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Consumer awareness and the use of product websites Reviews

الكاتب : باسنت عيسي











Consumer awareness and the use of product websites Reviews
















Introduction


One of the major developments on the internet, from a consumer behavior perspective, is the growth in the number of websites where consumers can provide and read product reviews, and voice their complains and opinions about various goods and services (Armstrong and Hagel 1996; Bailey 2004; Boush and Kahle 2001; Chatterjee 2001; o'leary 2002; Perry 2000) A number of consumer –developed and market –developed websites allow consumers to provide reviews of , and feedback on , various brands that are available in the market place .

Among some of the well known product reviews websites are : a)e-opinion (http://www.eopinions.com) ,which bills itself as ''a premier consumer reviews platform on the web and a reliable source for valuable consumer insight ,unbiased advice , in-depth product evaluations and personalized recommendations'' (http://www.eopinion.com/about); b) consumer search's productopia (http://www.productopia.com), which had it's genesis in it's founder's need to access multiple sources of product information prior to purchasing a desktop publishing system for a new business (http://www.productopia .com/) ; c) consumer review .com (http://www.consumer review .com ), which '' consumer visit to learn , interact , and buy or sell the products show cased within … network of webs communities '' (http://www.consumerreview.com /channels /consumer review/data/main/about-us.html) ;and d)cnet.com (http://www.cnet.com) , where one can find a number of reviews of electronic and technology products .

These kinds of websites, consumer have access to a wealth of information, prior to , and even after , making various shopping decisions The extent to which consumers rely on these websites for information has been the subject of previous research (Chatterjee 2001;Dholakia and soltysinski 2001 ; Dholakia , basuroy ,and soltysinski 2002).

Chatterjee (2001) contended that word- of – mouth information available online is far from voluminous in quality , compared to information that may be available offline ; can be negative or positive in valence ;and comes from a variety of sources .This voluminous quality of information has been shown to impact consumer behavior (see, eg , Bickart and schindler 2001; Dholakia and soltysinski 2001 ;Ratchford ,lee and Talukdar 2003)
The stream of the research on the word – of – mouth communication also would suggest that consumers are likely to utilize information found online product review websites .However, much of these studies have been experimental in nature, where participants have been deliberately exposed to product review websites and the asked to provide their feed back.

Word – of – mouth (WOM) effects provides plenty of evidence that a satisfied customer may tell some people about this experience with a company , but a dissatisfied one will tell every –body he meets . Virtual communities with active members who provide evaluations and opinions on products and firms now provide a venue to tell the world and represent one of the fastest growing phenomena on the web (Armstrong and Hagel 19960.

It is not surprising therefore , that providing consumers a venue to voice their opinions , recommendations and complains and monitoring this word – of – mouth activity has become a business and some firms pay (in cash ,points , recognition) consumers for their contributions (Tedeschi 1999) since they can be used as instruments to complete for consumer attention and visits (eg , eBay , oxygen media ) . While some reports in the popular media provide a anecdotal evidence that companies are listening, little is known if complains are reviews posted at websites are instrumental in charging purchase decisions of consumers who read them. In this we found that WOM which is negative affect evaluations and patronage intensions.

In addition of WOM (positive or negative) which has an effect on consumer purchasing decision and tend to be a source of acquiring information, we also found opinion leaders tend to be one of the most important factors that influence consumers .

Opinion leaders are ''trusted and informed people who exist in virtually all primary groups '' because they are ''models '' of opinion, they can be major influencers on market effort through word of mouth communication to circles of relatives, friends and acquaintances.

Katz and Lazarsfeld described a two step flow of communication – information flows from a mass media to mass audiences through the mediation of so called opinion leaders Glock and Nicosia point out that opinion leaders ''act not only as channels of information but also as a source of social pressure toward a particular choice, and of social to reinforce that choice once it has made.

Opinion leadership can be used effectively to predict important aspects of market behavior with specific product categories. A small segment of consumers appears to exist in virtually every socioeconomic group and to influence that group's ideas about product related issues .These models of consumer opinion seem demographically indistinguishable from their associates, except for higher incomes and occupation level.

The characteristics which do distinguish them appear to reflect their unique involvement with market topics. Compared to nonreaders in a particular topic, opinion leaders read more media about related consumer issues, they are more knowledgeable about related new product developments; they participate more often in related consumer activity, and they drive grater satisfaction from those activities.

It was found that consumer's have the ability to acquire and share their experiences, opinion and knowledge through the use of electronically based forums, bulletin boards, listsevs, and news paper.


Hagel and Armstrong (1997) suggest that the greatest profit making potential on the internet centers on the development of these kinds of virtual communities, which consumers with the ability to develop relationships, exchange information on a specific topics and buy and sell products . Where it is one of the important issues that identify how online communities such as (forums, bulletin boards, listsevs) have an impact on consumer behavior. With this consumer communities discussion participants can obtain product information, learn general information about activity and develop relationships with others to increase product purchases and facilitate participation in community related activities.

This online chat room, discussion websites has an effect on consumer behavior and attitude toward corporations and brands based on what is known word of mouth.

