The effect of eWOM platform type on consumers’ level of perceived source credibility and their purchase intention

Hele tekst

(1)

1 Master’s thesis from Clair Cheuk Alam – 11110953

June, 24th, 2016

Supervisor: Dr. S.F. Bernritter

Master’s programme Communication Science

The effect of eWOM platform type on consumers’ level

of perceived source credibility and their purchase

(2)

2 Abstract

The influence of electronic word of mouth, such as online reviews, surpasses the influence of

traditional WOM in the decision-making process of consumers. Online reviews can be found

on numerous websites, for instance on independent review websites (non-marketer-generated

platforms) or websites from companies (marketer-generated platforms). The purpose of this

study is to investigate whether there is a relationship between the platform type (independent

review website vs. company website) on which an online restaurant review is posted and the consumer’s intention to visit that restaurant. In doing so, we examine whether platform type

influences the consumer’s level of perceived source credibility of the reviewer in order for it

to affect their intention to visit the restaurant and we investigate if the expected effect of

platform type on source credibility is influenced by personal identifying information (name,

photo and geographic location). Results from our 2 (platform type) x 2 (personal identifying

information) factorial between-subjects experimental design suggest that there is no main

effect from platform type on visiting intention. However, there is found a conditional indirect

effect of the presence of personal identifying information on source credibility for the

company website, meaning that PII increases the level of source credibility on the

marketer-generated website and thus results in a higher restaurant visit intention. Furthermore, the level

of perceived source credibility of the online restaurant reviewer shows to be an indicator for

the restaurant visiting intention of consumers. This study assists in closing the theoretical gap

between platform type, the role of source characteristics and source credibility and we provide

managerial implications of our findings.

Keywords: eWOM, online reviews, platform type, personal identifying information, source

(3)

3

Introduction

Choosing a restaurant for dinner is since quite some time no longer simply dependent on

whether potential guests like the menu or not. Opinions from people who went there already

prove to be of high importance when deciding to visit a restaurant (Luca, 2011). Word of

mouth has always been influential according to Lau and Ng (2009), because it is typically

independent of the selling intents of marketers and thus, more credible and trustworthy. This

form of interpersonal communication about services and products is perceived more

persuasive than marketer communication because consumers generally trust peer consumers

to a greater extent than marketers (Sen & Lerman, 2007). This also applies to electronic word

of mouth (eWOM). The Internet brought new possibilities and forms of sharing product or

service related information from other consumers. EWOM on consumer review sites, blogs and forums exceed the influence of traditional WOM communication on consumers’ decision

making (Cheng & Zhou, 2010). According to Jeong and Jeon (2008) the voluntary opinions

and reviews from other consumers weigh more in the decision-making process to information

seekers online, because this information can be acquired without the restriction of time and

place and it is a faster way to get updated information. Review websites, such as Tripadvisor,

provide a platform for consumers to search for opinions and to post opinions about experience

goods. With 240 million unique visitors a month and 350 million reviews, Tripadvisor

evolved into a lively community (Tripadvisor.com). The website is perceived to be an

independent platform (non-marketer-generated) since marketers from companies and brands

have no influence on the editorial part of the reviews.

But companies can also have a review section on their website. These websites are often

perceived as ‘seller’ websites (Lee & Youn, 2009) because the platform is created by

companies (marketer-generated). Xue and Phelps (2004) claim that when a consumer review is posted on a brand’s website the reader might be under the impression that the reviewer

(4)

4 could be influenced by the marketer. Consumers might think that the reviewer received a

compensation for the review or the marketer modified the review in its favor.

Only a few studies began to explore to what extent the platform type on which the eWOM is

posted has an influence on consumers (Lee & Youn, 2009; Sen & Lerman, 2007; Xue &

Phelps, 2004). They touched upon the effect of platform type on the usefulness of the online

reviews and attitudes towards the reviewed goods. But due to their exploratory nature and

mixed results it is difficult to draw solid conclusions. We seek to further investigate how and

why platform type influences the reader of the review (consumers) and focus on their

behavioral intentions. We aim to do this by finding an explanation in the attribution theory

from Kelley (1973) and the heuristic view of processing online information.

According to information processing theories (e.g. Elaboration Likelihood Model and the

Heuristic-Systematic Processing Model) people do not always use their full mental capacities

in information processing tasks. Instead, they rely on heuristic cues and other elements

surrounding a message, such as characteristics of the source. Internet information seekers

often tend to maximize their information gain by minimizing the cognitive effort through the

use of heuristics (Metzger, Flanagin, & Medders, 2010). As the platform type on which a

review is posted can be seen as a heuristic cue in the evaluation of a review, it presumably

also influences the level of perceived source credibility for it to have an effect on consumers’

behavioral intentions. Early research by Ohanion (1990) reveals that source credibility is

determined by the perceived trustworthiness and expertise the source of a message has

according to the reader. These are also heuristic cues (characteristics of the source) and thus

might be assessed differently on an independent or a company website. According to Bronner

and De Hoog (2010) source identity information increases consumers’ level of perceived

source credibility of online reviews, because genuine and competent reviewers are generally

(5)

