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Online Word-of-Mouth communication in a collectivist society
Word-of-mouth (WOM) is perceived by consumers as a highly credible source of information, and online channels for WOM have become increasingly popular among consumers. Although the impact of online word-of-mouth (OWOM) on consumers‘ purchase decisions has been researched, it remains unclear why information about products, brands or organisations is generated online and what influences its initiation from the sender‘s perspective. This research explores the antecedents of customer OWOM and examines the relationships between key antecedent variables and customer OWOM engagement in a Chinese context.
A conceptual model was developed based on the literature and information obtained through one-to-one in-depth interviews. Customer perceived value, satisfaction, loyalty and affective commitment were incorporated as key antecedent constructs of customer OWOM.
The research used a two-phase research design. The first phase was a qualitative exploration of the customer‘s OWOM experience. These findings were used to gain an understanding of customers‘ OWOM initiation, provide confirmation of the model, and refine the measurement thereof. The second phase used a quantitative online survey to validate the measurement instruments and test the model. The data for the study were collected from OWOM initiators in China over a period of one and a half months. A sample of 574 respondents was obtained. Hypotheses were tested using structural equation modelling and multiple regression analysis.
Findings from the research suggest that an emphasis on creating an affective bond with the brand and organisation is the key to customers‘ engagement of WOM on the Internet. The study also indicates that customer perceived QEP (quality, emotional and price) value is a less immediate but critical antecedent. In addition, the customer perceived social value of a product or service is found to significantly impact OWOM. In China, where the collectivist view predominates, customers conform to social standards and withhold negative comments in their OWOM activities in order to maintain social acceptance and inclusion, and to make favourable impressions. They also engage in OWOM to gain and enhance face, which is a social need in China‘s status driven society.
This research contributes to a growing body of research on customers‘ OWOM behaviour by developing and empirically testing the customer OWOM model. It provides a more holistic view of post-purchase OWOM by simultaneously investigating a set of key antecedents for OWOM in a single framework. The research also widens the geographic and culture scope of OWOM research by undertaking the study in China. By using a mixed method, incorporating both qualitative and quantitative approaches, the research offers a balance among objectivity, detailed description and the predictability of the study. Furthermore, the research provides marketing practitioners with a better understanding of the behaviour of Chinese OWOM initiators, and offers directions to improve their marketing communication strategies.
PublisherVictoria University of Wellington