The streams of research regarding consumer complaining behavior (Goodwin,1989;Kelly and Davis ,1994;Blodgett et al ,1995) , consumer boycotts (for example Garrett ,1987,Smith,1987,sen et al .,2001) and consumer protests about companies (Rockwell , 1996;Kilman ,2000) have generated much discourse and contributed to our knowledge of the factors that generate these negative dispositions . In addition it has focused on the impact on the consumer attitude and behavior (Bone, 1995; Mangold et al, 1999; Bickart and Schindler, 2001)

It was found that the internet has facilitated consumer –to- consumer articulation in a number of ways , which angry consumer can vent their anger at corporations by launching corporate complain world wide web sites there by facilitating negative consumer – to consumer communication (Harrison –Walker , 2001;Wolrich 2002).
A number of www sites have crapped up on the internet their specific aim being the fomenting of negative communication bout companies. These corporate complain www sites afford anonymity to the consumers who launch them as well as to those consumers who visit them to support the causes of launchers.

Other consumers have access to the opinions provided on these www sites and in the discussion groups and chartrooms that some of these sites space on, Some of these corporate complain a www site indicates that employees and former employees are also among those who regularly in complain on these www sites.

Where consumers not only obtain information and opinions on companies from aggrieved customers but also from disgruntled employees.

No longer is consumer –to – consumer interaction regarding companies a purely private , face –to – face matter , now consumers have a public forum for engaging other consumers in negative discussion about some companies and brands , albeit impersonally.

In order to achieve positive consumer behavior and attitude to ward online purchases and to gain increase in the purchasing decision it is important to gain consumer trust which is depend on credibility.

Advertisers frequently use endorsers or spokespersons as credible sources to influence consumer's attitudes and purchases intention. Corporate credibility – the reputation of a company for honesty and expertise is another type of source credibility that can influence consumer reaction to ads and shape brand attitudes.

The concept of credibility has been and will continue to be of interest to scholars and practitioners in marketing and advertising- Endorse or spokesperson credibility has received considerable attention in the academic literature (Aronson, Turner and Carl smith 1963, Bergin 1962; Bochner and Insko 1966; Goldbergand Hartwick 1990; Sternthal, Phillips and Dholakia 1978).
Where credibility refers to the extent to which the source is perceived as possessing expertise relevant to the communication topic and can trusted to give an objective opinion on the subject (Belch and Belch 1994; ohanian 1990). Where also the reputation of a corporation is one of the important issues for a company success, where fomburn (1996) defines corporate reputation as a perceptual representation of a company's past actions and future prospects that are an aggregate of many personal judgments about the company, Where fombrun (1996) explicitly incorporate credibility is one of the important aspect of corporate reputation.

Men and Women differ in both their perceptions of risks associated with shopping online and the effect of receiving a site recommendation from a friend.

Where gender perceptions of the online shopping risks differ based on the negative outcomes related to this process. There are five risks associated with buying online (credit card misuse, fraudulent sites, loss of privacy, shipping problem and product failure)
It was found that women perceive a higher level of risk in online purchases than men do. In addition, having a site recommended by a friend leads both a greater reduction in perceived risk and stronger increase in willingness to buy online among women than among men.















Research problem

Consumer awareness and the use of websites reviews one of the most
Important issues that take place in the online marketing, as the consumer awareness with this websites affect its attitude and purchasing behaviors. So the research problem will be summarized into the following main questions:

Q1: What is the level of awareness among consumers of product review websites?

Q2: To what extent do consumers use these websites in their decision making?

Q3: Do individual difference factors such as consumer susceptibility to informational influence and e-opinion leadership impact consumer use of product review websites?

Q4: Are there differences between men and women in the use of product review websites, given prior research that has shown gender differences in the other areas of internet usage?










Research objectives

The purpose of this study is to:

1-Analyze and evaluate the importance of website reviews and the level of consumer awareness toward them.

2-The extent in which consumers use website reviews in their decision making and the way it affect its decision and purchasing behavior.

3-Identify the factors such as (consumer susceptibility to informational influence and e-opinion leadership) that would affect consumer use of product websites reviews.

4-Examine the difference between man and women in applying to the product websites reviews and internet usage.












Research Importance

The research importance is highlighted in the following points:

Theoretical importance:

1- The research in social psychology that has pointed to the impact that social influence can have on people's behavior, social information consists of comments and observation made by people whose views an individual considers relevant, word of mouth communication is one type of social influence that has received extensive attention in consumer behavior literature.

2- Consumer susceptibility has an important role in affecting consumer respond to websites , opinion leaders role in affecting the decision and the attitude of consumer where opinion leaders and agents with higher levels of subjective knowledge had more favorable attitude about internet



3- Research has investigated the link between gender and online behavior, with some of these focusing on the use of information in the online context.






Practical importance:



1-This study aims at attracting attention to the level of consumer awareness of product websites review.

2-This study tries to identify the extent do consumers use these websites in their decision making.

3-It tends to identify the factors such as consumer susceptibility to informational influence and e-opinion leadership which have an impact on consumer's product review websites.

4-This research used to identify the differences between men and women in the use of product websites reviews, and show difference in Internet usage.










