What We Know and Don’t Know About Online Word-of-Mouth: A Review and Synthesis of the Literature

As a consumer, when you go to a website to do some online shopping, where would you seek product-related information? Would you turn to marketer-generated sources and look for third-party certifications, or just simply looking for related information online? Nowadays, with the advancement of technology and social media, consumers rely more and more on the Internet for information searching and retailing. As a result, electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM) has become an increasingly popular topic among companies and researchers.

eWOM refers to “any positive or negative statement made by potential, actual, or former customers about a product or company, which is made available to a multitude of people and institutions via the Internet.”(Hennig-Thurau et al., 2004) Many existing researches have been working on understanding eWOM. However, do we really know about how eWOM works? Since there is no consolidated synthesis of what we know, King, Racherla and Bush (2014) decided to integrate prior works on this topic and provide a systematic review of eWOM. By reviewing over 190 studies, they conducted a multi-dimensional analysis of eWOM, and the following are some important implications that might be useful for mangers who are trying to manage their online reputation.

In the study, the authors studied the characteristics of eWOM and how these characteristics lead to the dynamics of eWOM. About what motivates people to talk online, the authors point out apart from incentives that motivate traditional WOM like economic rewards and follow-up invitations, volume of messages also plays an important role in motivating consumers to engage in eWOM. If a product possesses more reviews, then it’s more likely to attract more reviews. Moreover, consumers’ willingness to write reviews is positively associated with the level of disagreement with professional review writer, which shows consumers’ attempt to help other consumers when it comes to decision making. On the other hand, studies also show that consumers engage with a community also because they can benefit from the collective creativity. By interacting with other members in the community, it actually helps individuals form new ideas since they are able to see the various ideas and experiences from others. With these insights, firms can take actions to build a better environment for eWOM and encourage consumers to post.

This paper helps us synthesize what previous works say about eWOM. From the paper, we know about what would make an individual actively participating in providing eWOM. With deeper understanding of eWOM and what makes people contribute to it, it becomes easier for marketers to engage consumers in generating eWOM. Managers should keep in mind what are the factors that may affect the dynamics of eWOM. By providing the right kind of environment and stimulus, they might be able to encourage consumers’ willingness to post reviews and build their brands and products even further.



Hennig-Thurau, T., Gwinner, K. P., Walsh, G., & Gremler, D. D. (2004). Electronic word-of-mouth via consumer-opinion platforms: what motivates consumers to articulate themselves on the internet?. Journal of interactive marketing18(1), 38-52.

King, R. A., Racherla, P., & Bush, V. D. (2014). What we know and don’t know about online word-of-mouth: A review and synthesis of the literature. Journal of Interactive Marketing28(3), 167-183.

Online Recommendation Systems in a B2C E-Commerce Context: A Review and Future Directions

Recommendations: who has not seen them? Whenever you go online, different recommendations appear for you: with similar products, with different products, based on your past purchases, or based on what other people viewed. But did you know that all these types of recommendations have different names and different effects?

Li and Karahanna (2015) review 40 empirical studies between 1990 and 2013, that focussed on the understanding of online recommendation systems (RS). An RS is basically a web-based technology, that has the ability to advise and offer a certain product that would satisfy the individual users’ needs.

Based on past literature, three stages in this so called recommendation process have been found. Stage 1 involves the understanding of the consumer (including the collection of consumer data and creating a consumer profile), as well as the delivery of recommendations to this consumer (which are match making approach and the recommendation system presentation). This is followed by a personalized recommendation (stage 2). In stage 3, the impact of the recommendation system is assessed. Stage 3 ‘flows’ back to Stage 1 in the form of feedback.

I think especially the recommendation system presentation and its effect are particularly interesting. Multiple types of RS are discussed within academic literature, such as content-based, visual, collaborative-based and social-network based recommendations. According to Li and Karahanna (2015), these types often overlap in practice, creating hybrid RS.

The content-based recommendation takes into account a consumer’s preferences, as well as his past search and purchase behaviour. A collaborative-based recommendation system does the same, but also takes into account other customers (Other customers also bought…). One main difference is that for the latter, much more data are needed, since you need data on not only one, but more customers.


An example of recommendations on Amazon 

While collaborative recommendations have as a disadvantage that new products do not have such links yet and some customers have atypical behaviour, collaborative RS are often used when it comes to alternative-based and cross-sell recommendations. The latter means that recommended items are generated across multiple, different categories, whereas the first is are mostly based on multiple customer ratings and purchases. The algorithms used for alternative-based recommendations are further based on a bunch of different customers’ clickstream data to detect preferences.

