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Why do customers participate voluntary?

Nowadays, firms are willing to involve other people in their product development and product support activities instead of their own employees. It is obvious that companies will have benefit from this work. But why would customers help those businesses? In this article, we will first focus on the virtual customer environment research. Because of upcoming technologies is it possible that customers can help firms by giving their opinion. Customers are interfering with product ideas, product design, product testing and product support activities.

Research shows that when the quantity of product-related content will be high, the customer beliefs that the participation to this virtual customer environment will result in higher learning benefits, social integrative benefits, personal integrative benefits and hedonic benefits. The learning benefit has to do with the understanding and with the knowledge of products. The social integrative benefits are related to the participating customers and potential members. There will be created a relationship between those customers. The personal integrative benefits are defined by the status or reputation. The last element, hedonic benefits, is related to the interaction of the customer. The research also shows that the customer is more willing to participate when he/she finds that there is a stable member identity and that those members are highly active on this community.

Thus, the company must give the impression that the product-related content in this virtual community is very high. Therefore the customer is more willing to participate, because he or she thinks it will be rewarded with intangible benefits. There also must be visible that there are a lot of members and that those members are active users.

This research is applicable on online support forums. But a lot of companies can have advantage of this information. They can apply this on their own business idea, in combination with there website, already existing or make a new website. But also in stores can this be applied. When customers are more willing to participate when there are many more participants, you can easily give them access to the other opinions. Stores can have a real life competition or co-creation development. But they can also do this by filling in their recommendations in the store, for example on a survey. Companies can also ask the opinions of the customers in stores themselves. Imagine a clothing store, when the salesmen can directly ask what the customers likes and dislikes in store, he can send those feedback to the headquarter. But there can also be, for example a display in store, where the votes on several outfits or clothes are visible. This will lead to further co-creation of the customer and the company will have benefit as well as the customer!

Baron, R., Nambisan, S. (2009).Virtual Customer Environments: Testing a Model of Voluntary Participation in Value Co-creation Activities. The Journal of Product Innovation Management

Co-Creation with Food Allergies

Many people have developed an allergy for some certain food. It looks like some kind of trend nowadays; a lot of people are deleting some ingredients in their daily meals. Some people are just trying a new diet, hoping they will lose weight. But the amount of people who really have an allergy is high. It is very difficult for those people to control what they eat. When they cook themselves they can easily check all the ingredients. Therefore it is really difficult for them to eat in a restaurant, because they have no control. Those restaurants also want to satisfy their customers, they are also concerned with corporate social responsibility (CSR). There must become accessible information for the restaurant about how to respond on those particular customers. The main problem is the lack of information of the employees. Most of the time the employees do not know which ingredients are in the dishes. Sometimes, they do not want to admit this and as a result they do give a wrong advice. Second, the employees are somewhat uncertain about the ingredients, and they will ask the cook. They come back and look at least as uncertain as before, this affects the customer. The customer will become even more insecure, because no know really knows if it will cause damage, as it happens an allergic reaction.

Restaurants need to deal with this issue. This has influence on the entire business, the menu formulations, and the methods of obtaining ingredients, maintenance of the ingredients’ information, employee training, cooking and storage. It is about the whole design until the meal is places on the table. The process must become easier for the restaurant as well as for the customer. Therefore they need mobile devices, like an smartphone or an tablet. This can be installed as an app on the customers’ device or an mobile device owned by the restaurant. The customer can see which dishes are appropriate for him/her and the cook can see this easily. Even when there are some questions or uncertainties, the chef can quickly asks the customer to clarify. There is no need for an intervening employee, but when the app is explicit there is not even need for questions. The customer can also identify the amount of certain herbs and spices is allowed. The customer can give feedback and help develop the app. When a customer identifies the personal allergy, it can indicate what is related to this allergy. When there are more customers, it will become some sort of a database that is easy and quick to access for restaurant(s). This needs some extra money to invest in the mobile devices for the restaurants. But this will be paid back finally. Customers with allergies will be able to dine out in nice restaurants. They will not be alone but bring – most of the time – at least one person with them, therefore a double win-win for the restaurant!


  • Khosrow-Pour, M. (2014). Inventive Approaches for Technology Integration and Information Resources Management. IGI Global. 317-332
  • Robert J. Harrington , Michael C. Ottenbacher & Kelly A. Way (2013) QSR Choice: Key Restaurant Attributes and the Roles of Gender, Age and Dining Frequency, Journal of Quality Assurance in Hospitality & Tourism, 14:1, 81-100

Do Recommander Systems Manipulate Consumers Preferences?

Recommender systems are important in the decision making. Those systems provide the customers suggestions. As a result of this, firms can better serve their customers. This will also lead to an increase in sales. Research has focused on the development and the improvement of recommender systems. But there is not quite much studied about the behavioral implications of using recommender systems. Are those recommender systems manipulating the customers?

Most recommender systems use the consumers ratings items as input. Those recommendations the system provide present an expectation of how well a customer will like an item. There is also a feedback loop, those are the actual ratings of the customer after the purchase has been made. The recommendations are based on the actual ratings of a customer who already has tried this product or item.

There is a possibility that people are influenced by elements in the environment when they make a decision. The first one is the anchoring issue. People are maybe consumed drawn, because the system is presenting an item to them and they choose it. It is important to know if a customer really likes it or just chooses it because it is presented in a advantageous way. It is difficult for people to see if an item is reasonable for them. It could be presented as a advantageous choice, but it will maybe be the opposite!

When there is uncertainty, a customers seeks for the most plausible item. The suggested item is viewed as the ‘correct’ answer, therefore a lot of people will choose this. The users belief that the recommender system will choose the right option for them, therefore they choose what the systems presents to them.

Users that will receive a high recommendation from the recommender system, will also give higher rating after they bought/used it and vice versa. What they saw as a rating, has influence on their own rating. They are biased. This is although not symmetric.

There is an significant effect when the recommendation is raised, but not when the recommendation is lowered. It is notable that this effect is not only taking place when the uncertainty is high, it also operates at the point of consumption.

Also is the reliability of the system important. When the system is known as reliable, the customers’ ratings will be more close to the recommendation the customer has seen before. When the system is thus less reliable, the ratings given by the customer will be less close to the recommendation.


Adomavicius, G., Bockstedt, J. C., Curley, S. P., & Zhang, J. (2013). Do recommender systems manipulate consumer preferences? A study of anchoring effects. Information Systems Research, 24(4), 956-975.

Cosley D, Lam S, Albert I, Konstan JA, Riedl J (2003) Is seeing believing? How recommender interfaces affect users’ opinions. Cockton G, Korhonen P, eds., CHI 2003 Conference, Fort Lauderdale FL (ACM, New York), 585–592.