Research hypotheses

After analyzing the literature review, the researcher can conduct the following research hypotheses, which are:

H1: level of awareness among consumers of product review websites.

H2: Extent do consumers use these websites in their decision making.

H3: Difference factors such as consumer susceptibility to Informational influence and e-opinion leadership impact consumer use of product review websites.

H4: differences between men and women in the use of product review websites, given prior research that has shown gender differences in other areas of internet usage.











Research Methodology

Questionnaire design:

A survey was conducted in order to answer the above research question The questionnaire used in the study contained items that asked whether respondents had ever made purchases online and their purchase histories , and about the respondents level of awareness of product review websites and how they had become aware of them .

The response to whether they had ever purchased items online was used as a screening question, since the interest was primarily in consumers who had made purchase online.

Respondents were also asked about their visits to product review websites and whether they had ever provided feedback at these sites. They also completed 4-item consumer susceptibility to informational influence scale, which is a part of the longer CSII scale (Bearden, Netemeyer, and Teel 19890 and %-item e-opinion leadership scale, which represented on the adaptation of the Reynolds and Darden (1971) opinion leadership scale, but with the focus on online behavior.

Demographic information such as respondent's age, gender, race, income, and employment levels as well as level of education was also gathered.










Sample

Data were collected using students.
These students were asked to administer the survey to an adult respondent other than themselves in the city where the university is located (Goldsmith, Lafferty, and Newell 2000; Lau and Ng 2001) .The received extra curses credit for their participation in data collection approach.
A majority had incomes below $15,000 (35%), although there were a number of respondents who earned in excess of $50,000(26.4%). most were full time (41.8%) or part-time (36.4%) employees.


Data Analysis

After obtaining various descriptive statistics a number of Mann –Whitney U-tests were performed, alternately using susceptibility, e-opinion leadership, and gender as grouping variables.
























Literature Review

Online commerce is so new that few studies of demand drivers are available. A pioneering effort by Hoffman and Novak (1996) focuses on design and performance features that make online sites more or less enjoyable, productive and subjective to repeat use. Useful insights can also be found in Hauser, Urban and Weinberg (1993) and Burke et al (1992) on the display of information and subsequent consumer choices. No con senses yet exists on the key factors that encourage consumers to try particular location or service from the wide menu of option .However , the ability to capture vast amounts of server data and conduct relatively in expensive online experiments suggests that this list will grow rapidly in the near future .

Theoretical work by Bikhchandani ,Hirschleifer , and Welch (1992) ,Banerjee(1992) , and Orlean (1995) has shown that the signaling power of market leadership can cause large changes in market position even if consumers anticipate only small asymmetric in quality or if the information content of earlier consumers choices is not judge to be high.

The aim of this paper is to add to the discussion on the use of product reviews by consumers. Previous assessments of consumer use of product review websites have used experimental studies where consumers were forcibly exposed to information about these types and perception (Chatterjee2001; Chiou and Cheng 2003; Senectal and Nantel 2004)

One of the most pervasive determinants of an individual's behavior is the influence of those around him. This social influence has generally been referred to as conformity and looked upon as the relatively simple act of going along with or agreeing with a visible majority (Jahoda, 1959).

Much of the work in social influence has followed theoretically from the conformity studies of Asch and his associates (Asch, 1953) and Sherif's (1936) work in social judgment .In a study following from this research, Venkatesan (1966) found that native subjects were influenced in their public evaluation of men's suits by the prior public evaluations of three confederates of the experimenter who were unanimously and confidently in agreement on their evaluations. He concluded that ''a group pressure was effective and that individuals tended to conform to the group norm (Venkatesan, 1966). A more recent modified replications of this study achieved similar results (Sims, 1971).
An early review by Mc Guire (1968) summarized numerous theoretical and empirical articles dealing with various aspects of susceptibility to interpersonal influence and the relationship of susceptibility to other individual traits and characteristics. This review concluded that susceptibility to interpersonal influence is a general trait that varies across persons and that person's relative influence ability in one situation tends to have a significant positive relationship to his or her influence ability in a range of social situation.

Mc Guire (1968) also cited evidence showing that conformity and persuasibility exist across occurrences.

Further, susceptibility to influence by others is related to other personal characteristics (e.g. self-esteem, influence) (Mc Guire 1968; Petty and cacippo 1981).Cox and Bauer (1964) pointed out that people with low self esteem comply with others suggestion to avoid social disapproval.
Cox and Bauer research demonstrated that a relationship between self –confidence and persuasibility, previously found among men, also existed among women under some conditions .Like wise, Janis (1954) cited both clinical and correlation studies that suggested that some people consistently are amenable to social influence while others are consistently resistant .Based on his research, Janis (1954) concluded that individuals with low self esteem tend to be more readily influences than others. Like wise, Berkowitz and Lundy (1957) found that person's lows in interpersonal confiedence are more susceptible influence.

