Term Paper, 2014
22 Pages, Grade: 2,0
2. (Electronic) word-of-mouth communication
3. Hennig-Thurau et al.’s study
3.2 Positive and negative eWOM
4. Other studies
6. Further Research
Everybody is surrounded by decisions and is choosing one alternative out of a lot of possibilities all the time. But choosing is always connected with risk (Luhmann, 1984). “To reduce uncertainty and perceived risks, consumers search for information when making purchase decisions” (Bronner & de Hoog, 2011). There are different ways to gather these information. Scientists found out, that consumers use word-of-mouth (WOM) as one of the most important source to collect knowledge before buying. Katz and Lazarsfeld (1955) examined the influence of WOM on a consumers buying behavior and found out, that WOM has a bigger influence than mass media like print- and radio-advertisements. Moreover, consumers do not use WOM to merely gather information but also to share information and their opinions about products, services and brands.
In 2009 around 1.766 million people all over the planet used the Internet (Statista, 2014). Five years later, in 2014, there are already 2.925 million people online (Statista, 2014). Since the Internet is growing rapidly and thereby the amount of information available online is growing as well (Steffes & Burgee, 2008), electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM) is an interesting topic for recent research. Moreover, the growing global connection and the ability to access Internet at any time and at any place, leads to a high relevance of this topic. Consumers are able to communicate their opinions, feelings and thoughts about services and products anytime and at any place. They are able to reach millions of people (Jeong & Jang, 2010). WOM is limited to a certain environment but eWOM has almost no limitations in its range. But not only the high range but also the anonymity is a great advantage of eWOM. “Compared to traditional WOM, online WOM is more influential due to its speed, convenience, one-to-many reach, and its absence of face-to-face human pressure” (Sun, Youn, Wu, & Kuntaraporn, 2006). There is already some research being done on this topic but scientists “only recently started to examine this significant topic” (Sun et al., 2006). Because of the growing spread of eWOM and the lack of research in this area, the available research will be discussed in the course of this paper to give an overview and identify limitations for further research.
To find out why people want to share information on the Internet, the focus of this paper will be on motives for people to contribute to online review portals. In the course of this work the reasons for people to write online reviews will be discussed by looking at the current state of research. After defining the most significant terms of this paper, there will be a closer look on the most important study in this research area from Hennig-Thurau, Gwinner, Walsh and Gremler (2004). Moreover, the motives will be categorized in motives leading to positive and motives leading to negative eWOM communication. Hennig-Thurau et al.’s motives and approaches will be discussed and criticized in more detail afterwards. Thereupon the motives taken from other studies concerning this topic will be examined, analyzed and compared to the ones from Hennig-Thurau et al. Afterwards they will be criticized as well. At the end of this paper there is going to be a conclusion about the motives and limitations of all studies to summarize the discussed notations. To complete the critical discussion of motives for people to contribute on online review platform, there will be some offers for future research considering the suggested limitations and adapting the criticism. As a short excursion and for a better understanding about how people are led by a motive, there is going to be a chapter about the Yelp!-Elite.
First of all, it is important to define the main subjects – WOM and eWOM - which are in the focus of the following discussions.
Concerning the limited research on eWOM, most of the scientists from the studies used in this paper, investigated motives taken from WOM research to adapt them to eWOM communication. Because of that, it is of great significance to define not only eWOM but also WOM communication. Arndt (1967) defined WOM as “an informal mode of communication between noncommercial parties concerning the evaluation of products and services”. This definition summarizes the most important aspects of WOM and underlines the noncommercial aspect of this kind of communication and the informal mode.
To define eWOM communication, there will be a closer look to the definition of the foundation study in this are. Hennig-Thurau et al. (2004) defined eWOM as “any positive or negative statement made by potential, actual, or former customers about a product or company, which is made available to a multitude of people and institutions via the Internet“ (Hennig-Thurau et al., 2004). There are some aspects of this definition, which need to be looked at more closely. Hennig-Thurau et al. are talking about “potential customers”. Because the focus of this paper is on reviews, this categorization is not fitting the following discussions. Potential customers are not able to write a review, which is useful because those consumers do not have any experience with the product or service yet. Moreover, the authors are talking about positive or negative statements. Regarding to this definition, reviews with a neutral message are not fitting the eWOM category. Because of those aspects, there will be another definition of eWOM as well. Litvin, Goldsmith and Pan (2008) defined eWOM as "all informal communications directed at consumers through Internet-based technology related to the usage or characteristics of particular goods and services, or their sellers". This definition is not defining the consumer in more detail but is explaining the subject of reviews.
Both definitions mention the difference to WOM, which is the communication through Internet. eWOM can take place in many different areas like E-Mails, online-communities, blogs, chatrooms, discussions forums, selling pages (e.g. Amazon) or in social networks (e.g. Facebook or Twitter) (Lis & Korchmar, 2013). This paper will focus on reviews on web-based consumer-opinion platforms. The main reason for this choice is because of the wide usage of web-based consumer-opinion platforms and because
“eWOM communication articulated on Web-based consumer-opinion platforms can be expected to exert a stronger impact on consumers than eWOM published through other means because unlike news groups, such Web-based consumer-opinion platforms are relatively easy to operate and require less Internet-related knowledge on the part of the consumer to obtain information” (Hennig-Thurau et al., 2004)
Moreover, web-based consumer-opinion platforms deal with a lot of different areas of consumption whereas discussion forums or blogs focus on a specific field (Hennig-Thurau et al., 2004). This helps to find out motives concerning online review portals in general instead of motives to contribute in special areas.
