Situation / Problem
Word of mouth (WOM) is the concept of interpersonal interaction on the marketplace. More and more marketplaces can be found online, which contributed to the rise of e-WOM. With content becoming easier to upload, the quantity of e-WOM information that is available to the digital audience has increased significantly.
As a result of this increase the relative share of knowledgeable contributors is lower, leading to a harder search for robust online information. Because of this and the lack of user identification on the internet, the quality and credibility of e-WOM may decline.
The main objective of this study was to propose a conceptual framework that integrates the key features of different media channels to see how this affects the e-WOM credibility.
The key concepts that were expected to affect the e-WOM credibility are bridging, bonding, information richness and channel interactivity. Bonding is defined as a close and stable relationship between users, whereas bridging is more relevant to users with different backgrounds that are tentatively connected.
The hypotheses that were tested to meet the objective of the paper are summarized in the model below. + have been added to indicate the relationship’s nature.
The method the researchers used to conduct this study is an online survey that was distributed by e-mail. There were 3,400 recipients of which 530 responses were analyzed. The respondents were asked to indicate their agreement or disagreement with a statement on a 5-point Likert scale. Media channels that were analyzed are e-mail, forums, social-networking sites, virtual worlds and short-message services. The demographic characteristics of the respondents were tested and were similar to the original online community groups.
Except for hypotheses 1c and 3d all were accepted. To illustrate the path analysis results the following figure comes at hand:
The findings of this study implicate three things: first, both bridging and bonding were found to be correlated to the credibility of e-WOM, but only through the bridging component. This indicates that diversity among the sources of e-WOM is more important than the closeness of these sources. Since bridging is associated with a high diversity of messages, it suggests that managers should encourage an easy and accessible stream of diversified information to increase the credibility of the channel.
Secondly, the information richness of a channel is strongly related to the credibility of this e-WOM channel. It seems that these channels facilitate tracking of the message and thus make it easier for readers to evaluate the source. To increase credibility of their channels, managers should provide a functionality that enables this easy tracking.
Last, this study indicated that there was a positive, but indirect relation between the interactivity on a channel and the e-WOM credibility. Thus, it seems that interactivity allows users to take more advantage of the richer information, bonding and bridging.
Criticism & implications
This study was limited to five different media channels, so it has excluded many other channels that could potentially lead to different results. Also, the proposed model was found to apply across channels, but not necessarily for channels individually. This raises the question whether the model is complete and if the researchers’ claims will hold. Further research in other channels and with an altered model will have to point out.
Article: Levy, S., & Gvili, Y. (2015). How Credible is E-Word of Mouth Across Digital-Marketing Channels?. Journal of Advertising Research, 55(1), 95-109.