I) social influence, consumer susceptibility to interpersonal influence and online product reviews:
(Measured by Mann –Whitney U-tests)

There is a large body of research in social psychology that has pointed to impact that social influence can have on people's behavior (Apanovitch, hobfoll ,and Salovey2002;Asch1955 ;Dolinski,Nawrat,and Rudak 2001).
Social information processing theory (Salancik and Pfeffer 1978) addresses mechanisms by which Peers influence an individual's behavior and attitudes.
According to this theory, social information consists of comments and observation made by people whose views of comments an individual considers relevant. Researchers have shown the effects of social influence in different spheres (Dolinski, Nawrat, and Rudak 2001).





Deutch and Gerard (1955) have distinguished two types of social influence They refer to informational social influence as the ''influence to accept informational obtained from another as evidence about reality'', that is, as evidence about the true state of some aspect of the individuals environment .They reserve the term normative social influence for the influence to conform to the expectations of another person or group.

According to kelman (1961), social influence operates through one or more of three distinct processes. Interpersonalization is said to occur when the individual accepts influence because it is perceived as ''inherently conducive to the maximization of his values''; that is, the content is perceived as being inherently instrument to the attainment of his goals.

(kelman, 1961).Identification is said to occur when an individual adopts a behavior or opinion derived from another , because the ''behavior is associated with a satisfying self-defining relationship '' to the other ;that is , the role relationship between the individuals self concept (kelman ,1961).Compliance is said to occur when the individual conforms to the expectations of another in order to receive a reward or avoid punishment mediated by that other .

Each of kelman's process relates to one of Deutsch and Gerard's social influence types .The process may be distinguished in the terms of the motivational antecedents salient in the given influences situation .An informational social influence would be accepted if it is perceived as being instrument to the solution of some problem confronting the individual or because it supports or adds to what the individual already believes about some salient aspect of his environment.

A Normative social influence may be accomplished through either the process of compliance or identification .If the individual is motivated to realize a reward or avoid a punishment mediated by others, the individual would be expected to conform to the influence of that other .This compliance would occur , however , only if the individual believes his performance will be visible or known to that other .therefore , the individual in a product evaluation situation would be expected to comply with the prior evaluation of others only where his evaluation is visible to others who perceived by him as mediators of significant reward or punishments .


The persuasion and compliance literature (Cialdini, 2001; Perloff, 1993) provides descriptions of many effective social influence mechanisms that increases the likelihood of compliance .Some of these techniques are based on the use of specific vocabulary. Cialdini and Schroeder (1976), for instance, demonstrated that when people are being asked for financial contributions, compliance is increases by assuring them that ''even a penny helps '' .This added phrase discourages the person from justifying his or her refusal by saying ''I cannot afford to contribute ''or ''I am a poor person myself ''

Sometimes It helps to word the request for financial contribution in a less typical way .In an experiment conducted by Santos,Leve,and Pratkanis (1944), contributions were solicited in the street .The request was either typical.

Howard has observed that this ''foot-in-the-mouth'' technique is being frequently used by social influence practitioners .He proposed that the underlying mechanism is related to one's sense of obligations and desire to appear consistent. In Howard's view, having publicly declared one's own sense of well-being, one feels obliged to show care for the well-being of others who are not fortunate.

Taking all this into account, Aune and Basil (1994) proposed on alternative explanation of the foot-in-the-mouth phenomena .they suggest that by asking people about their mood and then expressing delight after hearing that it is good, the respondents are induced to experience the relation of interpersonal closeness with the interlocutor .In turn, this interpersonal closeness produces the respondents relational obligation to comply. Thus, Aune and Basil concluded that compliance may be induced by other verbal statements that may produce the perception of interpersonal closeness.

Why should dialogue, in contrast to monologue, make respondents more complain? Obviously, the nature of verbal contacts with persons one knows is different than it is in encounters with strangers: frequently, the interacting partners who know each other need fewer words, because they can refer to some shared past experience or knowledge (eg, Clark, 1985; Hopper, Knapp, and Scott, 1981). Also people are more likely to reveal their intimate thoughts and emotions to persons they know than to strangers (eg, Bavelas, Black, Chovil and Mullett, 1990; Knapp, 1984).






However, apart from the different content, each of these two types of situation typically involves a different mode of communication .People who knows each other exchange information and comments as well as react to each other's statements.

Social psychology research provides ample evidence that in our interactions with other people, we automatically react to certain stimuli (Cialdini, 2001; Kitayama and Burnstein, 1988; Langer, Blank and Chanowitz, 1978; Slugoski, 1995). We are suggesting that the mode of communications also can function as a primary stimulus in such situation. A number of studies show that people are more likely to comply with requests made by friends and acquaintances than those made by strangers (eg, Argyle and Henderson,1984;Boster,Rodriguez,Cruz,andMarshal,1995;Roloff,1987,Janiszewski,McGrath,Burns,and Manrai,1988).

Thus it is possible that the interaction between the experimenter and participants that were based on dialogue (characteristics of encounters between friends or acquaintances) resulted in increased compliance because it primed the participants to act as though the experimenter were a friend.
Although susceptibility to interpersonal influence appears to be an important individual difference variable for the study of consumer behavior, it unfortunately has been neglected as a general trait in recent literature .However, numerous recent articles from psychological and consumer research have documented the existence of manifest interpersonal influence upon individual decision process (eg, Cohen and Golden 1972;Kassarjian and Robertson 1981;Moscovici 1985;Sherif 1935) .In consumer research, these studies include the efforts Ford and Ellis (1980) , Moschis (1976) , Stafford (1966), and Witt and Bruce (1972).

