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

An Exploratory Study on the Adaptive Word-of-Mouth Communication in Seeker-initiated Context: Product FocusWOM communication occurs mainly among people in close relationships. An interviewee (sender) indicated that he recommended the product to his girlfriend because he can borrow the product from her. This type of motivation is viewed as egotism, and it differs from economic motivation. Rosen mentioned that spreading WOM information has its own economic benefit because the value of a product increases when more and more people consume it (for example MSN or facebook). However, egotism is the direct motivator of purchase linked to the usage of the product, and it seems reasonable when the dyad has a strong relationship, for example, partners or family members.
Types of Sender’s WOM Comments
Providing WOM comments to a friend is a highly adaptive behavior. This study proposed three types of WOM comments, which can be explained in figure 2. Web Data Mining

First, some senders provided detail product analysis or detail comparison between alternatives. Most of them were experts or opinion leaders of that product category. They usually provided comments based on objective analysis and tried to help the seeker to compare different product in the market. They acted more like tutors who help the seekers form their decision criteria. From their analysis, the seekers learned the most important attribute of the product and made the decision accordingly. Sometimes, the senders may have suggested the “best buy” for the seeker.
Market Focus
The sender’s WOM comments focused mainly on sharing price information, product news, and channel evaluation. That is, they provided information about when or where to buy the product. In our data, the senders may have focused on market information because they had just made their own purchase decision (pair 8, 9, 13) or because the sender was in related job position (pair 3).
Experience Focus
The senders may have also shared their product-related consumption experience. Their conclusion included their personal experience and feelings and hence was more vivid to the receiver. Although, they also provided product analysis, their suggestion was filled with subjective and emotional sentences. In experience focus type, the senders were more likely to share their WOM comments actively. For example, in pair 8 and 9, the seeker asked for detail information about the service (medical service and mark-up service) because they recalled that the senders once shared their experience with them.
Although, this study proposed three different types of comments, they are not exclusive because the sender exchanges opinions with the seeker in a continuous and dynamic communication process. For example, many people will not only give product news but also provide product analysis. People who share their consumption experience might also provide detail market information.
Two important factors, tie strength and the seeker’s decision dependency, seem to affect the depth of the sender’s WOM comments. As shown in figure 2, the relationship between the seeker and the sender is the most important factor affecting the depth of WOM recommendation. People with close relationship are more involved in their friends’ decision and more willing to provide strong suggestions. Some senders even took their friends’ purchase decision as their own. For example, in the case of pair 14, the sender helped her sister make a travel decision not only by providing personal comments but also by participating in the entire decision process, collecting information to comparing different travel agents to making the final decision.
Second, some people seem to avoid providing solid suggestions when they realize that the seeker’s decision is highly dependent on their comments. For example, in the case of pair 11, the seeker (sister-in-law) asked the sender to make the final decision about a laptop for her, which made the sender feel nervous because he felt total responsibility for her decision. Similarly, in the case of pair 5, the sender avoided to provide solid suggestion about a second-hand car for the seeker.


Figure 2. The model of adaptive WOM comments

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