Analyzing the Use of Social Networks Sites in the Purchasing Decision Process

Analyzing the Use of Social Networks Sites in the Purchasing Decision Process

Francisco Javier Miranda (Universidad de Extremadura, Spain), Sergio Rubio (Universidad de Extremadura, Spain), Antonio Chamorro (Universidad de Extremadura, Spain) and Sandra M. C. Loureiro (Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL), Portugal & Business Research Unit (BRU/UNIDE), Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9787-4.ch109
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Introduction

Social networks have quickly become a platform in which citizens feel comfortable interacting with each other. They have not only become a sociological phenomenon, but also a marketing opportunity that firms are unwilling to let go by. This is a new ecosystem in which individuals are as important as firms or the media – an environment in which people are what is important, and one which is having an increasing influence in the business world.

In this context, Facebook can have a real impact on the four stages of the purchasing decision processes that follow a recognition of need: the search for information, the evaluation of alternatives, the purchase, and subsequent evaluation (Engel, Kollat, & Blackwell, 1968). The usual channels of seeking information are now complemented with the information that firms place on their Facebook pages about their products, a medium open to any potential buyer 24 hours a day, every day of the year, through any device with Internet connection. The evaluation of alternatives is favoured through the comments that other users have made previously on the Facebook page of the brand, or through the exchange of views that the consumer can have on their own Facebook with their “friends”. With the appropriate applications, firms can also create a system on Facebook that allows business transaction to be finalized without referring to the firm’s own website or a physical store. In this sense, “f-commerce” (Facebook commerce) or “s-commerce” (social commerce) complements e-commerce. Finally, Facebook plays a fundamental role in post-purchase evaluations since it facilitates the sharing of shopping experiences, whether positive or negative. Through such exchange of opinions in online spaces, known as “e-WoM” (online word-of-mouth), consumers co-create together with the firm the brand’s image.

Figure 1.

Facebook and the 4 stages of the purchasing decision process

The objective of the present work was to study the intended use of Facebook by consumers in the early phases of their purchasing process (search for information and the evaluation of alternatives). To this end, we used the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) (Davis, 1989) designed to explain and predict how individuals decide to adopt a particular technology.

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Background

Research into social media, and specifically into social network sites (SNS’s), is still at an embryonic stage (Michaelidou, Siamagka, & Christodoulides, 2011). In the business field, published research has been even scarcer. The main references are in reports by consultants specialized in new technologies, while very few academic studies have analysed the potential of these social networks as a marketing tool for businesses (Berthon, Pitt, Plangger, & Shapiro, 2012).

Michaelidou, Siamagka, and Christodoulides (2011) examines how SMEs operating in B2B markets use and perceive social networks, how effective they find them, and the main barriers they encounter in this area. Muntinga, Moorman, and Smit (2011) analyse consumers’ online brand-related activities and their consequences that are significant for firms. That work represents a first attempt to effectively anticipate and direct those consequences from an understanding of people’s motivations to engage in brand-related social media use. Hudson and Thal (2013) describe the new consumer decision process with examples from all sectors of the travel industry and describe how savvy tourism marketers are benefiting from social media engagement.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Technology Acceptance Model (TAM): An information systems theory that models how users come to accept and use a technology.

Perceived Usefulness (PU): The extent to which an individual believes that using an information system will enhance their productivity.

Network Externality (NE): A network externality can be defined as the augmentation of the effect of a product as a result of increasing benefits from the product due to a growing number of users.

Social Network Site (SNS): Web-based services that allow individuals to construct a public or semi public profile within a bounded system, articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system.

Purchasing Decision Process: Describes the process a customer goes through when buying a product. Although the models vary, there is a common theme of five stages in the decision process: 1) Problem/need-recognition, 2) Information search, 3) Evaluation of alternatives, 4) Purchase decision, 5) Post-purchase behavior.

Aptitude: Refers to self-confidence when performing different tasks on the Internet and resolving any problems that may arise during that use.

Perceived Ease of Use (PEU): Refers to the additional effort that is involved in implementing an innovation.

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