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

An Exploratory Study on the Adaptive Word-of-Mouth Communication in Seeker-initiated Context: IntroductionConsumer research has traditionally viewed WOM as self-evident, assuming that it involves only messages exchanged among and between individual customers. However, when researchers examined the power of WOM, they actually meant at least two different types of behavior. First, based on the information sharing theory, people may actively share information with their friends to help them make a decision or to signal their wisdom. This sender-initiated WOM is the key successful factor for many fads or popular goods; for example, the Harry Potter book series and the Endnote software in the academic society. One of the major issues in this research stream is to identify the WOM sender, such as opinion leaders or market mavens. Payday Loans Online

Second, WOM may be triggered by receiver’s request. Especially when individuals experience a high degree of uncertainty about a particular buying situation, they usually ask their friends for product opinions or even delegate the entire purchase decision to their friends. According to Mangold, Miller, and Brockway’s study, the seeker initiated over 50% of the WOM incidents. However, it is somewhat surprising that little research examined the effect of WOM in this situation. Besides, to our knowledge, none of the past studies tried to distinguish different effects of the seeker-initiated WOM and the sender-initiated WOM. When people actively acquire WOM references, they are largely influenced by WOM information. Therefore, in this study, the authors will focus on the seeker-initiated WOM behavior.
A major problem with this kind of WOM communication concerns the sender’s response strategies. Considering a high-risk buying situation, which is extremely uncertain in its performance or outcome, the seeker will heavily count on the sender’s opinions. However, the sender may hesitate to provide a concrete suggestion for s/he may not be able to confirm both the product’s performance and the seeker’s preference. The sender might give different WOM message in different situation and different relationship. WOM behavior here reflects the interplay of two overarching social interaction goals: the impression goal and the accuracy goal. The message giving in this situation is highly adapted to the way the WOM seeker requests information, to the product’s category, and to the relationship between WOM dyad. WOM in different context influences the message exchanged between the seeker and the sender, which in turn affects the power of WOM information. Without classifying different types of WOM behavior, we cannot really understand the power of WOM. For researchers and practitioners alike, viewing the WOM behavior as a continuously adaptive interaction between the WOM dyad would be a key step toward a richer theoretical understanding of this complicated and multifaceted phenomenon.

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