5 A few studies have been conducted to examine the influence of identity disclosure in online

reviews (Kusumasondjaja, Shanka, & Marchegiani, 2012: Xie, Miao, Kuo, & Lee, 2011). But

despite their research on the influence of identity disclosure on the persuasiveness of online

information in terms of the credibility of the review, the effect on source credibility is still

underexplored. This while clarity about the identity of the source plays an important role in

enhancing the perceived source credibility of readers (Forman, Ghose, & Wiesenfeld, 2008),

which is in turn positively correlated to consumers’ behavioral intentions and behaviors

(Gilly, Graham, Wolfinbarger, & Yale, 1998). Therefore, our study academically bridges the

theoretical gap between the effect of platform type on which eWOM is posted, consumers’

perceived source credibility and behavioral intention. In doing so, we want to see whether the

presence of personal identifying information strengthens the effect of platform type on the

credibility of the source (reviewer). Practically, companies (in the field of hospitality) benefit

from knowing what consumers use as heuristic cues to assign trust when reading online

reviews. By knowing this they can better target potential customers by guiding reviewers

where and how to post their reviews.

In sum, the purpose of this research is to investigate whether there is a relationship between

the platform (independent review website vs. company website) on which an online restaurant review is posted and the consumer’s intention to visit that restaurant. Additionally, we

examine whether platform type influences the consumer’s level of perceived source

credibility of the reviewer in order for it to affect their intention to visit the restaurant and we

investigate if the expected effect of platform type on source credibility is influenced by

personal identifying information. We start this paper with the theoretical grounding for the

different effects we expect of two platform types. We then propose our hypotheses. This is

(6)

6 which we present the results. We conclude with a discussion, the limits of our research,

suggestions for future research and managerial implications.

Theoretical framework

Platform type

The Internet provides people with a diverse set of opinions of services and products from and

for consumers who have little or no relationship with each other (Bickart & Schindler, 2001).

Electronic word of mouth (eWOM), such as reviews, can be posted on different online

platforms. These platforms can vary between more independent websites (e.g. Tripadvisor) or

less independent websites (i.e. commercial, marketer-generated websites). Previous research

shows that whether a website is marketer-generated or non-marketer-generated is important.

Consumers become suspicious of consumer-generated product recommendations on

marketer-generated websites because of the suspected selling intents (Schindler & Bickart, 2005;

Senecal & Nantel, 2004; Xue & Phelps, 2004). The underlying assumption here is that

consumers can think that there is the possibility of a marketer’s involvement, which might

result in a biased representation of the product or service in the review (Lee & Youn, 2009).

This line of reasoning can be explained by the attribution theory from Kelley (1973). This

theory proposes that people make causal inferences to understand why a communicator

behaves a certain way or takes a certain position. This means that they attribute the message

(e.g. review) of the communicator about a stimulus (e.g. a service) to stimulus (i.e. quality of

the service) and/or to non-stimulus factors (i.e. circumstances). Xue and Phelps (2004) claim that when a consumer review is posted on a brand’s website the reader might be under the

impression that the reviewer could be influenced by the marketer and attribute this to a certain

circumstance (e.g. the reviewer received a compensation for the review or the marketer

modified the review in its favor). It is the discounting principle in the attribution theory that discounts the product’s or service qualities that are reviewed as a reason for writing the

(7)

7 review, and thus attributes the opinion in the review to non-stimulus factors. But this process

does not happen on independent review websites. It is generally assumed that these websites

are free from the helping hand of marketers (Xue & Phelps, 2004). These platforms are there

to help consumers make informed purchase decisions by providing a place to share their

experiences. According to Lee and Youn (2009), eWOM posted on an independent review

website is more likely to be attributed to the true feelings about a service or a product of a

reviewer, making the review on the independent review website more persuasive than

recommendations posted on a brand’s website.

In sum, the attribution theory predicts that when consumers can attribute more of the communicator’s review to the reviewed good’s actual performance, the more credible the

communicator is perceived to be and the more confidence consumers have in the accuracy of

the review. This then leads to a stronger belief the consumer has that the attributes mentioned

in the review are truthful and increases the effect of persuasion (Sen & Lerman, 2007).

Contrary, the persuasion effect of a review will decrease when a consumer suspects that the

review is influenced by non-stimulus factors according to the discounting principle in the attribution theory (Kelley, 1973). Then the reviewed good’s actual performance is discounted

and the consumer perceives the reviewer as biased.

We seek to confirm that there is a difference in consumers’ evaluation of reviews on an

independent review website (Tripadvisor) and a marketer-generated website (i.e. an official

company website) and that this influences the purchase intention of the consumer.

H1: Consumers who are exposed to a (positive) review posted on an independent website will have a higher level of purchase intention of an experience good than consumers who are exposed to a (positive) review posted on a company website.

(8)

8

Source credibility

According to Ohanian (1990), source credibility is determined by the perceived expertise and

trustworthiness of the message source in the eyes of the recipient. Hovland and Weiss (1951)

claim that high credibility sources cause more changes in attitude than low credibility sources.

Whether the focus is on trustworthiness or expertise, both factors separately found to be more

persuasive than sources without these virtues (Mills & Jellison, 1967; Rhine & Severance,

1970). The acceptance or rejections of suggestions from a source and the recipients’ intention

to use these suggestions are known to be of influence by the degree of perceived credibility of

the source (Bannister, 1986; Suzuki, 1978). Source credibility can inform readers how much

weight to give the content of the message. This means that the credibility of the message is a function of the reader’s perception of the trustworthiness of the source.

