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
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
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 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 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 which we present the results. We conclude with a discussion, the limits of our research,
suggestions for future research and managerial implications.
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 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.
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 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 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
But online not every review encloses source characteristics. On some review websites there is
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 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
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 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.
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.
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 (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
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).
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
‘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
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 were more capable in identifying the identity disclosure than participants who were assigned
to the condition without personal identifying information.
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 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 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
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 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 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
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
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Stimulus materials: Online reviews
30 Fig. A.2. Online review on company website with the presence of personal identifying information
31 Fig. A.3. Online review on independent review website without personal identifying information
32 Fig. A.4. Online review on independent review website with the presence of personal identifying