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Title: Evaluating the credibility of online consumer reviews during a simulation of an active purchase decision
Author: Ney, Jillian
Awarding Body: University of Strathclyde
Current Institution: University of Strathclyde
Date of Award: 2013
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The primary focus of this study is to explore how consumers determine the credibility of online social content, particularly consumer reviews. In doing so the research answered five key objectives: (1) to identify the types of online media used to gather product related information during an active information search, (2) to explore the factors considered by the consumer during information evaluation, (3) to determine the relative importance of each of the factors considered during decision making, (4) to investigate the interrelationships between the factors considered during decision making, and (5) to understand the factors which influence the credibility of online social content. A mixed methods methodology was adopted in the research. The 'connected consumer' segment was the sample frame. It was believed that by exploring the behaviours of the 'connected consumer' segment the study would aid in understanding the behaviours of the growing tech savvy consumer (O'Reilly and Marx, 2011), which is likely to become the largest consumer segment (Hardy, 2011). An exploratory qualitative element was conducted to ensure valuable positioning of the research, and determine the usefulness of sampling the connected consumer segment. A total of 12 semi-structured interviews were conducted to lead development of an online self-administered conjoint analysis survey. The survey generated a total of 180 usable responses, this sample was also found to be characteristic of the connected consumer segment. The findings of the research demonstrate that while the social media landscape offers multiple types of online social content, consumers are heavily reliant on online consumer reviews. The research makes a significant contribution to knowledge in the development of a new model of information credibility evaluation. It is argued that the structure of previous models of information credibility evaluation (Cheung et al, 2009; Hovland, 1948; Wathen and Burkell, 2002) are not structurally representative of the evaluation process. This research finds that content evaluative attributes are best represented by informational and normative determinants. By segmenting content evaluative attributes into informational and normative, the information credibility evaluation process is more accurately represented. To determine the credibility and personal relevance of an online consumer review, consumers use normative based content cues, source platform and content creator characteristics to assess the credibility of the informational content cues [the narrative]. In this study, the consumers' personal characteristics were not found to moderate the information evaluation process. The key implications for marketers, review site developers and consumers are discussed in relation to extracting more value from the consumer review process. Providing marketers with insight into handling the impact of consumer reviews on purchase; for review site developers with ideas to reduce the cognitive strain for consumers to review and evaluate reviews and increase the credibility of reviews; and finally for consumers themselves to write reviews that are helpful and credible. The directions for future research outlined in light of the findings of this research.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available