An Exploratory Study on the Adaptive Word-of-Mouth Communication in Seeker-initiated Context: Discussions and Conclusion

This research investigates the adaptive motivations of WOM communication in the seeker-initiated context. By applying the dyadic in-depth interviewing method, the author can directly examine the patterns of seeker-initiated WOM communication. Overall, the results of this study triggered us to reconsider WOM communication as a highly adaptive behavior. The senders adapted their recommendations according to the seekers’ request styles. Unlike the results found in previous research, motivations for people to spread WOM in response to the seeker’s request is very different from that of it being actively spread. Risk aversion and egotism are two unique motivations only found in the seeker-initiated context. People used different strategies to reduce possible feelings of regret, or they might have tried to benefit from their friends’ purchase decision by suggesting the product they themselves want. University teachers

When the sender is aware of the high cost of an unsuitable recommendation, risk aversion motivation will dominate the communication. Some senders have tried to avoid possible regret from unsuitable WOM recommendations and used different strategies to provide their opinion without initiating a solid suggestion. First, they might have suggested various products with different pros and cons. The seekers had to do more research before making their own decision. Second, they might have taught the seeker how to make decision. In other words, they tried to provide a decision rule for the seeker. Third, they might have just provided objective information without pointing out which product might be the best. Finally, they might have just shared their experience, including good and bad side of the product. No matter what strategies they used, they all encouraged the seeker to do more research prior to making a final decision.
Since WOM communication is a highly adaptive behavior, the sender will adjust his/her WOM comments in accordance with different request styles made by the seeker. In this study, four types of WOM requests: dependency decision, decision direction, product consulting and social interaction, are proposed. It seems that all senders respond to different WOM requests in a very similar manner. The sender feels free to share personal experience and product comments when the main goal of communication is social interaction. The sender avoids possible regret from WOM giving when the seeker greatly depends on his/her judgment. The depth of WOM comments, as I call the “referral laddering,” is contingent on both personal factors (e.g., expertise, perceived risk, opinion leadership, age) and interpersonal factors (e.g., tie strength, decision dependency). This study is presenting the preliminary results of this issue that requires further investigation to be expanded into a more comprehensive model.
Although this study offers a fresh perspective on WOM behavior, several limitations and future research suggestions deserve mentioning. First, given the preliminary nature of the study, the study’s samples may be biased in that the study collected data chosen from a small-scale convenient sampling method. Moreover, to conduct the dyadic analysis, the WOM sender was limited to only one person and was introduced by the seeker. This method simplified each WOM episode to one-to-one communication; however, in reality, most people seek decision assistance from more than one person when the decision is risky. The simplification is helpful when trying to analyze dyadic data, but future research may focus on the integration of WOM into a multi-communication model based on this research investigation.
Second, the study used retrospective recall to collect the WOM episode. Thus, interviewees had a tendency to recall the most memorable and most recent incidents. Although the author used different strategies to encourage interviewees to recall as many WOM seeking situations as possible, it is important to recognize that the retrospective method may not perfectly produce the most typical incidents. Since the study didn’t adequately control WOM incidents to a specific product, the variance result from different product types may be high. Future research is obviously required, but this is an exciting first step.
Third, since WOM communication is a highly culturally related behavior, it is extremely possible that the interaction patterns between the dyad will be somewhat different in comparison with collectivism and individualism culture. For example, past research found that the Japanese have an extremely risk-averse society compared to Americans. Hence, it is reasonable to assume that the benefits and costs of giving recommendations are potentially higher in other-focus society than those in a self-focus society. Future research will hopefully clarify this important issue.

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