The effects of source credibility can be explained by the Heuristic-Systematic Model (HSM)

from Chaiken (1980). This model divides information processing in two factors. The

systematic or heuristic processing of information depends on the level of involvement of the

reader. When people are highly involved in a subject matter or feel that their opinion

judgements will have consequences, people tend to use a systematic strategy. This means they

will focus on message characteristics such as argumentation and comprehensibility.

Conversely, in the heuristic view readers avoid the detailed processing of information in the

message content but rely more on source characteristics, such as the source’s identity

(Chaiken, 1980). Research points out that source credibility is assessed by heuristics (Hovland

& Weiss, 1951;Kiesler & Mathog, 1968). This means that source credibility is not

determined by the systematic processing of the information in the message itself, but by

relying on the heuristics that come with the message. This is important to understand when it

comes to online reviews, because internet information seekers often tend to maximize their

(9)

9 al., 2010), hence they likely will be susceptible for consumer source characteristics in a

review. Moreover, online reviews are perceived to be more credible and trustworthy by other

consumers than information that is provided by marketer-generated content (Park, Lee & Han,

2007). Thus, the fact that the source of the message is a consumer is meaningful to other

consumers. This might then lead to a positive assessment of the credibility of the source and

results in acceptance of the suggestions made in the review.

Furthermore, Senecal and Nantel (2004) claim that people place more trust in information

posted by consumers who are apparently unconnected to the organization. Therefore, we

suggest that reviews posted on company websites are perceived low in source credibility by

consumers because of the marketer-generated platform on which the review is posted. This

means that, although the review is written by another consumer, the commercial platform on

which the review is posted unconsciously forms a connection between the writer of the review

and the company. Contrarily, on independent review websites there is no (apparent) link

between a reviewer and the brand or company, hence consumers who read the review will

have a higher level of perceived source credibility from the reviewer.

H2a: Consumers perceive reviews posted on independent review websites to be higher in source credibility than reviews posted on a company website.

Personal identifying information

As the assessment of source credibility occurs through the processing of heuristic cues in a

message (Chaiken, 1980), the presence of source characteristics can play an important role in

accepting the content of a message as a result of perceiving the source as trustworthy. Prior

research suggests that information about a source is considered as highly important in

consumers’ perception of online information credibility and communication (Lee et al., 2008;

(10)

10 review is very common according to Metzger et al., (2010). Earlier research from Fogg (2001)

shows that source characteristics, such as name and photo, have a positive effect on the trust

perceptions of consumers. Also, Xia and Bechwati (2008) claim that online consumers

respond more positively to reviews that contain social information about the source, than

when there is no identifiable source information present. Additionally, research from Xie et

al., (2011) shows that the presence of personal identifying information has a positive effect on

the credibility of the review. All these positive effects seem to be occurring through the

processing of heuristic source characteristics.

There are three things that happen during this heuristic approach according to Sundar (2008).

First, the cue (e.g. the source) must be cognitively available during the decision-making time

about the credibility of the content. Secondly, the heuristics or judgement rule (e.g. personal

identifying information gives trust) must be accessible at the time of making a decision.

Lastly, the heuristic must be relevant or applicable to the situation (e.g. judging the

trustworthiness of the source might be an important aspect of reading restaurant reviews). In

the heuristic view the perceiver is unaware of the heuristic process, which results in the direct

acceptance of a message. Sundar (2008) added a third step to the first two stages of what seems similar to Fogg’s (2003) Prominence-Interpretations Theory, which explains how

people assess (source) credibility online. First, a consumer notices something (prominence)

and then the consumer makes a judgement about it (interpretation). According to this theory

we suggest that the identity disclosure of the online reviewer (picture, name and location)

serve as the elements of prominence, then the interpretation of these elements result in a

positive or negative effect on source credibility. This process is usually also iterative and

subconscious.

But online not every review encloses source characteristics. On some review websites there is

(11)

11 not feel comfortable using more than a nickname whilst writing an online review. According

to Rains and Scott (2007), the lack of identity can create ambiguity regarding the credibility

of the online review, since the source of the message is not clear. Thus, the absence of identity

disclosure can affect the credibility of a review in a negative way, while clarity about the

identity of the source enhances source credibility (Forman et al., 2008). Taking this into

account with the notion of Park et al., (2007) that feedback on websites such as Tripadvisor

and Zoover are generally considered more credible than feedback on corporate websites, we

suggest that the effect of platform type on source credibility is moderated by the presence of

personal identifying information. This means that we expect source credibility to increase for

reviews posted both on independent review websites (e.g. Tripadvisor) and corporate

(marketer-generated) websites, indicating that personal identifying information amplifies the

effect of platform type on source credibility.

H2b: The effect of platform type on source credibility is conditional upon the presence of personal identifying information, such that PII strengthens the effect of platform type on source credibility.

