Electronic word of mouth communications and consumer experience : an evaluation of pre- and post- purchase responses and reactions to verbal and visual online reviews

Vignardi, Melissa (2018) Electronic word of mouth communications and consumer experience : an evaluation of pre- and post- purchase responses and reactions to verbal and visual online reviews. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


Increased Internet access and consequent use of electronic word of mouth ( e WO M) has re­ defined the word of mouth (WOM) landscape with communication coming increasingly from weak tie sources, as consumers share verbal (written reviews) and visual (photos) content. This online information exchange is frequent but lacks the physical cues usually found in face-to-face interactions. As a result, the process of evaluation of the perceived helpfulness of pre-and post-purchase eWOM differs from that of its traditional offline sibling. This thesis researches how consumers interact with eWOM relating to hotel choice before and after a booking is made. It investigates consumers' eWOM processing of, both verbal and visual; the development of consumers' perceptions of helpfulness of eWOM over time, and consumers' eWOM communication behaviour in a three-study staged process. The concepts underpinning this research are related to functional and hedonic aspects of information processing; and approach-avoidance theory. A multi-method approach is adopted in which consumers' interactions with pre-and post-purchase eWOM are examined qualitatively (Studies 1 and 2); with post-purchase interactions also studied quantitatively (Study 3). Thematic analysis of Study I indicates multiple roles of the aspects of eWOM (i.e. valence, volume, temporal cue, consensus, homophily, fairness, completeness, relevance and accuracy). Consumers might use them to: (1) perceive trustworthiness; (2) to save-time; and (3)to interpret the helpfulness of eWOM. Their interpretation of helpfulness is informed by their perceived fairness and relevance of verbal and visual eWOM. The longitudinal element of Study 2 subsequently identifies the fluid and complex development of these perceptions (i.e. fairness and relevance) over time (between pre-and post-consumption) for verbal and visual eWOM. Study 2 also untangles the different meanings given to motivators of eWOM communication and identifies a number of elements discouraging eWOM production. Study 3 develops specific measures of these inhibitors using a well-accepted methodology. This research makes several distinct contributions: Study 1 advances knowledge by combining functional and hedonic elements of information processing and develops the previously understudied concepts of fairness and subjective aspects of homophily. It also explores the roles of visual eWOM on information processing. The major contributions of Study 2 are identifying changes in perceptions of eWOM over time and to expand understanding of the positive and negative issues affecting eWOM production post-purchase. Previous research has focused on motivators; inhibitors by contrast have received little attention. Study 3 addresses this omission by developing specific measures to assess the effects of inhibitors since no scales currently exist. If marketers more fully understand the reasons why consumers fail to produce WOM, they can develop strategies to reduce the imbalance between widespread eWOM use and its restricted production.

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