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.

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