In turn, the consumer’s level of improved level of perceived source credibility indicates that

they give more weight to the reviews in their decision-making process, which increases the

persuasiveness of the online review (Pornpitakpan, 2004).We argue that this holds for

consumers’ purchase intention as well, because earlier research points out that source

expertise and more importantly in our case, trustworthiness, are positively correlated with consumers’ behavioral intentions and behaviors (Gilly et al., 1998; Harmon & Coney,

1982; Lascu, Bearden, & Rose, 1995; Tybout, 1978). As source credibility is closely related

to behavioral intentions, we propose that the more consumers perceive a source as credible,

the easier they accept the suggestions of the source and the more willing they are in their

(12)

12 H2c: Consumers with a higher level of perceived source credibility of the reviewer will have a higher purchase intention of an experience good.

An overview of our research framework is shown in figure 1.

Fig. 1. The conceptual model

Methodology

Participants & Design

One hundred and twenty-eight respondents (Mage = 29.0, SDage = 11.6; 66.4% female and 33.6% male) were part of our research from a convenience sample, after excluding thirty-four

participants who did not finish the experiment. The purpose of this study is to investigate

whether there is a relationship between the platform (independent review website vs.

company website) on which an online restaurant review is posted and the consumer’s

intention to visit that restaurant. In doing so, we want to examine whether platform type influences the consumer’s level of perceived source credibility of the reviewer in order for it

to affect their intention to visit the restaurant and we want to see if the expected effect of

(13)

13 photo and geographic location). To test our hypotheses we conducted an experimental study

using simulated web-based content, a restaurant review and personal identifying information

of the reviewer. With our research we want to investigate the influence of selected factors

(e.g. platform type and personal identifying information) on others (e.g. visiting intention). As

we intend to generalize about theoretical effects of variables with this study rather than

generalizing statistical effects to wider populations, an experimental design suits best. The

design is a 2 (platform type) x 2 (personal identifying information) factorial between-subjects

design containing four cells.

Procedure

The experiment is conducted with the help of Qualtrics, which provided the online link to our

test. Participants were sent the link and were randomly assigned to one of four conditions in

which they were presented with a (positive) restaurant review. We opted for a positive review

because it is unlikely an official restaurant website would show a negative or neutral review

on its own website. First, participants either saw the review with personal identifying

information on the official restaurant website (marketer-generated), with personal identifying

information on Tripadvisor (non-marketer-generated), without personal identifying

information on the official restaurant website review or without personal identifying

information on Tripadvisor. Afterwards, participants were asked to complete questions

regarding the perceived credibility of the reviewer and their intention to visit the restaurant.

Materials

We manipulated, in consultation with a graphical artist, four templates of two existing

websites. Most content and design elements of each website were kept constant. In all four

conditions a review of a restaurant named ‘Ponte Vecchio’ was used. Also, the review itself

was the same in every condition, short and to the point in order to avoid long narrative.

(14)

14 (Papathanassis & Knolle, 2011). We created a positive review that we altered from a real

world example (see Appendix A). The restaurant exists in real life, located in a small place in

the upper north of the Netherlands minimizing the chance that respondents would already be

familiar with the place. Furthermore, location and contact information were removed in all

conditions.

Manipulated/Independent variables

In this research two variables were manipulated: platform type and personal identifying

information. The platform on which the same review was shown, was either the TripAdvisor

website (non-marketer-generated) or the company website of ‘Ponte Vecchio’

(marketer-generated). The design and website elements of both websites were held constant, such as the

lay-out of TripAdvisor and the official ‘Ponte Vecchio’ website. Also, the title ‘Good food’

and the five star rating was the same in all four conditions. For personal identifying

information we manipulated the reviewer. This meant that the review had a picture, name and

location as personal identifying information in two conditions. In the other two conditions the only information about the reviewer was stated as ‘Guest123’ with no further specifications

(see Appendix A).

Measured/Dependent variables

Firstly, source credibility was measured to see whether the expected relationship between

platform type and the intention to visit the restaurant is mediated. According to Ohanian

(1990), source credibility relies on perceived expertise, trustworthiness and attractiveness. In

our research we focus on the perceived trustworthiness of the reviewer. This was measured by asking ‘’I think the reviewer..’’ accompanied by five items (Dependable-Undependable,

Honest-Dishonest, Reliable-Unreliable, Sincere-Insincere and Trustworthy-Untrustworthy)

and a 5-point scale in between (Ohanian, 1990). Factor and reliability analyses revealed a Cronbach’s α of .88. The reliability statistics also pointed out that the

(15)

‘Dependable-15 Undependable’ item could be deleted to become more reliable, which led to combining the

remaining four items into one factor with a Cronbach’s α of .89 (M = 3.68, SD = 0.76).

Secondly, the intention to visit the restaurant was measured with the question ‘’It is very

likely that I would visit this restaurant’’, using an one item with a 7-point Likert type scale

(ranging from Strongly disagree (1) to Strongly Agree (7)).

Analyses & Results

Manipulation checks

To assess the manipulation of platform type, participants were asked if they knew on which

website the review they saw was posted. It was revealed by cross tabulations that the majority

of participants correctly recognized the website to which they were assigned, χ2 (3) = 85.17, p < .001. Out of sixty-five participants in the official restaurant condition forty-nine (75.4%)

were aware of this by answering this correct. Out of the sixty-three participants who were

assigned to the Tripadvisor condition, fifty-one participants (81.0%) knew on which website

the review they saw was posted.