An example of a content-based recommendation is the visual recommendation. While content-based recommendations take past behaviour into account, visual recommendations do not. As expected, this type of RE shows products that are similar to another product a consumer has viewed.

So, which recommendation do you think is most effective?

That is up to you to find out (if you are still looking for a thesis topic)! While a lot of research has been done on the types of RS, limited empirical research exists on which strategies to implement to optimally use the different types of recommendation systems.

Based on some other papers and past theses I have read, I think that the visual recommendation works the least well – it will not increase the sales of one consumer, but I believe it rather shows alternatives to something they were thinking of purchasing (black dress 1, 2 or 3: that is the question). Further, while it might be nice to know what other consumers bought or viewed, I often find it irrelevant to myself. I’d rather shop-the-look if a complete outfit is shown on a model for example. However, with products other than clothes (such as books or videos) it might be different. Hence, go ahead and pick a nice thesis topic regarding these recommendations in different product categories!

Li, S., & Karahanna, E. (2015, February). Online Recommendation Systems in a B2C E-Commerce Context: A Review and Future Directions. Journal of Association for Information Systems, 72-107.


Crowdfunding for charity on chuffed.org

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There are many crowdfunding platforms available on which companies and individuals can attempt to raise money for their cause. I would like to share my thoughts on chuffed.org, an Australian based platform that is one of only a handful of platforms available (one other example is youcaring) that charge no fees to the organisation running the campaign. I personally think their story is inspiring and hope they will be able to survive despite of their current business model. We will look at the way the platform operates from the supplier and customer sides before assessing the business model.

Supplier-side operation

For suppliers of projects, chuffed is a relatively easy to use platform to start hosting funding campaigns. Chuffed has listed a five-step plan to help charities and individuals get underway in starting their first campaign, including best-practices about perks and promoting the campaign on social media. Obviously, chuffed benefits from well-run campaigns so making this as easy to understand as possible is in their favour, and they seem to understand this very well. The biggest reason for causes to use chuffed is probably that they charge no fees on the donations made through the platform. End users must pay the credit card fees on top of the donation amount but this is paid to their PSP: stripe.

Customer-side operation

Chuffed is accessible on a responsive website. End users can browse through the different projects with relative ease. I can understand the choice to save money by not building native apps, but it is still a shame that the site is not very mobile-friendly, especially on lower internet speeds.

On a more positive note, the site attracts consumers from all over the globe. In an interesting blog post containing statistics from 2016, chuffed notes “We’ve only run campaigns in 20 countries, yet donors have come from 152.”.

Business model

Chuffed.org is a social enterprise, so survival is their prime concern. They ask end users for a small donation to sustain chuffed on top of the donation to the specific campaign.


This intuitively seems like a good option to sustain the platform, but chuffed does not disclose numbers on how many donations they receive through this channel so it is hard to assess whether they do a good job of sustaining themselves.

Another interesting survival strategy is discussed in a blog post posted by the CEO. Chuffed received their second round of funding in March 2016 through Blackbird, a venture capitalist. The CEO notes that even though they were rejected for 86 times by various VC’s and other investment parties he persisted in this strategy and that it eventually paid off.


I greatly admire the persistence of chuffed to charge no fees on the supplier side of the business and it appears like they have found a couple of ways to sustain their own platform.

In order to attract more funding from customers, my opinion is that they should invest more in the mobile-friendliness of the platform through native apps.







DHL: Reinventing the role of the customer

Don’t limit co-creation to just problem solving or new product definition; use it to define new markets to grow into- Tony Atti

DHL, the global market leader in logistics, is part of the world’s biggest mail and logistics services company Deutsche Post. DHL provide an excellent example of a company which are using co-creation (where the company and customers collaborate) to generate new business ideas. This is particularly evident in their recent Parcelcopter project. This short  video shows the essence of the Parcelcopter project. (DHL, 2017)


ustomer Co-Creation: what is it?

The term co-creation was coined by Prahalad and Ramaswamy (2004) as ‘the joint creation of value by the company and the customer; allowing the customer to co-construct the service experience to suit their context’. Basically, co-creation means the company and customer work together to, in this case, produce new ideas. This can have a number of benefits for a company, offering a new way to innovate and also boosting customer satisfaction. The more the customer feels that the company is listening to them, embracing and delivering their specific needs, the more the customer wants to be associated/engaged with this particular company.

