Thepersuasive effects of online reviews on consumer decision making and attitudeformation.                         John Parry – 7261816016BUSMK – Consumer PsychologyVito TasseiloMarketing BA – Liverpool John Moores University2500 words ContentsIntroductionMainBodyConclusionReferencesIntroductionA fundamental goal of consumerpsychology research is to shed light on the underlying physiological factorsthat drive consumer behaviour (Tormal and Briñol, 2015).

A focus for this essaywill be how eWOM can be a driving factor for persuasion in the decision-makingprocess. The power of interpersonal influence through word-of-mouthcommunication has been well recognised in consumer literature (Awad andRagowsky, 2008). Word-of-mouth being, interpersonal communication regardingproducts or services where the receiver regards the communicator as impartial(Stokes and Lomax, 2002). With the rise of digitalconsumption, has to a shift to eWOM (electronic word of mouth) we have accessto more information online than ever before, with this we also have access tomore opinions, changes in overall marketing communications had already been seenin Kitchen (1993) describes marketing as having gone from a renaissance duringthis period leading to mainstream web usage. An early researcher in Festinger(1954) focused on how people evaluated the correctness of their opinions bycomparing them to the opinions of others. Although traditional views held that crediblesources were more persuasive because people have a heuristic that, “if anexpert says it, it must be true” (Chaiken, 1980).

In recent times, the internethas made it convenient for consumers to both create and gather positive andnegative product information provided by peer consumers (Hennig-Thurau et al.2004). Persuasion theory itself studiespersuasive effect by changing the various factors including the communicators,information contents, pathways and receivers, summing up the factors that influencecommunication effect as source, message and receivers (Hovland, 2011). Our ownpersonal attitudes are formed from the world around us, our attitudes in termaffect our decision-making, attitudes refer to the general and relativelyenduring evaluations people have of other people, objects, or ideas (Tormal andBriñol, 2015). Attitudes can differ in their extremity or the extent to which theydivide from neutral (Abelson, 1995).

A contemporary theoreticalframework of the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) of persuasion (Petty andCacioppo, 1986). The ELM takes the form of two paths of persuasion and overallattitude change. There are two routes the central route and the peripheralroute. The central route to persuasion consists of thoughtfulconsideration of the arguments (ideas, content) of the message. The peripheral route to persuasion occurs when the listener decideswhether to agree with the message based on other cues besides the strength ofthe arguments or ideas in the message (Persuasion, 2004). ELM is one of themost frequently used theoretical frameworks in studies on e-WOM (Chan and Ngai,2011).

In this essay I shall be analysingacademic sources whom have researched the affects that eWOM can have on overallconsumer decision making through persuasion. Online customer reviews provideproduct information and recommendations from the customer perspective (Lee,Park and Han, 2008). Explored the idea by what degree to reviews online have aneffect on the overall attitude formation (Chatterjee, 2011).       MainBodyPersuasion itself is often discussedas three different factors the source, the message and recipient. Each of whichare important in distinguishing how exactly how our consumers are persuaded.For my analytic research I shall be focusing on the first of these the source,more precisely eWOM as a source for persuasion; with focus on online reviews.Brinol and Petty (2009) summarizethe dimensions that source can have on overall message.  Individuals are more certain of an attitudewhen that attitude stems from a credible (i.

e., trustworthy and expert) sourcethan from one that is not credible. For example, Clarkson, Tormala, and Rucker(2008) exposed participants to a message for a department store that came froma source low or high in credibility. They found that individuals were morecertain of their attitude when the source was high as opposed to low incredibility.

Source credibility is often themost source factor discussed with regards to persuasion, this an interestingtopic within eWOM the source being that of fellow peers. Expertise andTrustworthiness, trust from fellow users is high, as they have nothing to gainfrom telling the truth about a product. The decision-making process, is theprocess by which a consumer decides to commit to the purchase of a product.

Eitherthe process can be simple or complex but it is always personal. As marketers,we want to be able to analyse the process so that we can best apply and targettheses said people. Kotler’s black boxmodel used as a basis for our understanding of decision-making. As theblack box refers to what we do not have control over rather these are personalfactors that we can look to craft and mould. Attitude formation, frameworks forthis within consumer psychology from Petty can be used to analyse the formationof attitudes and the differing types of consumers. Given the well-documentedlink between attitudes and behaviour (Fishbein and Ajzen, 1975), its importantthat we as marketers understand how consumer come to these decisions.Word of mouth (WOM) is the processof conveying information from person to person and plays a major role incustomer buying decisions (Richins & Root-Shaffer, 1988).

By looking atonline reviews as a variable, we can see how this form of eWOM has helped toform and construct attitudes. WOM is seen as more credible than advertising asit is perceived as having passed through the evaluation of “people like me”(Allsop et al., 2007). Therefore, marketers can use it as a powerful tool.