Hennig-Thurau et al.’s study is used as a basement for eWOM communication research. Because of the importance of their research for following studies, the next chapter will give an overview about their study and the development of the motives they verified.
As one of the most prominent studies of WOM communication Dichter (1966) found out four motives for positive WOM communication, which are product-involvement, self-involvement, message-involvement and other-involvement. In 1993 Engel, Blackwell and Miniard modified Dichter’s motives by renaming them and adding the dissonance reduction motive, which is on the contrary to the already mentioned ones a motive for communicating negative WOM communication. Sundaram, Mitra and Webster introduced in 1998 eight motives, from which four of them drive negative and the other four drive positive WOM communication. The motives corresponded highly with the ones from Dichter and Engel et al. Because eWOM is a variation of WOM, it can be expected that the motives leading to either WOM or eWOM communication are much alike. “Given the conceptual closeness of eWOM and traditional WOM communication, consumer motives that have been identified in the literature as being relevant for traditional WOM also can be expected to be of relevance for eWOM” (Hennig-Thurau et al.). Based on this assumption, Hennig-Thurau et al. used the following eleven motives taken from their literature review about WOM communication to verify them for eWOM communication: advice-seeking, concern for other consumers, convenience, economic reward, exerting power, expressing positive feelings, helping the company, problem-solving support, self-enhancement, social benefits and venting negative feelings.
With an online questionnaire, multiple regression analysis and a sample of 2.063 people Hennig-Thurau et al. came up with eight motives that showed strong reliability: advice seeking, concern for other consumers, economic incentives, extraversion/positive self-enhancement, helping the company, platform assistance social benefits and venting negative feelings. They combined the initial motives problem solving support and convenience and renamed it to platform assistance. The initial motives expressing positive feelings and self-enhancement are now combined to Extraversion/positive self-enhancement. Those eight motives will be criticized in the next chapter and used as a foundation in this paper because of the relevance and importance of Hennig-Thurau et al.’s study for following research.
Figure 1 will give an overview about the verified motives of their study. For a better understanding there will be either a plus (+) or a minus (-) for each motive. It is supposed to show whether a person led by the motivation will communicate positive or negative eWOM. Some motives can lead to both positive and negative eWOM communication, so they will be marked with a plus and a minus. In the following chapter the distinction of motives leading to positive and motives leading to negative eWOM will be explained in more detail.
illustration not visible in this excerpt
Figure 1: Motives found from Hennig-Thurau et al. and descriptions. Based on Hennig-Thurau et al., 2004
Researcher found out, “that the motives for engaging in positive WOM communication may differ from the motives that drive negative WOM communication” (Sundaram, Mitra, & Webster, 1998). Regarding the initial assumption of eWOM communication being a variation of WOM communication, the motives for positive eWOM might as well be different than motives for negative eWOM. Because of the difference between motives that drive positive and the ones that drive negative eWOM communication, it is from great significance to find out which motive leads to what kind of eWOM. This is the reason why they motives were marked with a plus and/or a minus, which will be explained in this chapter.
First of all there is venting negative feelings, which already shows the negative aspect of this motive itself. Whenever a consumer is dissatisfied with a product or a service, they want to reduce their frustration by writing about their negative experience. This motive clearly leads customers to communicate negative eWOM. Concern for other consumers is an altruistic motive. A consumer’s priority is to help others to make a good or even a better decision than they did. This motivation can lead to positive and negative eWOM because helping others means to either discourage or courage someone to buy a certain product or a service. Social benefits is about identification and social integration. Therefore people led by this motive communicate either positive or negative eWOM, because to be integrated in a community it depends on the opinion of the group. If a group doesn’t like Apple, you will be most likely integrated if you write negative about Apple and vice versa. Economic incentives can lead to both positive and negative eWOM. This motive makes people write reviews because they want to receive a promised refund like shopping coupons. Although they might receive the rewards only for writing positive reviews, it will be assumed that consumers will receive their refund by simply writing reviews. Helping the company is once again an altruistic motive. Consumers led by this motive want to help a company to either remain or become successful. This motive will drive people to use positive eWOM. Advice seeking leads to positive and negative eWOM because consumers can be satisfied or dissatisfied with a product or service and still try to find more information. The motive Platform assistance drives consumers to communicate negative eWOM. People led by this motive want to complain on a platform to address the company they are unsatisfied about. The combination extraversion/positive self-enhancement made up from the initial motives express positive feelings and self-enhancement motivates consumers to positive and negative eWOM communication. To express positive feelings clearly leads consumers to communicate positive eWOM. Self-enhancement is similar to social benefits since it depends on the opinion of the group. Therefore, it leads to positive and negative eWOM communication. The problem of this combination will be explained in more detail in the next chapter.
In the following chapters there will be more studies examined to add and verify motives. Because of that, it is from great significance to criticize Hennig-Thurau et al.’s study in the next chapter. First there will be a closer look to the motives they verified in their study. Afterwards there is going to be a chapter about their approaches.
Attached to this paper, there is a figure summarizing all motives (see Appendix). The initial motives, all the others will be compared to, are the ones resulting from the following critical discussion. Most of the motives are taken from Hennig-Thurau et al.’s study (2004) but there are some suggestions, which will be adopted.
The motive advice seeking means to “articulate a comment online describing their experiences with a product and request other consumers to submit problem-solving information” (Hennig-Thurau et al., 2004).
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