Fundamentals of Electronic Word of Mouth

Fundamentals of Electronic Word of Mouth

Adem Akbıyık (Sakarya University, Turkey) and Naciye Güliz Uğur (Sakarya University, Turkey)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8575-6.ch001
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The assistance of advancing information technology leads consumers to freely share their experiences and positive or negative opinions on consumer-generated media (CGM) platforms, including various forms of online communications such as customer review sites, blogs, social network sites, and discussion forums. This new electronic form of traditional word of mouth (e-WOM) is becoming increasingly powerful for its creation and worldwide propagation of consumer comments. Such comments are valued as trustworthy by potential customers. This chapter adopts a descriptive approach to present fundamental research on the framework and the theoretical perspective of e-WOM and provides valuable insight to practitioners.
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People often share opinions, news, and information with others about various topics. When such informal communication is directed at other consumers about the ownership, usage, or characteristics of particular goods and services or their sellers, this is described as “Word of Mouth” (WOM) (Westbrook, 1987). Wirtz & Chew (2002) indicated that WOM created high credibility among consumers’ communications since the content was created by other consumers. Parasuraman et al.’s (1985) service quality model indicated that customer’s expectation would be influenced by WOM. Litvin et al. (2008) generalized that affects, altruism, self-interest, and reciprocity motivated consumers to share experiences with others after the act of buying.

With the development of information technology, sources of WOM communication have expanded. Instead of only commenting in a physical environment, today’s consumers also can share and exchange their thoughts in a virtual environment. Sun et al. (2006) stated that there was no more limit on reviewers’ physical location since the content could be transferred through the Internet. Harrison-Walker (2001) indicated that the development of the Internet and the enormous communication capabilities it created facilitated the development of online comment forums. A new form of WOM, electronic WOM (e-WOM), has emerged with recent advances in information technologies (King et al., 2014; Litvin et al., 2008), and is considered as one of the most important sources of information influencing the point of purchase (Litvin, Goldsmith, & Pan, 2008). WOM influence can be far more influential than advertising or personal selling.

Every possible product can be reviewed in online comment forums (Puri, 2007). Presently, consumers are enthusiastic about sharing their experiences and perceptions after consuming a product or service. Henning-Thurau et al. (2004) found that the desire for social interaction, concern for others, and the potential to enhance self-worth were significant motivations for writing online reviews. Walsh et al. (2004) similarly determined that there were several personal motivations for writing online reviews. First, there was an obligation to share with a sense of community. Second, reviewers could gain pleasure by sharing their experience and feelings. Third, there was an altruistic desire to help other people.

Researchers have found that this non-traditional marketing strategy has more persuasive power than traditional marketing campaigns because the source of WOM (peer consumers) is considered more credible than the source of the latter (advertisers) (Cheung, Lee, & Thadani, 2009; Huang, Lin, & Lin, 2009). Due to this enormous impact on consumers, WOM has been extensively studied in the field of marketing research (Berger, 2014; King et al., 2014). Previous WOM research has focused on finding antecedents, moderators, and consequences of WOM (Bughin, Doogan, & Vetvik, 2010; Buttle, 1998; Derbaix & Vanhamme, 2003; Leskovec, Adamic, & Huberman, 2007; Mangold, Miller, & Brockway, 1999; Trusov, Bucklin & Pauwels, 2009) and WOM communication patterns and message characteristics (Bone, 1992; Dichter, 1966; Richins, 1983; Spangenberg & Giese, 1997; Swan & Oliver, 1989), and also e-WOM communications in discussion forums (Andreassen & Streukens, 2009), UseNet groups (Godes & Mayzlin, 2004), product reviews (Kim & Gupta, 2012; Lee & Youn, 2009; Sen & Lerman, 2007), blogs (Dhar & Chang, 2009; Kozinets, De Valck, Wojnicki, & Wilner, 2010; Thorson & Rodgers, 2006), and social networking sites (SNSs) (Chu & Choi, 2011; Trusov et al., 2009) has been investigated.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Word of Mouse: It refers to sharing customer experiences through a user-generated platform, the electronic (online) form of word of mouth.

Consumer-Generated Media: It refers to online commenting channels which contain user-generated content.

Communicator: It refers to the individual who writes his/her opinions or experiences about a service or product through the internet.

Credibility: It is the believability of an e-WOM message. It indicates that the message is from a trustworthy source and free of manipulation.

Stimuli: An individual’s internal trigger of sharing his/her opinions or experiences regarding a service or product.

Word of Mouth: It is a form of communication between consumers about sharing information and opinions of certain products, companies, and services.

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