Despite promising conceptual developments in value co-creation behaviors, the scholarly attention afforded to the importance of the university website features in strengthening the university brand image and reputation through students’ value co-creation behaviors is limited. University website features are conceptualized as a hierarchical construct with three dimensions: usability, availability and information. This study aims to investigate the effect of university website features and value co-creation behaviors of students on promoting brand image and brand reputation at Islamic Azad University in Iran.
This study is quantitative. Using convenience sampling techniques, a responsive group of 384 students was chosen from the Islamic Azad University of Tehran in Iran. Survey methods were used for data collection. Partial least squares structural equation modeling was used to test the derived hypotheses.
The findings of this study indicated that website features have a positive effect on fostering value co-creation behaviors (participation and citizenship behavior), and participation behavior, in turn, improves university brand image and reputation. At the same time, among value co-creation behaviors, citizenship behavior has no impact on the university’s brand image. Finally, the brand image formed through website features and participation behavior positively affects brand reputation.
This study was conducted in the higher education (HE) sector in one cosmopolitan Iranian city (i.e. Tehran), to which Iranians from other cities travel for studying. Thus, the results of this survey include a variety of subcultures. In the future, a study that incorporates all major metropolitan cities of Iran may increase the generalizability of the findings. Unrelated to the purpose of this study, a future research study may extend the currently studied geographical dimensions and examine the antecedents of university brand reputation across different nations using a cross-cultural approach.
Pragmatically, the findings of this study urge university policymakers, information technology managers and marketers to consider the university website’s unique role in assisting co-creation behavior, which in turn promotes university brand image and reputation in the HE market. One of the ways to assess a university’s brand image and reputation is through the university ranking system. Ascending the ranking system can allow a university to attract qualified students.
These findings contribute to the marketing literature by empirically validating the three elements in the website features construct, providing intelligence on how website features can drive value co-creation behaviors, brand image and reputation. Also, results revealed that the brand image of universities positively affects brand reputation. This study highlights the importance of national and international rankings of universities and students’ sensitivity to such rankings. Undoubtedly, this is evident in Iranian students’ behavior in selecting their university.
Ghorbanzadeh, D. and Sharbatiyan, M. (2022), "The role of website features in creating value co-creation behaviors and enhancing the brand image and reputation of higher education institutions", Interactive Technology and Smart Education, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/ITSE-12-2021-0225
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