a good or bad product experienceFigure 4.2 Motivations for postingFindings: 33% of respondents said although they use online productreviews they have never posted one themselves. The remaining 67% ofrespondents said that they would post a product review post purchase.The remaining respondents in the sample were additionally asked whattheir motivations for posting a product review were. 46.8% said they wouldonly post after a good product experience, followed by 10.1% saying theywould only post a product review after a bad experience and 10.1% sayingthey would post a review to ‟gain community status‟ in an online virtualcommunity. 40
  41. 41. 07026579Analysis: From these results we can see that there is still a grey areaaround participants who seek reviews but do not post reviews postpurchase and the respondents who do review post purchase. Theparticipants who do review post purchase are more likely to review after agood experience in comparison to those who only review after a badproduct experience. Interestingly the same percentages who only postafter a bad product experience also post reviews in order to gaincommunity status. Therefore it is evident that the main motivation forposted online product reviews is influenced by a good product experience.4.2.2 How do you rate the quality of a review based on the amount ofcontent available?Researcher objective: The researcher wanted to know how credible therespondents viewed the information in reviews based on the amount ofcontent available.Figure 4.3: Rating a review based on information content A graph to show how respondents rate the credibility of reviews based on the amount of content available 60 50 Very credible 40 credible 30 20 not sure 10 not credible 0 not very credible 1-5 indepth 5-10 indepth 1-5 short 5-10 short reviews reviews reviews reviewsFindings: As we can see from the graph above, respondents rated 5-10indepth reviews as very credible amounting to 61% of the sample followed 41
  42. 42. 07026579by 5-short reviews at 19%, 1-5 indepth reviews at 18% and 1-5 shortreviews at 14%.This shows that respondents felt that 5-10 indepth reviews were morecredible which the researcher believes could be due to the amount ofcontent available. However, 69% also viewed 5-10 short reviews as morecredible than 5-10 in-depth reviews at 39% of the sample. 1-5 indepthreviews amounted to 60% of the sample and 50% to 1-5 short reviews.This shows how respondents found 5-10 short reviews as more crediblethan 5-10 indepth reviews for this particular option.Interestingly 15% of the sample said they were unsure of the credibility of1-5 short reviews in comparison to the 9% who were unsure about 1-5indepth reviews. 6% rated 1-5 indepth reviews as not credible, the sameamount as 5-10 short reviews and no respondents chose 5-10 indepthreviews to be not credible. Another interesting finding is 14% ofrespondents said that they would find 1-5 short reviews not very credible incomparison to 7% who said the same for 1-5indepth reviews. Only 2%found 5-10 short reviews not very credible and no respondents found 5-10indepth reviews not credible.Analysis: From these results we can see that the credibility of reviews liesbetween two extremes 5-10 short reviews and 5-10 indepth reviews. Thelatter of which has the highest very credible rate 61%. From these resultsthe researcher believes that even though the differences betweenrespondents credibility expectations are clear, that respondents are morelikely to value 5-10 indepth reviews as more credible overall with 5-10short reviews still viewed as credible in comparison to 1-5 indepth reviewsand 1-5 short reviews which respondents perceptions appeared morescattered.4.3 HypothesesThe researcher devised 4 hypotheses after consulting the literature. Thesehypotheses provided a series of factors that could potentially influence a 42
  43. 43. 07026579consumer‟s purchase decision based on their evaluation of the ewomavailable. In order to present these results, the researcher used a varietyof charts and graphs to show the relationship between factors thatinfluenced a consumer‟s purchase decision based on the evaluation ofthese reviews.4.3.1 H1: Respondents are less likely to trust social networking andbrand websites when seeking online product reviewsResearcher’s objective: To discover which ewom platforms respondentstrust when conducting information seeking behaviourFigure 4.4: Sites used to seek ewom A chart to show respondents preffered information seeking sites combinations based on trust accountabilty 5% 8% Independent Retailer and Independent Review Sites 11% 46% 11% Brand and Independent Retailer Sites 19%Findings: The results show that respondents top platform combinationwas the independent review/ independent retailer sites 46% followed byBrand websites/ independent retailer sites 19%. Directly after this wassocial networking/ independent retailer site 11% then followed by thebrand/ independent review site 11%. The least favourable combinationswere brand website/ independent review 9% and social networking/ brandwebsites 6%. 43
  44. 44. 07026579Analysis: From these results we can see how respondents favouredindependent retailer/independent review sites totalling nearly half thesample size. In comparison to brand and social networking sites that wererated the lowest by respondents. The concept of trust accountability showshow consumers are less likely to trust information posted on brand andsocial networking sites, and more likely to trust information posted onbrand/ independent retailer sites.4.3.2 H2: Respondents primary motivation for information seeking isto find out more information about the productResearcher’s objective: To find out what the respondents mostconsistent motivation is for information seekingFigure 4.5: Primary motivations for information seeking Combination no of coding Combinations respondents 135 Price-People Experiences-Product Info 25% 125 Price/Risk/Product Info 11% 235 Risk/People Experiences/Product Info 10% 123 Price/Risk/People Experiences 9% People Experience/How Products 345 Used/Product Info 7% Risk/People Experiences/How Products 234 Used 6% 156 Price/Product Info/Lifestyle 5% 145 Price/How Products Used/ Product Info 5% 245 Risk/How Products Used/Product Info 5% 124 Price/Risk/How Products Used 3% 44
  45. 45. 07026579 356 People Experience/Product Info/Lifestyle 3% 126 Price/Risk/Lifestyle 2% Price/People Experiences/How Products 134 Used 2% 146 Price/How Products Used/Lifestyle 2% People Experience/How Products 346 Used/Lifestyle 2% 136 Price/People Experiences 1% 236 Risk/People Experiences/Lifestyle 1% 256 Minimise Risk/Product Info/Lifestyle 1% Total 100%Findings: This was done by asking respondents to „group‟ together whatthey believed to be their top 3 motivations in order to find the mostconsistent one. From the results shown in the chart above we can see thatthe most popular combination of motivations were; „to compare price/ readabout people‟s product experiences and product information 25% of thesample. The second most popular combination was to: Compare price/evaluate risk/ and product information at 11%, followed closely by: toevaluate risk/compare peoples experiences and product information at10%. In contrast motivation combinations: To compare prices/peoplesexperiences/lifestyle, to evaluate risk/peoples experiences and productinformation and evaluate risk/peoples experiences and lifestyle had anequal distribution of 1% of the sample.Analysis: Therefore from these results we can see that the most popularmotivations for information seeking using product reviews are to seekproduct reviews followed by price. This proves the hypotheses correct 45
  46. 46. 070265794.3.3 H3: The credibility of the product review itself is more importantto the respondents than the site it is hosted on or the individualreviewerHypotheses Reasoning: The researcher wanted to find out what therespondents felt was most important, the credibility of the product reviewor the source of information.Figure 4.6: Credibility of the information and the source A chart to show how important respondents rate the credibility of the product review, individual reviewers and site 60% Axis Title 40% Site 20% Individual reviewer 0% Product review itself Very Important Important Not important Axis TitleFindings: From these results we can see how respondents rated theimportance of the „Site‟, „Individual reviewer‟ and the „product review itself‟.These are as follows: 47.7% of Respondents rated „the product review‟ as„very important followed by the site 43.1% and then the individual reviewer40.4%.Therefore the sample believed that the product review itself was „veryimportant‟ when conducting their information seeking behaviour. 46
  47. 47. 07026579For the „important‟ option 52.3% rated the product review itself, followed bythe site at 36.7% and then the individual reviewer at 27.5%.Therefore the sample rated the product review itself the most highly whenchoosing „important‟ in their information seeking behaviour.Finally respondents rated what they believed to be the least important with32.1% choosing the individual reviewer when compared to the site 15.6%and the product review itself 4.6%Analysis: From these results we can see how the content reflected in theproduct review itself is the most influential to respondents wheninformation seeking closely followed by the site the review is hosted on.The individual reviewer was seen as the least important influence on therespondent‟s information seeking behaviour. Therefore the researcherbelieves that the hypothesis is proven correct.4.3.4 H4: A consumer’s evaluation of online product reviews willstrongly influence their decision to purchaseHypotheses Reasoning: The researcher wanted to measure the extent towhich respondents found the above credible as according to Cheung,2008 study these attributes directly influence ewom adoption The researchalso wanted to know how much the credibility of these reviews influenceda consumers purchase decision 47
  48. 48. 07026579Figure 4.7: How consumers evaluate the credibility of review content A graph to show how consumers evaluate the credibility of review content 80 Strongly Disagree 60 40 Disagree 20 0 Neither Agree or Disagree AgreeFindings: As we can see from the graph above respondents voted thefollowing 8 as credible with very little differentiation between these views. Ibelieve that the online reviews posted on this site are: honest 16% credible64% trustworthy 56% justified 61% relevant 59% accurate 51% valuable60% informative 55% however option 8 free from bias 34% was rated thelowest in this category. Respondents also „strongly agreed‟ that the onlineproduct reviews on their preferred site were: „honest‟ 28% „credible‟ 23%„trustworthy‟ 23% „Justified,‟ 24% „relevant,‟ 30% „accurate,‟ 25%„valuable,‟ 29%‟informative,‟ 33% and „free from marketer bias,‟ 24%.Interestingly some respondents were unsure of their beliefs about theproduct providing the results: „honest,‟ 11% „credible,‟ 10% „trustworthy,‟20% „justified,‟ 13% „relevant,‟ 10% „accurate,‟ 19% „valuable,‟ 8%„informative,‟ 12% „free from bias,‟ 22%. When looking at attributes thatrespondents disagreed with the following were rated: „honest,‟ 0%„credible,‟ 2% „trustworthy,‟ 1% „justified,‟ 2% „relevant,‟ 0% „accurate,‟ 5%„valuable,‟ 3% „informative,‟ 0% and „free from marketer bias,‟ 17%. Finally,Strongly disagree showed the following results: „honest,‟ 0%, „credible,‟ 1%„trustworthy,‟ 0% „justified,‟ 0% „relevant,‟ 1% „accurate,‟ 0% „informative,‟0% and „free from marketer bias,‟ 4%. 48
  49. 49. 07026579Figure 4.8: How do respondents rate the influence of online productreviews on their purchase decisionsAlso 72% of respondents said they were strongly influenced to purchase aproduct based on their evaluation of the credibility of a review discussedabove with only 26% saying they would not be influenced and 2% sayingproduct reviews had no influenced over their purchase decision.Analysis: From these results we can see how 33% strongly agree that thereviews are „informative‟ and 30% ‟relevant‟ which suggests that therespondent finds the information posted in an online review applicable totheir needs. In the „agree‟ section respondents rated the results as honest61% and credible 64% making up the highest amount in the sample.Interestingly marketer bias scored noticeably less than the average in the„agree‟ section at 34% and the highest in both the disagree section 17%and 22% in the either disagree or agree option. This would suggest thatrespondents are still unsure as to whether or not reviews are stillinfluenced by marketers, but it is an issue they are aware of when readingreviews. 72% of participants who said that the credibility of the reviews inthe method shown in figure 4.7 would strongly influence their purchasedecisions. 49
  50. 50. 07026579Finalise: 92.7% of the sample answered „yes‟ when asked if they havepurchased the product post review with only 7.3% saying no. From this theresearcher believes that the higher the respondent rate the aboveattributes as strongly agree or agree the more likely they are the purchasethe product.4.4 Hypotheses ConfirmationThe researcher confirms that all the hypotheses have been proved correctand will further discuss this in chapter 5Figure 4.9: Hypotheses Hypotheses Supporting Authors Were the hypotheses proven?H1 Respondents are less Bikhart and Schindler The hypothesis likely to trust social (2001) Xue and Phelps was proven networking and brand (2004) Senecal and correct websites when seeking Nantel (2004) Gruen et online product reviews al (2006) Sen and Lerman (2007) Dellocras (2003)H2 Respondents primary Bellman et al (1999) The hypothesis motivation for Bikhart and Schindler was proven information seeking is (2001) Park et al (2007) correct to find out more Hodkinson et al (2000) information about the Wolfinbarger and Gilly product (2001)H3 The credibility of the Park et al (2007) The hypothesis product review itself is Cheung et al (2008) was proven more important to the Brown et al (2007) correct respondents than the Bhatterjee and Sanford 50
  51. 51. 07026579 site it is hosted on or (2006) Mcknight and the individual reviewer Kacmar (2002) Grewal, (1994)H4 A consumers Sun et al (2006) The hypothesis evaluation of online Jarvanpaa et al (1999) was proven product reviews will Lee et al (2008) Park correct strongly influence their and Lee (2008) Litvin et decision to purchase al (2005) Cheung et al (2008) Goldsmith and Horowitz (2006) Mcknight and Kacmar (2002)4.5 Summary of chapterThis chapter has provided results from the questionnaire deposited at theend of chapter 3. From these results we can see that respondents preferto use independent retailer and independent review sites to conduct theirinformation seeking behaviour. Their main motivation combinations forusing these platforms are to compare price/experiences and see how theproduct would be applicable to their lifestyle. They do not trust brandwebsites and social networking as much as independent sites and theyare more likely to post a review themselves after a good productexperience.Chapter 5 will conclude these findings, discuss any study limitations andrecommend any further research. 51
  52. 52. 07026579 Chapter 5.0 Discussion and Conclusion 52
