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Electronic word-of-mouth and information overload in an experiential service industry

Christopher Paul Furner (Department of Management Information Systems, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA)
Robert Zinko (College of Business and Law, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, Australia)
Zhen Zhu (School of Economics and Management, China University of Geosciences, Wuhan, China)

Journal of Service Theory and Practice

ISSN: 2055-6225

Article publication date: 14 November 2016




Trust and purchase intent are established, dependent variables in electronic commerce research. Recent studies have highlighted the importance of online product reviews in the development of purchase intention, which has led to the development of a substantial research effort in the realm of electronic word-of-mouth (e-WOM). The purpose of this paper is to incorporate e-WOM, information processing and decision-making theories to propose a model of the development of trust and purchase intention based on online product reviews, and incorporate information overload as a moderating factor.


This study tests the hypotheses using a scenario-based experiment. In total, 157 working adults were asked to read three hotel reviews of different information load. Upon completion, they were then asked to respond to Likert-based questions regarding their trust in the review and purchase intention.


An inverted U-shaped relationship exists between information load and both trust and purchase intention, where low-information load is ineffective at fostering trust and purchase intention, moderate information load is effective at fostering trust and purchase intention, and high-information load is less effective than moderate information load at fostering trust and purchase intention.

Research limitations/implications

Although the authors supported the inverted U-shaped relationship between information load and two outcomes, the authors only tested three different review lengths, resulting in limited precision, it is not clear where the inflection point is (i.e. exactly how many words results in information overload). Future studies might both seek more precision, and also consider more consumer characteristics, such as risk propensity.

Practical implications

Review platform operators with a stake in encouraging a sale should prioritize and highlight reviews of moderate length (which can be assessed automatically via word count), and consider restricting new reviews of products to minimum and maximum word counts.


This study enhances the relevant and growing body of online review research by: bringing uncertainty reduction theory to bear on the consumer’s information search efforts; using information overload, an important construct from classic information processing and decision-making literature to explain consumer behavior; and identifying a review characteristics (information load) which influences consumer attitudes about a review (trust) and the product (purchase intention). Finally, this study enhances research understanding of a specific experiential service: hospitality.



Furner, C.P., Zinko, R. and Zhu, Z. (2016), "Electronic word-of-mouth and information overload in an experiential service industry", Journal of Service Theory and Practice, Vol. 26 No. 6, pp. 788-810.



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