How does DHL apply Customer Co-Creation?

DHL has used co-creation to improve supply chain logistics with its Parcelcopter project. DHL noticed that their customers wanted to help in rethinking about how to improve their supply chains and thus improve their business performance (customer value proposition). DHL set up some innovation centres and invited their customers to come and interact with DHL employees to share ideas with each other (key resource and process). From this collaboration, a number of new ideas have emerged, including the Parcelcopter. The Parcelcopter (see video for further explanation) is an idea to use drones for delivery, which could improve DHL services. (DHL, 2017)

How well has Customer Co-Creation worked for DHL?

In the beginning, the co-creation concept was received with skepticism, both internally and externally. Customers thought it was a clever marketing/sales technique. The company was forced to take a strong look at its own structure and processes. However, the result has been well worth it. With this structure, customers as well as DHL benefit from the co-creation in distinctive ways. Co-creation aims to improve customer satisfaction/engagement. The customer is better served in this structure. It also aims to produce new ideas whilst lowering research and development costs for the company. There is some evidence suggesting that customer satisfaction improved after they begun using co-creation. According to Forbes, DHL’s co-creation efforts resulted in customer satisfaction scores rising to over 80 percent and a higher level of customer retention (joint profitability). DHL’s co-creation scheme has also helped them to produce a lot of other new ideas beside the Parcelcopter. It is unclear whether it has also allowed them to reduce research and development costs. The institutional environment, in this case,  is less relevant because of the used co-creation platform (customers only interact with DHL employees to share ideas). The feasibility requirement is met, the co-creation concept is implemented and proved to be successful.

Implementing a customer co-creation practice as part of their broader innovation research work is shown as a successful idea. It could also be a useful consideration for other companies to follow the path of DHL.



Prahalad, C. K., & Ramaswamy, V. (2004). Co-creation experiences: The next practice in value creation. Journal of interactive marketing18(3), 5-14.

 DHL.com (2017). Available at: http://www.dhl.com/en/press/releases/releases_2015/group/dpdhl_group_to_foster_global_growth_through_pioneering_innovation_approach.html. Accessed on 02/03/2017

Get the London Look – Snap, Try and Buy

Any girl has heard about Rimmel London (remember: get the london look?) at least once in her life, or has seen the advertisements often containing a celebrity, such as Kate Moss. Now, unfortunately most of us do not look like Kate Moss (no offense), which means that make-up that looks amazing on her, might look a bit less amazing on us. But do you really wanna buy all the products she wears, only to realize that the look shown in the advertisement does not suit you?

Ofcourse not!

Luckily, Rimmel has realized this, and came up with a solution: the Get The London Look app! The app works as follows (Rimmel, 2017):

  1. SNAP – Take a picture of a makeup look in a magazine or from a real person
  2. TRY – Try her look virtually live in the app
  3. SHARE – Share your look with friends
  4. BUY – Buy any product from the app

So, for example, I see Kate Moss in a magazine (preferably in a Rimmel London ad, otherwise I still cannot buy the right product haha), I snap a photo of her look, try it out on myself and if I am unsure, I send the look to my friends. I was really eager to try out the app, but I couldn’t find it in the Dutch iTunes app store. Further, when I tried sending up for an email with the download link through the Rimmel London website, I could not click on ‘accept the terms & conditions’. Not a very good promotion of the app, I’d say 😉

So, what about the efficiency criteria?

If the app indeed works, the joint profitability criteria is definitely met. The consumers benefit from using the app, as they do not need to go the store to get a look done on them or buy unnecessary products that do not suit them. Even though the company had to invest in creating the app, the app will allow them -in my opinion- to obtain more customers. For example, when people try out looks and are happy they obtained a product, they will come back. Further, allowing customers to share looks with their friends will probably make their friends eager to use the app and purchase products as well.

Further, I think the app would be a lot of fun to use. It is always nice to see different make-up looks on yourself (as a girl, at least) and if you want to have extra fun, you can even try it out on guys 😉 To see for yourself, here are two screenshots from the app (taken from here in case you’d like to see more).

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As with the Lancôme: future of beauty blog, the institutional environment is less relevant in this case. Further, the feasibility requirement is met, as the app already exists and has quite some positive reviews on the app store (see here).