  Review communities are among thefastest growing on the internet, used for people voicing their opinions (Armstrong and Hagel 1996). Other people’sopinions are useful in lowering the amount uncertainty and amount ofinformation that must be processed to make a decision (Olshavsky and Granbois1979). Also a sense of belonging had relatively themost impact on consumers’ eWOM intention (Cheung and Lee, 2012).  Cognitive StudiesAstudy by Lee, Rodgers and Kim, (2009) looked to see by what degree valance ofconsumer reviews had an effect on consumers when looking to purchase a laptop. Fortheir research experiment they printed out webpages were used with information,the study is experimental as when looking online we perceive and browsemultiple tabs, being forced to read one page.(Dohand Hwang, 2009) performed a study to examine how eWOM effects consumer behaviourand how we interpret messages. By understanding how consumers interpret eWOM wecan look to better understand overall review dissecting Zhu and Zhang (2010) confirmed thatthe number and the score of reviews can influence customer purchase intentionsignificantly by empirical methods.

Their research shows similar findings toprevious research performed by (Wood et Al. 1994; Tormala, Petty & Densai,2010) as people have been shown to more influenced by numerical majorities thanby numerical minorities. This could be because majorities are thought to bemore persuasive because people seek to belong to be accepted by the majoritygroup (Moscovi, 1980, 1985). This shows us that for online reviews to beeffective that they have to appear to be the opinion of not just one person buta group of people, this can be see with the ability to rate other peoplesreviews online for their personal effectiveness and opinion validation. A cognitive study by Lee (2009) adoptsthe Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) to explore the effects of online reviews.

258 undergraduates were asked to review online reviews for a smart phone from Amazon,those whom participated in the experiment for extra credit. From his research herevealed that the argument quality of online reviews has a positive impact onthe purchasing intention of online shoppers. Moreover, the quantity of onlinereviews has a positive impact on the purchasing intention online consumers (Lee,2009); this is correlation to the research of (Zhu and Zhang, 2010).

Lee’sstudy is limited because it only examined the moderating role of extrinsicmotivation involvement (Haugtvedt et al., 1992).Lee, Park and Han (2008) used theELM (Elaboration likelihood model) to explore the effects negative onlinereviews had on product attitude. They were looking at the proportion andquality of negative reviews The first argument that the argument quality ofonline reviews has a positive effect on the purchasing intention of onlineshoppers, he found that they are more persuasive than weak quality reviews thatare subjective and emotional.

Because online reviews are published in a writtenformat they’re easier to observe and compare. Lee, Park and Han (2008) focusedon the effective that negative reviews can have on overall product attitude.Their research based off the ELM model. By acting as an informant andrecommender, online consumer reviews have the capability of influencing thedecision-making process of consumers (Lee, Park and Han, 2008).  Each subject was given a gift, which can swaybias, as with real online information search we do not gain any pleasure out ofresearch. Their study in focusing on not only positive but negative effects ofonline reviews, has expanding the use of the ELM.

It has been well documented thatwithin the travel industry, online reviews are very prominent with sites likeTripAdvisor and Expedia built with consumer input at the fore (Bearne, 2016). Filieriand McLeay (2013) study on how consumers used online reviews, Travelers appearto adopt both a peripheral and a central route to information adoption. Theperipheral route is primarily influenced by the ranking of accommodation. Thisis complemented by adopting a central route and using specific informationquality dimensions to process information (Filieri and McLeay, 2013).

(Lee and Lee, 2009) examinedthe actions of a customer when inferring product information from electronicword-of-mouth (eWOM) material at a website.Cheung and Thadani (2012) producedan integrative framework for the study of impact of eWOM communication. Theframework based of five essential components of eWOM: communicators, stimuli,receivers, responses and contextual factors. Mayzlin and Chevalier (2006)studied the effects of online book reviews of and Barnesandnoble.comand found a positive influence of word of mouth on sales. Evidence fromreview-length data also shows that consumers read review content rather thanrelying only on summary statistics.

Conclusion– Managerial ImplicationsAs marketing managers, we give ourcustomers tools to comment and review as they see fit on our products, managementof online reviews has been increasingly integrated into marketing communicationstrategy (Lee, 2009). Not only with the reviewing of products but with the reviewingof the overall business, we see often now websites with trust pilot ratings,and we as consumers who do not see a good combination of reviews as well asquality will choose to take our custom elsewhere; this agrees with the researchpreviously discussed. It is important that we understandhow our content is being perceived, using brain scans we are able to see how onneurological level. Neuromarketing is a new wave thinking of exploring thethought processes of consumers through analysis and testing. the directobservation of the reactions within the brain that is now available through theuse of steadily improving methods of imaging techniques, for example, positronemission tomography (PET) or functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), isproviding a completely different perspective (Plassmann et al., 2007). This can be seen with Amazon’s acquiredof good reads, a way of seeing what books people are interested in and thentargeted them with offers based around the idea of reviews. We have found that consumer conformto online customer reviews.

In the cognitive studies of bothLee and Zhu and Zhang. The quality and the amount of reviews is important in overalleffectiveness of persuasion, this is seen in studies by both lee and zhu and zhang.We can take from this that us as marketers should look toensre that all of ourcontent is easily reviewable and it has the capacity to be apporartly reviwedby our users.Focus on the idea of consumeradvocacy. Built on the theoretical frameworkof the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) of persuasion (Petty and Cacioppo,1986)The Aida model, developed by Strong1925, is made up of Awareness Interest Decision and Action, these are fundamentalswithin marketing communication. Due to the conformity of consumers,we should have a system in place that allows for reviews that receive an x number of downvotes to be removed. As mostopinions do not believe in what is being said although we should be transparentin this as we do not want to be appearing to censor the opinions of the public.

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