The Relationship between Online Reviews, Brand Trust, and Willingness to Buy

The Relationship between Online Reviews, Brand Trust, and Willingness to Buy

V. Cheng (Macau University of Science and Technology, Macau), J. Rhodes (Macquarie University (MGSM), Australia) and P. Lok (University of Sydney, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8133-0.ch007


This chapter investigates how online customer reviews affect consumer decision-making (willingness to buy) during their first purchase of services or products using brand trust as a mediating variable. A brief literature review, rationale and significance, and methodology are discussed, and a conceptual framework based on the relationships between the stated variables is adopted in this empirical study to demonstrate linkages and insights. The findings demonstrate that the “reliability dimension” of brand trust had a mediating effect on online customer reviews' valence to willingness to buy, while the “intentionality dimension” of brand trust had little effect. Furthermore, the findings demonstrate that online customer reviews generated by in-group and out-group reviewers have little effect on purchasing decisions (willingness to buy). These results suggest that marketers should focus more on managing negative online customer reviews that have a damaging effect on brand trust.
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Past studies in eWOM explore antecedents that affect the generation of WOM activities and the relationships of WOM characteristics, such as valence (positively vs negatively framed message) (Celso & Carlos, 2008). Other studies examine the outcome variables, including customer equity and brand purchasing probability (Buttle, 1998; East, Hammond, & Lomax, 2008; Vermeulen & Seegers, 2009). The reference to eWOM by new customers is considered a risk-reduction strategy that affects the purchasing intention (Buttle, 1998). With both the advent and ubiquity of the internet, online customer reviews are the new focus of eWOM research. However, there is a dearth of studies focusing on the causal relationships between the mechanisms that explain how online customer reviews affect a customers’ buying behaviour—particularly regarding their willingness to buy for the first time. In addition the mediating effect of brand trust between online reviews and willingness to buy remains unclear.

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