This paper aims to develop a link between word-of-mouth and attribution of credit or blame following a purchase. Attribution is important because it can affect repurchase behavior, loyalty and word-of-mouth; therefore, understanding who receives credit or blame for a purchase outcome following a product recommendation is critical.
Through three studies, how recommendation context affects attribution of credit or blame to consumers, reviewers and retailers is experimentally examined. These studies test the thesis that context factors that are independent of the product recommendation can affect how consumers assign responsibility for the product’s performance.
Results demonstrate that while consumers trust online reviews, the addition of reviewer incentives diminish that trust, especially when a consumer identifies with the retailer. Findings show support for retailers using online reviews and provide evidence for using caution when incentivizing reviewers.
This study makes a theoretical connection between word-of-mouth (reviews) and attribution. As this connection is not seen often in the literature, future research should look at the role the recommender plays in the purchasing process. This study forced participants to attribute a purchase success/failure to certain parties to find a baseline with which to begin. Future studies should look at this process as more spontaneous. It may not always occur or possibly only occur for certain types of purchases or experiences.
Retailers should be continuing to use online reviews as they provide protection from blame and an increase in credit for successful outcomes. This study also provides evidence that incorporating social media into online reviews as many sites have been doing may actually backfire. While it might be more helpful to the consumer, it can increase blame to the retailer. Reviewers are receiving incentives more frequently, and this study finds that loyal consumers should not be shown incentivized reviews as it heightens blame after a negative outcome.
While attribution has been found to be an important part of the purchasing process, it has not been looked at in relationship to word-of-mouth/electronic word-of-mouth (offline/online reviews). Knowing that who recommends a product to us impacts post-purchase behavior is important, as online reviews are utilized more frequently. Many social media strategies have been implemented without information as to how the retailer themselves will be impacted. This study provides evidence of how to better utilize online reviews.
Though online reviews have been studied widely, less is known about how reviews and product recommendations affect attribution of credit or blame for a post-purchase outcome. The theoretical link between word-of-mouth and product outcome attribution provided here will help guide future research in this area.
Jacobsen, S. (2018), "Why did I buy this? The effect of WOM and online reviews on post purchase attribution for product outcomes", Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 370-395. https://doi.org/10.1108/JRIM-12-2017-0102Download as .RIS
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