However, most of these investigated the tendency of subjects to conform to group norms or to modify their judgments based upon other's evaluations and did not address the various types o interpersonal influence operative in a given situation .Only few studies have addressed the dimensions of susceptibility to interpersonal influence and it's effects upon decision processes .In this regard Deutsh and Gerard (1955) posited that interpersonal influence is manifested through either normative or informational influences

Burnkrant and Cousineau (195) defined normative influence as the tendency to conform to the expectations of others .consumer research has a separated normative influence into value expressive and utilitarian influences (Bearden and Etzel 1982; Park and Lessig 1977; Price, Feick, and Higie 1987).Value expressiveness reflects the individual's desire to enhance self image by association with a reference group .value expressiveness is motivated by individual's desire to enhance or support his or her self –concept through referent identification (Kelman 1961). Value expressive influences operate through the process of identification, which occurs when an individual adopts a behavior or opinion of another because the behavior or opinion is associated with satisfying a self _defining relationship (Brinberg and Plimpton 1986; Park and Lessig 1977; Price et al 1987). Value expressive influence was found to vary across selection decisions of products that differed in consumption conspicuousness and of services that varied regarding consumer preference heterogeneity and referent co orientation (similarity).

Utilitarian influence, the other type of normative influence mentioned, is reflected in individual's attempts to comply with the expectations of others to achieve reward or avoid punishments, and it operates through the process of compliance (Burnkrant and Cousineau 1975, see Bearden and Etzel 1982; Park and Lessig 1977; Price et al 1971) .Compliance occurs to gain reward or to avoid punishments mediated by other.

Deutsh and Gerard (1955) defined informational influences as a tendency to accept informational from others as evidence about reality. Informational influence may occur in two ways ,individuals may either search for informational from knowledge others or make inferences based upon the observation of the behavior of others (Park and Lessig 1977).Informational influence operates through the process of internationalization which occurs if information from others increase the individuals knowledge about some aspects of the environment .informational influence has been found to affect consumer decision processes regarding product evaluation (Burnkrant and Cousineau 1975;Cohen and Cohen 1972;Pincus and Waters 1977) and product /brand selection (Bearden and Etzel 1982;Park and Lessig 1977).

Word of mouth communication is one type of social influence that has received extensive attention in the consumer behavior literature, though much focus has been on negative word of mouth communication, as opposed to positive word of mouth communication (Laczniak, Decarlo and Ram swami 2001; Richinis 1982, 1983, 1984; Singh 1990).
Researchers have shown that word of mouth communication has an impact on consumer attitude (Bickart and Schindler 2001); consumer risk taking (Woodside and Delozier 1976); short-term and long –term product judgments (Bone 1995);purchase decisions and choice behavior ( Lau and Ng 201) and is related to such variables as consumer complaining behavior ( Blodgett,Granbois ,and Walters 1993).




The research on word of mouth is particularly relevant in the discourse on consumer use of online product review websites, since the informational found on these websites represents electronic word of mouth.

Informational conversation is probably the oldest mechanisms by which opinions on products , brands and services are developed , expressed and spread , Whyte (1954) found the presence of a vast and powerful net –work consisting of neighbors' exchanging product information in contexts such as ''over the clothesline '' across backyard fences'', Subsequent investigation of word of mouth (WOM) phenomena presented evidence that WOM is important in the purchase decisions and choice behavior in the following areas household goods and food products (Katz and Lazarsfeld,1955); dental products and services (Silk,1966);physicians (Coleman,Katzand ,and Menzel, 1957);farming practices .

Katz,1961);voting(Lazarsfeld ,Berelson, and Gaudet 1944);Razorblades (Sheth,1971), automobiles (newman and Staelin 1972),adoption of new products (Engel ,Keggereis ,and Black well ,1969;Rogers, 1983;Sheth,1971).Tan and Dolich (1983) found that the general public in the U.S and in Singapore receives relatively more information via WOM than from the mass media indicating that WOM is a phenomena that is not limited by culture barriers .

Despite numerous studies on WOM in the last few decades, most writers have considered only positive and not negative WOM .WOM is usually discussed in terms of informing others about new products rather than consumer communication about existing products .While Arndt (1968) has concluded that WOM can accelerate or retard the acceptance of new product, this has shed little light or negative WOM as a dissatisfaction repose. few published research projects have examined why some dissatisfied consumers engage in WOM while which others do not .Richins (1983) fond that problem severity and blame attributions are crucial determinants of the amount of the effort to a consumer is likely to expend in a response to a dissatisfaction, while the choice between WOM and the complaint behavior is influenced by the perception of retailer responsiveness. This study seeks to explore the extent of negative WOM and to investigate some factors that may influence negative WOM and the likelihood of repeat purchase after customer has given a negative WOM.