In order to check whether the manipulation of personal identifying information was

successful, a One-way Anova was conducted to compare the two groups (participants who

were assigned to a condition with PII and participants who were assigned to a condition

without PII) in their answer to the manipulation question ‘’To what extent was the personally

identifying information about the person who posted the review..’’. Participants could drag a

bar from 0 (completely anonymous) to 100 (clearly identified). The analysis of variance

showed that the difference in means of participants’ indication level of completely anonymous

and clearly identified was significant between the personal identifying information conditions

(Mpresence =58.62 vs. Mmissing = 42.05; F (1, 126) = 16.74, p < .001, ηp2 = 0.12). This means this manipulation was successful and indicates that participants assigned to the presence condition

(16)

16 were more capable in identifying the identity disclosure than participants who were assigned

to the condition without personal identifying information.

Moderated mediation

Using Hayes’ (2013) PROCESS SPSS macro model 7 for our moderated mediation analyses

(Index of moderated mediation, = -0.47, boot SE = 0.25, 95% BCBI [-1.02, -0.03]) with a

number of 5,000 bootstrap resamples we tested our hypotheses. The analyses revealed that the

direct effect of platform type on the intention to visit the restaurant was not significant,

rejecting Hypothesis 1 (B = -0.06, SE = 0.18, 95% BCBI [-0.42, 0.30]). Unexpectedly,

platform type had also no effect on source credibility, which leads us to reject Hypothesis 2a

as well (B = -0.06, SE = 0.13, 95% BCBI [-0.32, 0.21]). Partly in support of Hypothesis 2b,

analysis showed a conditional indirect effect in which the presence of personal identifying

information only leads to a higher level of perceived source credibility for the official

restaurant website (= -0.28, boot SE = 0.16, 95% BCBI [-0.63, -0.02]). Lastly, we found

support for Hypothesis 2c, which suggested that perceived source credibility leads to a higher

intention to visit the restaurant (B = 0.81, SE = 0.12, 95% BCBI [0.57, 1.04]).

Conclusion & Discussion

The present study examines the influence of platform type on the intention to purchase an

experience good and whether source credibility affects that relationship. Unexpectedly, our

analyses reveal that participants who were exposed to a restaurant review posted on an

independent website and those who were exposed to a restaurant review posted on a

company’s website did not differ with regard to their visiting intention. Also, contrary of what

we expected, the type of platform on which the review was posted did not affect participants

in their level of perceived source credibility. Interestingly, however, our research

(17)

17 information on the company website, which also positively affects the participants’ intention

to visit the restaurant. Also, consistent with our earlier arguments, our results indicate that

source credibility is an important determinant for purchase intention as we demonstrate that a

higher level of perceived source credibility leads to a higher level of visiting intention. This is

in line with prior studies (Gilly et al., 1998; Harmon & Coney, 1982; Lascu et al.,

1995; Tybout, 1978), suggesting that the level of source credibility is closely related to consumers’ behavioral intentions.

Furthermore, our findings about the effect of platform type are somewhat consistent with Lee

and Young’s (2009) results on how different eWOM platforms affect consumers’ product judgement. They suggest that a review on a brand’s website and on an independent website do

not influence the consumer in terms of product judgement. Also, Tsao, Hsieh, Shih and Lin

(2015) did not find evidence for an effect of eWOM platform type on the persuasiveness of

eWOM. These results indicate that there is no difference in consumers’ evaluation of online

reviews caused by platform type. Our research contributes to this by finding that also consumers’ purchase intention is not affected by the different platform types. This might be

due to the difficulty in determining the real motives of reviewers. According to Magnini

(2011) this is because any individual can post online information, which is therefore less

credible than other type of information sources in general and in our case not subjective to

platform type. This means that the level of source credibility cannot increase by source

characteristics if consumers already have a predisposition towards people who write reviews.

Another explanation might be that positive emotions in reviews are perceived less useful than

negative emotions (Wang, Li, & Yang, 2015). If perceived usefulness of a review is an

antecedent of purchase intentions, the occurrence of positive emotions in the positive review

(18)

18 However, even though our results show that there is no main effect between platform type and

purchase intention, we did find some evidence for the importance of source credibility related

to different platforms. Our findings reveal that the presence of personal identifying

information increases the level of source credibility for reviews on a company website, but

not for reviews on an independent review website. This result is an important contribution to

the existing literature since prior studies (e.g. Pornpitakpan, 2004) overlooked the relevance

of source credibility in the effects of platform type on eWOM. This then leads to the question

which other source characteristics on eWOM platforms can play an important role in

determining source credibility.

An explanation for our finding that the presence of personal identifying information did not

increase the level of perceived source credibility of consumers for Tripadvisor, could be

because online review sites are often criticized for their credibility. According to Johnson and

Kaye (2002) this is because the reviews on review websites do not typically go a rigorous

editorial process in terms of factual verification. People might then not even bother to check

for personal information about the source, because the low level of information credibility is

caused by the belief that the facts are not checked and verified. If consumers are under the

impression that companies that have a review section on their website use the feedback to

improve and learn from it and verify the information, the presence of personal identifying

information of the customer can indeed amplify the effect on source credibility and thus

purchase intention.