If someone manages to download the app, please let me know what you think of it and perhaps we can try it out in class!

To find out more: https://uk.rimmellondon.com/get-the-look/virtual-makeover

Customization of online advertising: The role of intrusiveness

How would you feel when you are browsing on the internet, and you suddenly see an advertisement with your name on it? Or, how would you feel when you see an advertisement with information about your previous transactions? You might think, on the one hand, that it is a good advertisement, because it is tailored to your needs. On the other hand, this might enhance feelings of intrusiveness as well. Well, this is the trade-off that is examined in the paper of van Doorn and Hoekstra (2013).

Continue reading Customization of online advertising: The role of intrusiveness

Chariot: Commuting in a more efficient way.

Don’t want to spend a lot of money on an Uber but still want to be faster than a transportation bus that is stuck in traffic the whole day? You should get in a Chariot van! According to CEO Vahabzadeh, “Chariot is a great way to take the risk off our table and get the community involved in putting together better commuting options for themselves” (Techcrunch, 2015).

At first sight Chariot was ‘just another’ transportation service that managed 15-passenger vans in Austin and the San Francisco Bay Area. Passengers could pay for one-time-only rides but they could also go for the subscription option whereas the number of rides is unlimited. However, there is one major difference in comparison to the traditional transport companies. Where the routes of the traditional busses are getting determined by the city councils and the firms themselves, Chariot is using the wisdom of the crowd in order to determine the best routes. This new business model has led to an expansive growth of the company over the past years, and they are not willing to stop (Techcrunch, 2017).

In the Bay Area for instance, public transportation during rush hour is slow, overcrowded and not satisfactory in terms of convenience. At Charity commuters get the option to put forward a new route through the platform that seems more attractive than the existing routes. If at least 14 other people feel the same about this route, Charity will consider taking up the route in their portfolio, making the public transport more flexible than ever. The service at this moment is such a solution that in the end it could funnel away 30% of the public transport revenue alone. However, the San Francisco supervisors are in such a difficult situation that they have no other choice than supporting this startup (Techcrunch, 2015).

Figure 1; Representation of the Chariot platform. The left image represents the current routes in the San Francisco area at this moment. If you bring up an alternative route, Chariot will check if other commuters would profit from this route as well and will notify you once it is implemented (right image).

Now your question is; why doesn’t Chariot just use services like Waze whereas traffic and other information is just obtained by other road users? (which is another form of wisdom of the crowd by the way). Well, knowing about the particular traffic situation is one thing, but it is even more valuable if you know what person will benefit from this information. A commuter reveals his/her profile by sending information to Chariot that not only will be used to dodge traffic, but it also will be used to lay connections with other commuters. This way it would be possible to deliver the same personalized experience, for a big group of people. As shown in figure 2, this is therefore one of the purest forms of Value Co-Creation (Saarijärvi et al., 2013).

Figure 2; The Value Co-Creation of Chariot and its efficiency criteria.

Given the fact that the idea itself is quite simple, Chariot was certainly not the only one offering these services. Uber, Lyft, Night School, Leap and Loup are among those companies that are forced out of the market Chariot is operating in. Whereas the latter three were failing due to financial issues, Uber and Lyft were suffering from a strange loophole. Because Chariot is using vans instead of busses, they are more likely to receive licenses, insurances and other requirements according to California law (Forbes, 2015). However, as this problem seems quite solvable (when the concept gets rolled out to other states/countries or when Uber is going to use vans as well), it is expected that also in this industry the strongest competitor will survive. Now, since Ford Motor Company recently has acquired Chariot, it might come to an interesting fight.


Forbes (2015) forbes.com. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/scottbeyer/2015/09/08/chariot-wins-first-round-of-san-franciscos-private-transit-battle/#52c6dfa063e6. Accessed on 01/03/2017

Saarijärvi, H., Kannan, P. K., & Kuusela, H. (2013). Value co-creation: theoretical approaches and practical implications. European Business Review, 25(1), 6-19.

TechCrunch (2017) techcrunch.com. Available at: https://techcrunch.com/2017/01/09/fords-chariot-ride-sharing-service-will-expand-to-8-cities-in-2017/ Accessed on 01/03/2017

TechCrunch (2015) techcrunch.com. Available at: https://techcrunch.com/2015/01/26/chariot-new-route/ Accessed on 01/03/2017