WOM has been referred to a product –related conversation, personal recommendations, informal communication, and interpersonal communication. There are two distinctions between word of mouth activities and commercial mass communication .First, the WOM communicator is in direct, face – to – face contact with receiver while mass communication relies on different types of media transmit information. Second , as WOM is a consumer dominated channel of information , the communicator is though to be independent of the marketer (Arndlt,1967,Silverman 1997) as a result , it is perceived as a more reliable, credible and trustworthy source of information .

WOM has been studied both as an input consumer decision making (Bloch, Sherrell, and Ridgeaway, 1986) and as an outcome of the purchase (Richins, 1983).

In the pre-purchase stage, as a risk reducing strategy consumer seek product information by participating in the WOM process. Positive and negative WOM are examples of exists behaviors by consumers at the conclusion of service encounter (File, Cermak, and Prince, 1994; File, Judd, and Prince 1992) or usage of product (Bone, 1992).

The internet has facilitated more connections among consumers and is a forum for the exchange of information among consumers (Armstrong and Hagel 1996; Chatterjee 2001; Hennig-Thurau et al .2004). Prior research has shown the impact of the internet as a medium on consumer behavior >Bickart and Schindler (2001) , for example, investigated how discussions within online communities impacted consumer behavior. Results from their study pointed to the efficiency of online forums in generating product interest. There was more focus ,however , on how this information can be used to assist website developers with the development of better websites Ratchford , Lee and Talukdar (2003), is a study using data on automobile purchases collected in 1990and 2000 , found that the use of the internet as an information source limited the amount of search in which consumers engaged . This suggests reliance on the internet as a source of information.

Hanson and Putler (1996) concluded a study on heard behavior & online product popularity in which they manipulated the perceived popularity of programs on a large commercial online system. The download counts of software, defined by them as how many previous users had obtained a copy of the software program were artificially increased by repeated downloading. Then they recorded subsequent downloads of the programs made by an online services subscribers, to assess whether a difference in relative downloads levels would influence future downloads for two products that were essentially the same .They found that the manipulation increased downloads of the treated program.

The possible impact of the virtual environment on consumer behavior was further under scored by Dholakia and his colleagues. Dholakia and Soltysinski (2001) provided evidence for the herding bias in online auctions. This herding bias represents the tendency of many years to ''gravitate toward, and bid for, auction listings with one or more attractive un bid for auction listings within the same product category and available at the same time '' (Dholakia and Soltysinski 2001).One factor that increased the herding bias, according to their study, was the difficulty to evaluate quality within a product category.

The suggested that consumers in these online auctions observed and used other's behavior as a guide to their own, Dholakia, basurory, and Soltysinski(2002) indicated that psychologist have found that the observable behavior of others exert strong influences on individuals , since observed behavior may guide goal – directed behaviors by benefiting the informational and social motives of the decision maker.

Chatterjee (2001) investigated whether negative word of mouth information or reviews of online retailers affected evaluations and patronage intensions.

In this study , online word of mouth information was operationalized as retailer reviews provided by comparison shopping engines , along with purchases information .The study focus on the effect of negative reviews on consumer decisions to patronize the retailer , a given that consumers needed to purchase a particular product .
Their results showed that a majority of participants wanted to access product reviews when they were told that these reviews were available. Overall, they found that effect of negative consumer reviews on consumer's perception of reliability of a retailer and patronage intension's was moderated by the level of familiarity with the retailer.

The action most frequently reported by consumers who have rejected or discounted using a product is telling a friend about the experience and urging them to avoid it (Day, 1978; Leonard-Bartin, 1985).
Many researchers have suggested that negative information tends to lead a grater attention to and weighting of that information.

Lutz,1975;Miserski,1982;Wright,1974), Arnat(1967c), for example found that negative WOM retarded sales of food product more than twice as strongly as positive WOM has also lead to the failure of many motions pictures ,Richins(1984) argues that negative WOM will be communicated to more people than positive WOM. Based on ecdotal evidence about the spread of rumors, it is suggested that a negative message may travel farther than positive message through retransmission.

In earlier research, the influencer was often thought to be an opinion leader .However, a dissatisfied customer who initiates negative WOM need not be an opinion leader, and yet his opinions can have adverse effects on the marketer (Blodgett, Granbois, and Walter, 1993)

Therefore, this research will focus on this group of consumers to understand what the factors are that will influence negative WOM behavior.

Chiouand Cheng (2003) manipulated message favorableness message number, and brand image to assess their impact on online consumers' perception and attitudes. They concluded that message favorableness and message number in the online discussion forum impacted consumer's brand evaluation and attitude towards the web owner .More recently, Senecal and Nantel (2004) investigated consumer's usage of online recommendations sources and found that those participants in their study who consulted product recommendations selected recommended products twice as often as those who did not consult recommendations source and product category.

Prior research has shows that there are a number of individual difference variables that are likely to impact consumer's response to the internet (Bagozzi and Dholakia 2002; Hennig-Thurau et al 2004).To date, no study of which we are aware has looked at the extent to which susceptibility to interpersonal influence might impact how consumers respond to websites, such as product review websites. Consumer's susceptibility to interpersonal influence (CSII) has been a source of interest for marketing researchers. This construct relates to the extent to which consumer's are amenable to influence from different sources of information. Researcher's opinion that this is a general trait that varies across people (Bearden, Netemeyer, and Teel 1989; Mc Guire 1968).