  53. 53. 070265795.1 Introduction to chapterIn this chapter the researcher aims to compare findings of the primaryresearch outlined in chapter four with the relevant literature discussed inchapter two to determine if any similarities have been established. Allresearch objectives stated in chapter one have been fulfilled.Study limitations and restrictions will also be discussed, as well as anyfuture research suggestions to further explore how consumers evaluateelectronic word of mouth when making their purchase decisions.5.2 H1: Respondents are less likely to trust social networking andbrand websites when seeking online product reviews.The researcher‟s primary findings showed how Social networking andbrand websites were the respondent‟s least favourable sites wheninformation seeking in comparison to independent review and retailersites.Within the ewom platform literature it is apparent that marketer bias is amediating factor in preferred site choice for information seekers. Variousauthors discussed in chapter two further back this up. Bikhart andSchindler (2001) state that reviews posted by professional reviewers aremore likely to attribute marketer bias in a consumer‟s opinion, and provideminimal if any negative reviews on the product. Xue and Phelps (2004)state that ewom posted on a brands website is perceived by consumers tocontain marketing bias and therefore the persuasion of that message isdecreased as it provides a biased representation of the products actualperformance. Senecal and Nantel (2004) state that marketer influencedreviews have a higher association with brand websites in comparison toindependent retailer and review sites. The value of information posted on asocial networking site has also decreased due to the noticeable increaseof marketer‟s influence of product recommendations that are taken fromthe consumers browsing history. Gruen et al (2006) study into independentforums further back up how C2C interactions found on independent review 53
  54. 54. 07026579sites are more influential on a consumers purchase decision in comparisonto brand and social networking related content due to the motivation toshare honest opinions. Authors Sen and Lerman (2007) state thatconsumers generally trust peer consumers more than they trustadvertisers or marketers. Dellarocas (2003) found that online channelssuch as eBay (which acts as a marketplace for buyers and sellers to meet)is an important in building trust and fostering cooperation amongstconsumers in these virtual communities. Therefore the primary researchfindings further support the above theorist‟s conclusions.5.3 H2: Respondents Primary motivation for information seeking is tofind out more information about the product.The researcher‟s primary research findings showed how the respondent‟sprimary motivation for seeking was to find out more product information, asit was the most consistent factor in respondent‟s motivation combinationsappearing in 53% of respondents results.Bellman et al (1999) found that the most important predictor of onlinebuying behaviour was online product information search. Consumers whohad a „wired lifestyle and used the Internet for most of their activities (suchas reading the news, paying bills, etc.) naturally turned to the Internet tosearch for product information posted in online reviews at the primarystage of a purchase decision. Bikhart and Schindler (2001) state that theavailability of uncapped product information is an attractive feature in theinformation seekers decision making process. Park et al (2007) state thatconsumer reviews have a dual role, primarily it provides productinformation and also serves as a recommendation which is of value to theinformation seeker. Therefore it is not surprising that product informationseeking often is portrayed as a critical stage conducted early in theconsumer buying process (Shim et al 2001; Hodkinson et al 2000).Consumers primarily seek product information when making a purchasedecision in order to clarify their decision and further build up theirknowledge of the product before they consult any other attributes. 54
  55. 55. 07026579Wolfinbarger and GIlly (2001) say that when consumers have an idea of aproduct they require further product information to clarify their decision.Therefore the primary research findings further support the abovetheorist‟s conclusions.5.4 H3: The credibility of the product review itself is more importantto respondents than the site it is hosted on or the individual reviewerThe researcher‟s primary research findings showed how consumers valuethe credibility of the information within a product review over the credibilityof the source.Park et al (2007) state how the product review itself provides a dual role. Itprovides information about various products and services, and also servesas a recommendation for a particular product or service. Cheung et al‟s(2008) study into ewom adoption found that the usefulness of theinformation and the quality of information formulated by thecomprehensiveness and relevance of the review are more influential toconsumers evaluating a product review than the credibility of the sourcethe information is obtained from. Brown et al (2007) states how thecredibility of the site as an information source is more important to aconsumer at the initial stage of information seeking in comparison to theindividual reviewer. However Bhatterjee and Sanford (2006) state howthe individual review needs to fulfil a consumers expectations of a productby providing a persuasive message that is supported by the strength ofeither positive or negative arguments embedded within that message, inorder to be perceived by the consumer as a credible source of information.Cheung et al 2008 further believes that this is more likely to influence aconsumer‟s adoption of ewom. If the message is perceived as informativeand useful to the consumer by providing a strong argument for or against aproduct purchase, it is valued more highly by the consumer and seen as 55