Other empirical studies (Ma & Agarwal, 2007; Xie et al., 2011) examining the effects of

source identity, explained the impact on the credibility of the information but neglect the

influence of source credibility. But as this research also contributes to the literature by

(19)

19 purchase intention (Lafferty, Goldsmith, & Newell, 2002), connecting source characteristics

to source credibility associated with eWOM platform types deserves further exploration.

In sum, based on our results, we disregard the notion that platform type influences the

intention to purchase an experience good. However, our research gives more clarity about the

importance of personal identifying information in determining source credibility on

marketer-generated platforms and assists in fulfilling the existing gap in literature on how source

characteristics can play an important role in increasing source credibility of online reviews on

different platform types.

Limitations, Directions for future research & Practical implications

This study also has some limitations. We categorized the Tripadvisor website as an

independent review platform and non-marketer-generated, since the website

moderators/editors are not affiliated with the restaurants or accommodations. But some would

argue that Tripadvisor is not completely free of marketer antics. The website now offers ‘smart deals’ and special prices to reserve or book accommodations. This might have led to a

blurred line in terms of marketer-generated and non-marketer-generated.

Moreover, we used an experience good (a restaurant visit) as dependent variable. Future

research can determine whether other results emerge by looking at products instead of

experience goods. The distinction between these goods lies in the fact that experience goods

have attributes that can only be known after the purchase and thus make the information

search for the goods more costly or difficult, while the attributes of search goods are often

completely acquired prior to the purchase (Klein, 1998). According to Sundaram and Webster

(1999) these different product characteristics might have a different effect on how consumers

(20)

20 Our research confirmed the relationship between source credibility and the intention to

purchase an experience good, but there was no relationship between platform type and source

credibility. We used personal identifying information as the moderator of source credibility,

but future research could examine whether other source characteristics, such as reviewer

expertise, could moderate this mediation. According to Luca (2011) online restaurant reviews

have a bigger impact when they contain simple heuristics and signals of the reviewers’

quality, such as accompanied expertise stars with their profile name on Yelp.com, than no

signs of expertise. These expertise scores can be based on the amount of reviews one already

has written or on a rating-system in which other consumers rate the usefulness of the review.

Source expertise can thus be operationalized in many different ways in future research.

Furthermore, using a convenience sample limited the generalizability of the results and

findings. Therefore, future studies can determine whether these findings are different or can

be replicated in terms of other types of eWOM platforms, other type of goods and other

populations.

This paper also has some implications for the field of marketing. As we have found results

that source credibility increases on marketer-generated platforms with the presence of

personal identifying information, it might become interesting for official company websites

(e.g. restaurants) to incorporate a review section in their web design. More importantly, they

have to disclose who wrote the review. Company websites, which already show reviews on

their website, often display the reviews anonymous. This is no longer necessary as our

research points out that the presence of personal identifying information enhances source

credibility and the level of purchase intention for those platforms, assuming that our findings

translate to experience goods in general (e.g. hotels etc.). We suggest experience good

companies, such as restaurants, may want to use their own company websites as a forum for

(21)

21

References

Bannister, B.D. (1986). Performance outcome feedback and attributional feedback: Interactive

effects on recipient responses. Journal of Applied Psychology,71(2),

203-210. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.71.2.203

Bickart, B., & Schindler, R. M. (2001). Internet forums as influential sources of consumer

information. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 15(3), 31–40. doi:10.1002/dir.1014

Bickart, B., & Schindler, R. M. (2005). Published word of mouth: Referable,

consumer-generated information on the internet. In C.P., Haugtvedt, K.A., Machleit, & R.F. Yalch

(Eds.). Online consumer psychology: Understanding and influencing consumer behavior in

the virtual world (pp.32-57). Retrieved from

https://books.google.nl/books?hl=en&lr=&id=68Z4AgAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PA32&dq=

bickart+schindler+2005&ots=MBs4tw2PgD&sig=B4mTXO0CF9G791awY8DP4Nc6sfA#

v=onepage&q=bickart%20schindler%202005&f=false

Bronner, F. & de Hoog, R. (2010). Editorial manager(tm) for international journal of market

research. Retrieved from http://dare.uva.nl/document/2/90916

Bohner, G., Moskowitz, G. B., & Chaiken, S. (1995). The interplay of Heuristic and

systematic processing of social information. European Review of Social Psychology, 6(1),

33–68. doi:10.1080/14792779443000003

Chaiken, S. (1980). Heuristic versus systematic information processing and the use of source

versus message cues in persuasion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39(5),

752-766. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.39.5.752

Cheng, X., & Zhou, M. (2010, August). Study on effect of eWOM: A literature review and

(22)

22

Science (MASS), Wuhan. Retrieved from

http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpls/abs_all.jsp?arnumber=5576663&tag=1

Forman, C., Ghose, A., & Wiesenfeld, B. (2008). Examining the relationship between reviews

and sales: The role of reviewer identity disclosure in electronic markets. Information

Systems Research, 19(3), 291–313. doi:10.1287/isre.1080.0193

Fogg, B. J., Soohoo, C., Danielson, D. R., Marable, L., Stanford, J., & Tauber, E. R. (2003,

June 6). How do users evaluate the credibility of web sites?. Retrieved March 25, 2016,

from http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=997097

Fogg, B. J., Marshall, J., Laraki, O., Osipovich, A., Varma, C., Fang, N., … Treinen, M.