Bearden, Netemeyer, and Teel 1989 and Deutch and Geread (1995) point to the different dimensions of CSII: a) normative influence that is tendency to conform to the expectation of others; b) informational influence that is the tendency to accept information from others as evidence about reality (Deutch and Geread 1995).
In the current study, the interest was in susceptibility to informational influence, given the nature of product review websites as sources of informational for consumers.
Park and Lessig (1977) suggest that in the case of informational influence , consumers whom they regard as knowledgeable , or they form their judgments and decisions by observing others .previous research has also shown an impact of informational influence on consumer behavior (eg, Burnkrant and Cousineau 1975;Latour and Manrai 1989;Lord Lee,Choon, 2001;Park and Lessig 1977) .


Opinion leadership and product review websites:
(Measured by Mann –Whitney U-tests)

Consumer opinion leadership has been of interest to marketers for a long time .It is based on the idea that there are ''certain people who are most concerned about the issues and as well as most articulate'' (Lazar sfeld, Berelson, and Gaudet 1948).

Lazar sfeld, Berelson, and Gaudet (1948) referred to these people as opinion leaders, and they exert interpersonal influence .Corey (1971) posited that they were ''models of opinion '' who could be influencers on marketing efforts by word of mouth communication to people around them .Merton (1957) made a distinction between those opinion leaders that influence opinions in limited spheres and those opinion leaders who exert interpersonal influence in several different spheres. Most of the literature review on opinion leadership relates to interpersonal communication in an off-line sphere (eg Bloch 1986; Corey 1971; Flynn, goldsmith, and Eastman 1996), with few recent studies investigating opinion leadership in an online sphere (Eastman, Eastman and Eastman 2002; o'cass and fenech 2003).

The construct of the opinion leadership has its roots in the work of Lazarsfeld, Berelson and Gaudet (1948), which was built on by Katz and Lazarsfeld (1955), Cartwright and Zander (1960), Rogers (1961) and Rogers and Cartano (1962). Rogers and Cartano supplied the first version of what becomes the king and summers (1970) opinion leadership scale. The majority of the rest of the work on opinion leadership focuses on the motivations for opinion leadership (Ditcher 1966; Robertson 1970; Schiffman, Dash, and Dillon 1975), measurement issues (Childers 1986; Flynn et al. 1944; King and Summers 1970),and the outcomes of opinion leadership (Bloch 1986) The concept , however , needs a consensus definitions if it is to be used effectively to understand consumer behavior .For that we , look to Rogers and Cartano :opinion leaders are ''individuals who extent on un equal amount of influence on the decision of others ''. Their understanding of opinion leadership as a personal influence is a clear and concise and if one looks at the work done since that time, one can see that it is all based on their early study.

Unfortunally, the most common self – report scale used to measure opinion leadership is child's version of king and summer's instrument. the history of this conduct is marketing shows that history of this construct in marketing shows that this scale is more likely to measure of the proclivity to engage in social communication than a measure of influence of other consumers (Flynn et al 1944) .although opinion leaders ( influencers ) are very likely to communicate with others by virtue of their involvement in the product category and although there is agreement that opinion leaders ship is domain specific (Engel et al 1990) , it is their influencer that is important and central to the theory of opinion leadership .

Opinion seeking is less well documented than opinion leadership in the marketing literature. The existence of opinion leadership however is predicated on idea that other people seek and then follow the advice of opinion leaders.

When we actively seek advice from another that person becomes an opinion leader'' (Engel et al 1990).

Katz and Lazarsfeld (1955) described many ways in which opinion leaders and thus seekers function.
The two step flow of communication implies that the leaders learn from and form opinions from the mass media and then pass their opinion on to others. These receivers influenced by opinion leadership, the consumers at the end of the two step influence the flow, and the opinion seekers. Opinion leaders can not exist without opinion seekers, implying that opinion seeing is also domain specific. The concept of the social communication, however describes only the exchange of information and not the phenomena of opinion leadership and opinion seeking whether by influence exerted.
To understand opinion seeking, it is important to examine motivation. Opinion seeking has been conceptualized as a subset of product information search. Consumers seek opinions to make more need satisfying purchase decision (Punj and Stael 1983).







Eastman, Eastman, and Eastman (2002) focused primarily on insurance sales agent and their use of, and attitude toward the internet. Using the Flynn, Goldsmith and Eastman (1966) opinion leadership scale, they developed opinion leadership scores, as well as subjective knowledge scores for these sales agents. They then compared these sores to attitudes toward the internet. They found that agents with a higher level of subjective knowledge about the internet were more likely to be opinion leaders about the internet.

In addition, opinion leaders and agents with higher levels of subjective knowledge had a more favorable attitude about the internet. However, they found significance only for the relationship with opinion leadership. sales agent who were younger than the mean age 46 years old were more likely to be opinion leaders , and they hah a higher level of subjective knowledge of the internet , a primary conclusive of theses researcher was that perceived knowledge and the willingness to issues the internet with others impacted the agents' attitude toward the internet . They also concluded that younger agents would play a major role in how the internet would be used.

