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Title: Impact of eWOM source characteristics on the purchasing intention
Author: Shabsogh, Nisrein Mohammad Ahmad
Awarding Body: University of Bradford
Current Institution: University of Bradford
Date of Award: 2013
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The use of e-mail communication between consumers has been growing and companies are seeking to increase their understanding of this type of private communication medium between consumers. The privacy and cost-effectiveness characteristics of e-mail make it an important communication medium for consumers. Consumers use e-mail to exchange a variety of information including electronic word of mouth (eWOM) about products, services and organisations. The travel industry, the context of this study, is increasingly being delivered online. Understanding what influences consumers and how consumers evaluate eWOM will increase the travel industry’s knowledge about its consumer base. This study aims to contribute to existing knowledge on the impact of eWOM on consumer purchase intention. Its focus is on an interpersonal context where eWOM is sent from the source to the receiver in an e-mail about holiday destination. The study, which was undertaken from a positivist perspective, used qualitative and quantitative research techniques to better understand the influence of eWOM on purchase intention. The literature on word of mouth (WOM) and eWOM was initially examined to identify the major factors that have an influence on the receiver of eWOM. Consistent with previous studies, both perceived expertise and similarity were identified as source characteristics that have an influence on the receiver’s purchase intention. The literature also indicated that trustworthiness belief would have a key effect on the influence of eWOM on the attitude of the receiver. Consequently, this study examined each trustworthiness dimension – ability, benevolence, and integrity – with respect to its role in the influence of eWOM on purchase intention. The literature review also revealed that certain receiver characteristics were important in the process of influence, especially consumer susceptibility to interpersonal influence. The relationships between the variables identified were further developed into the research model, which has its roots in the theory of reasoned-action (Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975) and the dual process theory of influence (Deutsch and Gerard, 1955). Methodologically, a scenario-building approach to developing authentic e-mail was used. The qualitative data gathered from eight focus group discussions were analysed using “framework analysis” (Ritchie and Spencer, 1994) to develop eight scenarios. This was then used to manipulate the moderating variables in the scenario. Three manipulations, each with two levels, were included: eWOM direction “positive and negative”; source characteristic of “expert/non-expert”; and source characteristic of “similar/non-similar”. These scenarios formed part of a questionnaire. The questionnaire was used to collect data from a sample of University of Bradford students. The final number of usable questionnaires was 477. Structural equation modelling was used to determine the validity of the conceptual model and test the hypotheses. In particular, multiple group analysis was used to assess both the measurement and structural models, and to identify the impact of the eWOM direction. The theoretical model that describes the relationships between the exogenous variables (source’s and receiver’s characteristics) and the endogenous variables (trustworthiness dimensions, interpersonal influence and purchase intention) was accepted. The research findings provided empirical evidence on the difference in the impact of positive and negative eWOM on purchase intention. The source’s and receiver’s characteristics and related trustworthiness beliefs, (i.e. ability, benevolence, and integrity) are influenced by the direction of eWOM. The findings show that positive and negative eWOM differ with respect to how they impact on consumers’ attitudes and intentions. For instance, consumers have more belief in the credibility of a source who provides negative eWOM. However, the overall influence of the source’s characteristics tends to be stronger with positive than with negative eWOM. The findings of this study provide insights for both academics and practitioners to understand the potential of eWOM. This might be tailored to help develop more private relationships with customers through e-mail marketing strategies that incorporate eWOM. Negative eWOM is more credible but less directly useful to marketers. Nevertheless, it is important for marketers to realise the significance of managing dissatisfaction and to harness the power of negative eWOM. Similarly, positive eWOM is effective especially when the source is both expert and similar. This might be translated into online marketing campaigns that use consumer-to-consumer discussions in addition to viral marketing. Future research might test the model in different contexts, (e.g. financial services), to provide a more comprehensive picture of the influence of eWOM on purchase intention.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Positive/Negative eWOM ; Electronic word of mouth (eWOM) ; Trust ; Trustworthiness ; Similarity ; Expertise ; Susceptibility to interpersonal influence ; Purchase intention ; Source ; Receiver