  56. 56. 07026579more important and credible regardless of the site it is hosted on or theindividual reviewer. Mcknight and Kacmar (2002) further back this up bysaying that information credibility is a vital predictor on the onlineconsumers further action and that a consumer who believes onlineinformation has no reason to adopt it Therefore the primary researchfindings further support these theorists conclusions5.5 H4: A consumer’s evaluation of online product reviews willstrongly influence their decision to purchase.The primary research findings show how consumers are heavily influencedby the product reviews on their purchase decisions.Sun et al (2006) states that the informal nature in which the information isdelivered and interpreted by the receiver through the use of productreviews has a direct influence on information adoption which leads topurchase decisions. This is further backed up by Jarvanpaa et al (1999)who states that when consumers conduct any activity online they face:uncertainty, vulnerability and a need for dependence on reliable sources ofinformation, therefore using preconceptual product ideas and furtherverifying using a variance of reviews to support or reject will influence theirpurchase decision. Lee et al (2008) furthers this by saying that reviewsthat offer a variance of views influence a purchase decision due to sharedconsumer interest, number of reviews and further resonation withindividual reviewers. Park and Lee (2008)states that consumers „seek outweak tie experts‟ who have superior knowledge or a product that theyhave a shared interest in order to verify their purchase decisions in thecontext of products they are unfamiliar with. Litvin et al (2005) states howa consumer‟s evaluation of a product review is heavily influenced by virtualrelationships developed within a virtual community sharing a collectiveinterest on particular product topics. Park and lee (2008) and Cheung et al(2008) further back this up by stating how virtual communities areinfluential as they offer a variance of honest reviews free from marketingbias. Goldsmith and Horowitz (2006) also state that consumers that have 56
  57. 57. 07026579increased knowledge in a particular field and who are motivated to sharehonest experiences of a product in the most beneficial and credible wayfor the consumer are more likely to be perceived as a credible source ofinformation which consumers will use to evaluate their purchase decision.To finalise Mcknight and Kacmar (2002) also contribute by saying thatinformation credibility is a vital predictor on the online consumers furtheraction and that a consumer who believes online information has no reasonto adopt it Therefore the primary research findings further support thesetheorists conclusions.5.6 LimitationsThe researcher experienced limitations within this study primarily due tothe currentness of this topic, budget and time constraints. The study aimedto explore how consumers evaluate ewom when making their purchasedecisions; however the study did not take into account the differences indemographics, or further investigation into ewom valence and could havebenefitted from more motivational literature. The topic of electronic word ofmouth is what marketers would define as „real-time‟ for this reasoninvestigative study into motivations, seeking and purchase decisionevaluation is difficult to understand, especially as the modern dayconsumer is still trying to establish the degree to which the review confirmstheir purchase decisions. The researcher used as much literature to backup the findings however there are still noticeable gaps when discussingthe above topics. Therefore the research cannot be generalised to thepopulation due to these limitations5.7 Further Research RecommendationsThe researcher would recommend a multimethods approach to be takeninto any future research in this field. The researcher believes that focusgroups and indepth interviews with larger samples followed up by aquantative survey approach would prove beneficial in determining how aconsumer evaluates online product reviews when making their purchasedecisions. The nature of the topic has a lot to offer to marketers to assist 57
  58. 58. 07026579them in understanding consumer behaviour and the author believes thatover the next 5 years more research using a multimethods approach willhelp them understand this. The researcher also believes that themes suchas trust and virtual communities should be further explored as these arediverse fields with a lot of information is of use to the marketer and whenunderstanding them thoroughly could be incorporated into future marketingplans to gain consumer loyalty.5.8 Summary of chapterThis chapter has made comparisons and drawn similarities out of theliterature taken from chapter two. It has also concluded the researcher‟sfindings and proved the hypotheses correct.References 58

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