O'cass and Fenech (2003) utilized the technology acceptance model (TAM) and applied it in an assessment of adoption of the internet for retail usage among a convenience sample of Australian web users. Among the constructs in which they were interested were opinion leadership and its role in impacting web usage. They found that it was one of the antecedents that impacted user's perception of the usefulness and ease of use of the web for retail purchases.

The foregoing leads to expect that in the online domain, opinion leadership will have an impact on consumer's use of product review websites. we refer to opinion leadership online domain as E-opinion leadership and adopt the offline definition of the construct for the online domain: consumer's ability to influence other online consumer's opinions (eg Fynn, Goldsmith, and Eastman 1966; Reynolds and Darden 1971).E-opinion leaders are more likely than non-E-opinion leaders to give their opinions and the internet provides a forum for them to dispense these opinions.







Gender:
(Measured by Mann –Whitney U-tests)

Prior research on men's and women's use of the internet has reveled gender differences in online communication (Savicki, Lingenfekter , and Kelly 1997).This stream of research has investigated the link between gender and online behavior , with some of theses focusing on the use of information in the online context (Garbarino and Stahilevitz 2004;Ha and Stoel 2004;Sheehan 1999).Sheehan (1999) conducted a study to assess gender differences in attitudes and behaviors towards marketing communication involving the gathering of online privacy ,. They also explored attitudes toward online privacy .they surveyed group of internet users regarding fifteen advertising and marketing situation. This study established gender differences in concerns for online privacy.

They survey a group of internet users regarding fifteen advertising and marketing situation. Their study established gender differences in concerns for online privacy.

Women were more concerned than men about the type of information that they shared online. There were also gender differences in certain online behaviors, such as taking steps to protect one's privacy, with women taking fewer steps than men to safeguard their online privacy.

Most of recent growth in the online community has been among female consumers; while the male online community increased by approximately 60% between 1996 and 1999, the female online population increased by more than 300% during the same period of time (Levy, 1999), in fact, as of may 2000 the number of women online is roughly equal to the number of women online in the united states; 49% women and 51% men (Allen, 2001; Pastore, 2000).

Yet, although gender gap in terms of the numbers of individuals online has vanished, gender differences may still exist in terms of several internet – related attitudes and activities for example prior research suggests that women are less interested in the internet than are men (Roper, 1998) and that, within the online population, women spend less time online than men do (Allen, 2001; Pastore 2000; Kahoe et al, 1998; Bartel-sheehan, 1999) and view fewer pages (Allen, 2001).

In addition, women have been found to be less likely to spend less money, on average, online (Allen, 2001). This is in spite of the fact that women account for well over 70% of all purchases made in more traditional offline purchases environment, such as store and catalogs (US census 2000).

One possible explanation for the gender gap in online purchasing is that women are more concerned purchasing is that women are more concerned than men with the risks of buying online (Kehoe et al, 1998; Bartel-Sheehan, 1999).However, usage differences offer a possible alternative explanation for the observed difference in purchasing, prior research has shown that as internet usage increases, perceived online purchase risk decreases (Miya-Zaki and Fernandez, 2000; Kehoe et al 1998). Since women still use the internet led frequently than men (Kehoe et al, 1997, 1998; Bartel-Sheehan, 1999), without controlling for usage differences previously observed in risk perception are truly a function of internet difference between males and females or merely an artifact of gender differences in internet usage.

While several factors may play role in the gender differences observed in online purchasing, one likely component is that women may perceive purchasing online to be riskier than men do. After all, as perceived risk of purchasing decreases, consumer's willingness to buy increases (Shimp and Beorden, 1982; White and truly, 1989). Prior research documenting gender differences in risk perception suggests that gender differences in online purchasing are likely.

Specifically , women have been found to perceive grater risks in a wide variety of domains including financial , medical and environmental (Broely,1984;Gutteling and Wiegman, 1993;Gwartney-Gibbs and Lach,1991;Steger and Witt , 1989;Stern et al , 1993). Increasingly, gender differences in perception of likelihood of a negative outcome have been observed even among experts, such as scientists with high levels of knowledge in technical risk assessment procedures (Slovic et al; 1997; Gardner and Gould, 1989; Barke et al; 1997).
In the context of buying online expertise is likely to be a function of internet usage.

Ha and Stoel (2004) found, for example, gender differences in the use of the internet for informational search apparel products. They found that female consumers were more likely to use the internet for this purpose than male consumers.

Garbarino and Strahilevitz
(2004) investigated gender differences in the perception of risks associated with shopping online .In one study, using a survey they looked at how men's and women 's online shopping risk perceptions changed when they received a recommendation from a friend .
After performing to identify the differences between men and women in online purchases, they found that gender differences with women perceiving a higher level of risk in online purchasing than men. They also found that when a site was recommended by a friend that led to both a grater reduction in perceived risk and stronger increase in willingness to buy online among women than among man.

Finally we have investigated the impact of individual difference factors 1) consumer susceptibility to informational influence 2) consumer E-opinion leadership 3) often explored demographic factors gender, on awareness and usage .






























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