Webcare as a signal: exhaustive-selective webcare strategy and brand evaluation
Article publication date: 7 May 2021
Issue publication date: 13 July 2021
Keeping in mind the growing significance of online reviews, management of responses to the customer reviews – webcare – is becoming important in recent times. How a firm responds to online reviews can send a signal to the readers of the reviews contributing to their brand evaluations. From a strategic perspective, a firm should decide if they should respond to all reviews or respond to only a select few reviews. This study aims to provide an understanding of how exhaustive and selective webcare influence brand evaluations. It also explores the role of review balance and review frame, which potentially act as moderators, on such influences.
Three scenario-based experiments were used to manipulate the webcare strategy (exhaustive-selective) and the potential moderators (review balance and review frame). The 910 participants of the single-stage experiments were identified using an online panel managed by UK-based Prolific Academic.
Exhaustive webcare is found to be the most effective strategy for influencing brand evaluations in all conditions. Also, two interesting results were found, which can have practical implications. A selective negative strategy is as effective as an exhaustive webcare in almost all cases, and a selective positive webcare is as good as not having a webcare in nearly all cases. Changes in webcare effectiveness due to the influence of review balance and review frame were established.
With the review reader perspective and focus on brand management, this study may trigger enquiries into effects of webcare strategies on brand evaluations and other outcomes such as word-of-mouth. The interaction effects of the various strategies adopted together on brand evaluation and loyalty have not been explored and would be of interest to academicians and managers.
Firms need to plan a careful resource deployment while responding to the online consumer reviews as responding to a select few reviews may yield the same effects as that of exhaustive webcare. Brand managers may find responding only to positive reviews futile, as it could be as good as having no webcare. Also, the strategy of responding to reviews needs to be adapted based on the online review platform where the set in which the review is read is different.
This is one of the few studies focusing on the effects of webcare on brand evaluations from a review reader perspective as against the dominant reviewer perspective. This research also presents hitherto unexplored effects of an exhaustive-selective webcare strategy on brand evaluations.
The authors would like to acknowledge the support provided under Raj Sethuraman Research Grant Award 2018.
Jeesha, K. and Purani, K. (2021), "Webcare as a signal: exhaustive-selective webcare strategy and brand evaluation", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 55 No. 7, pp. 1930-1953. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJM-05-2019-0421
Emerald Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited