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

Sender-Initiated WOM
Previous works have suggested that the main reason for people to spread WOM messages in sender-initiated context mainly because that the consumers’ consumption-related expectations are disconfirmed. When consumers’ consumption-related expectations are disconfirmed, they engage in WOM communication to release their tenseness. That is the reason why people actively spread WOM when they feel surprised or angry. In fact, it could be argued that WOM dispersion is a kind of social sharing of emotions. According to Derbaix and Vanhamme, people will actively share about 90% of their emotional experiences. Since WOM information is related to personal experience and contains emotional sentences, it can be more vivid and stir response from the receiver that is more emotional. Therefore, it can have a greater effect on the receivers’ buying decision.
Early research had confirmed that opinion leaders and market mavens are important WOM senders. These individuals have significant interest in a certain product, actively look for product information, and most importantly, they like to share their knowledge and experience with others. Their motives for spreading WOM information, according to Dichter, could be classified into four categories: product-involvement, self-involvement, other-involvement, and message-involvement. In many cases, people are highly involved in product consumption and actively spread WOM information. Sundaram et al. conducted 390 critical-incident interviews and identified four motives of consumers to actively spread positive WOM messages; namely, altruism, product involvement, self-enhancement, and helping the company. Public Service

Seeker-Initiated WOM
Mangold, Miller, and Brockway found that seekers’ need for information far more likely initiated WOM communication compared to senders’ satisfaction level or the marketing organization’s promotional efforts. When consumers lack the ability to evaluate a buying decision before making a purchase, they are likely to request the experience of relatives and friends who have already used the product. WOM has proved helpful before a purchase in reducing consumers’ uncertainty and assisting customers in comparing alternative services. From this standpoint, consumers who actively seek WOM are searching for a surrogate for direct experience.
Past research confirmed that risk reduction is the main reason for WOM seeking behavior, followed by search time reduction and gathering product information. Consumers also read product-related information on opinion platforms in order to evaluate the product and determine its associated social status. However, in seeker-initiated WOM context, it is somewhat unclear if the senders are willing to give their advices about a product. Drawing from exchange theory framework, people will try to defend their self-image as well as to show connoisseurship or enhance their image. In a high-risk decision task, (for example, “Should I buy this second-hand car?”), the seeker is eager to search for a recommendation; however, the sender may be averse to give advice for s/he is also not sure about the result. In fact, WOM communication is a continuously adjusted process that “reflects the joint influence of an array of information, product, situational, and (inter)personal factors,” especially in the seeker-initiated WOM context.

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