(2001). What makes web sites credible? . doi:10.1145/365024.365037

Flanagin, A. J., & Metzger, M. J. (2007). The role of site features, user attributes, and

information verification behaviors on the perceived credibility of web-based

information. New Media Society, 9(2), 319–342. doi:10.1177/1461444807075015

Ghose, A., & Ipeirotis, P. G. (2011, October ). Estimating the helpfulness and economic

impact of product reviews: Mining text and reviewer characteristics. Retrieved from IEEE

Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering,

http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?tp=&arnumber=5590249

Gilly, M. C., Graham, J. L., Wolfinbarger, M. F., & Yale, L. J. (1998). A Dyadic study of

interpersonal information search. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 26(2), 83–

100. doi:10.1177/0092070398262001

Goh, K.-Y., Heng, C.-S., & Lin, Z. (2013). Social media brand community and consumer

behavior: Quantifying the relative impact of user- and marketer-generated content.

(23)

23 Harmon, R. R., & Coney, K. A. (1982). The persuasive effects of source credibility in buy

and lease situations. Journal of Marketing Research, 19(2), 255–260. doi:10.2307/3151625

Hovland, C. I., & Weiss, W. (1951). The influence of source credibility on communication

effectiveness. Public Opinion Quarterly, 15(4), 635–650. doi:10.1086/266350

Jeong, E., & Jang, S. (2011). Restaurant experiences triggering positive electronic

word-of-mouth (eWOM) motivations. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 30(2),

356–366. doi:10.1016/j.ijhm.2010.08.005

Jeong, M., & Mindy Jeon, M. (2008). Customer reviews of hotel experiences through

consumer generated media (CGM). Journal of Hospitality Marketing &

Management, 17(1), 121–138. doi:10.1080/10507050801978265

Johnson, T. J., & Kaye, B. K. (2002). Webelievability: A path model examining how

convenience and reliance predict online credibility. Journalism & Mass Communication

Quarterly, 79(3), 619–642. doi:10.1177/107769900207900306

Kelley, H. H. (1973). The Processes of causal attribution. American Psychologist, 28(2), 107–

128. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0034225

Kiesler, S. B., & Mathog, R. B. (1968). Distraction hypothesis in attitude change: Effects of

effectiveness. Psychology Reports, 23(3), 1123–1133. doi:10.2466/pr0.1968.23.3f.1123

Klein, L. R. (1998). Evaluating the potential of interactive media through a new lens: Search

versus experience goods. Journal of Business Research, 41(3), 195–203.

doi:10.1016/S0148-2963(97)00062-3

Kusumasondjaja, S., Shanka, T., & Marchegiani, C. (2012). Credibility of online reviews and

initial trust. Journal of Vacation Marketing, 18(3), 185–195.

(24)

24 Lafferty, B. A., Goldsmith, R. E., & Newell, S. J. (2002). The dual credibility model: The

influence of corporate and Endorser credibility on attitudes and purchase

intentions. Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, 10(3), 1–11.

doi:10.1080/10696679.2002.11501916

Lascu, D.-N., Bearden, W. O., & Rose, R. L. (1995). Norm extremity and interpersonal

influences on consumer conformity. Journal of Business Research, 32(3), 201–212.

doi:10.1016/0148-2963(94)00046-H

Lau, G. T., & Ng, S. (2009). Individual and Situational factors influencing negative

word-of-mouth behaviour. Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences / Revue Canadienne des

Sciences de l’Administration, 18(3), 163–178. doi:10.1111/j.1936-4490.2001.tb00253.x

Laczniak, R. N., DeCarlo, T. E., & Ramaswami, S. N. (2001). Consumers’ responses to

negative word-of-mouth communication: An Attribution theory perspective. Journal of

Consumer Psychology, 11(1), 57–73. doi:10.1207/S15327663JCP1101_5

Lee, J., Park, D.-H., & Han, I. (2007). The effect of negative online consumer reviews on

product attitude: An information processing view. Electronic Commerce Research and

Applications, 7(3), 341–352. doi:10.1016/j.elerap.2007.05.004

Lee, M., & Youn, S. (2009). Electronic word-of-mouth (e-WOM): How e-WOM platforms

influence consumer product judgment. International Journal of Advertising, 28, 473–499.

Litvin, S. W., Goldsmith, R. E., & Pan, B. (2008). Electronic word-of-mouth in hospitality

and tourism management. Tourism Management, 29(3), 458–468.

(25)

25 Luca, M. (2011, September 16). Reviews, reputation, and revenue: The case of yelp.Com by

Michael Luca: SSRN. Retrieved March 15, 2016, from

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1928601

Ma, M., & Agarwal, R. (2007). Through a glass darkly: Information technology design,

identity verification, and knowledge contribution in online communities. Information

Systems Research, 18(1), 42–67. doi:10.1287/isre.1070.0113

Magnini, V. P. (2011). The implications of company‐sponsored messages disguised as word‐ of‐mouth. Journal of Services Marketing, 25(4), 243–251.

doi:10.1108/08876041111143078

Mills, J. & Jellison, J.M. (1967). Effect on opinion change of how desirable the

communication is to the audience the communicator addressed. Journal of Personality and

Social Psychology, 6(1), 98-101. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0021217

Metzger, M. J., Flanagin, A. J., & Medders, R. B. (2010). Social and Heuristic approaches to

credibility evaluation online. Journal of Communication, 60(3), 413–439.

doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.2010.01488.x

Ohanian, R. (1990). Construction and validation of a scale to measure celebrity endorsers’

perceived expertise, Trustworthiness, and attractiveness. Journal of Advertising, 19(3), 39–

52. doi:10.2307/4188769

Papathanassis, A., & Knolle, F. (2011). Exploring the adoption and processing of online

holiday reviews: A grounded theory approach. Tourism Management,32(2), 215–224.

(26)

26 Park, D.-H., & Kim, S. (2008). The effects of consumer knowledge on message processing of

electronic word-of-mouth via online consumer reviews. Electronic Commerce Research

and Applications, 7(4), 399–410. doi:10.1016/j.elerap.2007.12.001

Park, C., & Lee, T. M. (2009). Information direction, website reputation and eWOM effect: A

moderating role of product type. Journal of Business Research,62(1), 61–67.

doi:10.1016/j.jbusres.2007.11.017

Pornpitakpan, C. (2004). The persuasiveness of source credibility: A critical review of Five decades’ evidence. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 34(2), 243–281.

doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.2004.tb02547.x

Racherla, P., & Friske, W. (2012). Perceived ‘usefulness’ of online consumer reviews: An

exploratory investigation across three services categories. Electronic Commerce Research

and Applications, 11(6), 548–559. doi:10.1016/j.elerap.2012.06.003

Rains, S. A., & Scott, C. R. (2007). To identify or not to identify: A theoretical model of

receiver responses to anonymous communication. Communication Theory, 17(1), 61–91.

doi:10.1111/j.1468-2885.2007.00288.x

Rhine, R.J. & Severance, L.J. (1970). Ego-involvement, discrepancy, source credibility, and

attitude change. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 16(2),

175-190.http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0029832

Sen, S., & Lerman, D. (2007). Why are you telling me this? An examination into negative

consumer reviews on the web. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 21(4), 76–94.

(27)

27 Senecal, S., & Nantel, J. (2004). The influence of online product recommendations on

consumers’ online choices. Journal of Retailing, 80(2), 159–169.

doi:10.1016/j.jretai.2004.04.001

Sparks, B. A., Perkins, H. E., & Buckley, R. (2013). Online travel reviews as persuasive

communication: The effects of content type, source, and certification logos on consumer

behavior. Tourism Management, 39, 1–9. doi:10.1016/j.tourman.2013.03.007

Sundar, S.S. (2008). The MAIN model: A heuristic approach to understanding technology

effects on credibility. Digital Media, Youth, and Credibility, 73–100. doi:

10.1162/dmal.9780262562324.073

Sundaram, D.S., & Webster, C. (1999). The role of brand familiarity on the impact of

word-of-mouth communication on brand evaluations. Advances in Consumer Research, 26(1),

664-670.

Suzuki, K. (2009). Acceptance and rejection of a suggestion. Japanese Psychological

Research. doi:10.4992/psycholres1954.20.60

Tsao, W.-C., Hsieh, M.-T., Shih, L.-W., & Lin, T. M. Y. (2015). Compliance with eWOM:

The influence of hotel reviews on booking intention from the perspective of consumer

conformity. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 46, 99–111.

doi:10.1016/j.ijhm.2015.01.008

Tybout, A. M. (1978). Relative effectiveness of Three behavioral influence strategies as

supplements to persuasion in a marketing context. Journal of Marketing Research, 15(2),

(28)

28 Vermeulen, I. E., & Seegers, D. (2009). Tried and tested: The impact of online hotel reviews

on consumer consideration. Tourism Management, 30(1), 123–127.

doi:10.1016/j.tourman.2008.04.008

Wang, C. C., Li, M. Z., & Yang, Y. Y. H. (2015). Multidisciplinary Social Networks

Research. In Communications in Computer and Information Science (540th ed.) (pp. 448–

459). Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-662-48319-0_37

Werde, B. (2003, March 27) The web diarist as pitchman [Web log post]. Retrieved from

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/27/technology/circuits/27blog.html?ex=1158552000&en

=85f2f6ec883 aa131&ei=5070

Xia, L., & Bechwati, N. N. (2008). Word of mouse. Journal of Interactive Advertising, 9(1),

3–13. doi:10.1080/15252019.2008.10722143

Xie, H., Miao, L., Kuo, P.-J., & Lee, B.-Y. (2011). Consumers’ responses to ambivalent

online hotel reviews: The role of perceived source credibility and pre-decisional

disposition. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 30(1), 178–183.

doi:10.1016/j.ijhm.2010.04.008

Xue, F. & Phelps, J. E. (2008). Internet-facilitated consumer-to-consumer communication: the

moderating role of receiver characteristics. International Journal of Internet Marketing

(29)

29

Appendix A

Stimulus materials: Online reviews

(30)

30 Fig. A.2. Online review on company website with the presence of personal identifying information

(31)

31 Fig. A.3. Online review on independent review website without personal identifying information

(32)

32 Fig. A.4. Online review on independent review website with the presence of personal identifying

information

Afbeelding

Updating...

Gerelateerde onderwerpen :