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Effectiveness of Online Consumer Reviews: The influence of source trustworthiness, valence, reviewer ethnicity and social distance

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Purpose Extant research addressing how consumers respond to electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM) remains limited. Even less attention has been devoted to examining the trustworthiness of consumer reviewers with different ethnic backgrounds. The purpose of this paper is to explore the influence of reviewer ethnicity, review valence and social distance (to three different ethnic groups) on perceived reviewer trustworthiness, brand attitude and purchase intention toward a product evaluated by reviewers of three ethnic backgrounds. Design/methodology/approach The study adopted a 2 (review valence)×3 (reviewer ethnicity) design; 398 participants were randomly assigned to one of the six conditions. A mock product-review web page for each study condition was created to manipulate review valence and reviewer ethnicity. Findings Results show that while review valence, reviewer ethnicity and social distance each had a significant effect on perceived reviewer trustworthiness, only review valence had an influence on brand attitude and purchase intention. The interaction between reviewer ethnicity and review valence also had a significant effect on perceived reviewer trustworthiness, brand attitude and purchase intention. Originality/value The current study is the first to apply social distance theory to explain cross-cultural perception of trust, as it extends and updates the original social distance scale to broaden its empirical relevance to contemporary society via an eWOM marketing context. As social distance is a fluid and timely concept to study the diverse ethnic cultural environment, the current findings carry strong implications to future research in a wide variety of digital communication and marketing contexts, among others.
Internet Research
Effectiveness of online consumer reviews: The influence of valence, reviewer
ethnicity, social distance and source trustworthiness
Carolyn A. Lin, Xiaowen Xu,
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To cite this document:
Carolyn A. Lin, Xiaowen Xu, (2017) "Effectiveness of online consumer reviews: The influence of
valence, reviewer ethnicity, social distance and source trustworthiness", Internet Research, Vol. 27
Issue: 2,pp. 362-380, doi: 10.1108/IntR-01-2016-0017
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Effectiveness of
online consumer reviews
The influence of valence, reviewer ethnicity,
social distance and source trustworthiness
Carolyn A. Lin and Xiaowen Xu
Department of Communication, University of Connecticut,
Storrs, Connecticut, USA
Abstract
Purpose Extant research addressing how consumers respond to electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM) remains
limited. Even less attention has been devoted to examining the trustworthiness of consumer reviewers with
different ethnic backgrounds. The purpose of this paper is to explore the influence of reviewer ethnicity, review
valence and social distance (to three different ethnic groups) on perceived reviewer trustworthiness, brand
attitude and purchase intention toward a product evaluated by reviewers of three ethnic backgrounds.
Design/methodology/approach The study adopted a 2 (review valence) ×3 (reviewer ethnicity) design;
398 participants were randomly assigned to one of the six conditions. A mock product-review web page for
each study condition was created to manipulate review valence and reviewer ethnicity.
Findings Results show that while review valence, reviewer ethnicity and social distance each had a
significant effect on perceived reviewer trustworthiness, only review valence had an influence on brand
attitude and purchase intention. The interaction between reviewer ethnicity and review valence also had a
significant effect on perceived reviewer trustworthiness, brand attitude and purchase intention.
Originality/value The current study is the first to apply social distance theory to explain cross-cultural
perception of trust, as it extends and updates the original social distance scale to broaden its empirical
relevance to contemporary society via an eWOM marketing context. As social distance is a fluid and timely
concept to study the diverse ethnic cultural environment, the current findings carry strong implications to
future research in a wide variety of digital communication and marketing contexts, among others.
Keywords Social distance, eWOM Marketing, Message valence, Racial/ethnic identity, Source trustworthiness
Paper type Research paper
Introduction
Electronic word-of-mouth (or eWOM) is a source of brand and product information for
consumers in todays digital marketing environment (Chen and Xie, 2008). In practice, eWOM
assumes the role of a repository of unplannedmarketing messages that are generated,
shared and seen by consumers (Ghose and Ipeirotis, 2006; Park et al., 2007). Hence, eWOM
could be a powerful venue for facilitating online trade and marketing, as it allows customers to
publicly share their opinions and evaluations of products on the internet, based on their
personal use experiences (Chatterjee, 2001). As such, the image of a company, including its
brand and products, could benefit from or be harmed by the unpredictable, uncensored and
uncontrolled eWOM platform (Craig et al., 2015; Park et al., 2007).
Amazon, Yelp, Hotel.com and many other online commerce sites provide open access
mechanisms for publishing user-generated reviews, which also foster online communities
among the consumer reviewers. A recent Google analysis (based on 57 million online
consumer reviews) reported that approximately 50 percent of store purchase decisions were
influenced by online consumer reviews (Morrison, 2015). Online consumer reviews can thus
function as consumer-generated sales assistantsto facilitate consumer searches for
products that best match their consumption needs; these reviews have also been used to
forecast sales (Chern et al., 2015; Chen and Xie, 2008; Moon et al., 2014).
Even so, the credibility of online consumer reviews could come into question, as some
online review forums were found to have profited from their referrals and received
Internet Research
Vol. 27 No. 2, 2017
pp. 362-380
© Emerald Publishing Limited
1066-2243
DOI 10.1108/IntR-01-2016-0017
Received 14 January 2016
Revised 8 February 2016
16 March 2016
14 May 2016
14 July 2016
Accepted 27 July 2016
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
www.emeraldinsight.com/1066-2243.htm
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advertising income (Chatterjee, 2001; Chevalier and Mayzlin, 2006). Recently, Amazon
took legal action against those who had published consumer reviewson its website for a
fee (Roberts, 2015).
Extant research on eWOM has primarily focused on the key features of consumer-
generated review messages such as length, comprehensiveness, valence, argument quality,
content equivocality, relevance and style of these reviews (Cheng and Ho, 2015; Li and Zhan,
2011; Liang et al., 2014; Filieri, 2015; Schindler and Bickart, 2012). Hence, more research is
needed to help ascertain how the source of a consumer-generated review about a product
may influence perceived trustworthiness of the reviewer as well as consumer attitude and
purchase intention toward the product (Hansen et al., 2014; Smith et al., 2005).
As the spending power of African, Hispanic and Asian consumers has risen sharply in
the last decade, the importance of multiculturalism in marketing research has also increased
(Humphreys, 2013). Yet little is known about how consumers from these ethnic groups
respond to user-generated consumer reviews (Pookulangara and Koesler, 2011). The same is
true of the lack of research that investigates how the ethnic identity of consumer reviewers
may influence consumer perceptions of source trustworthiness, attitudes and purchase
intentions toward the product reviewed (Racherla et al., 2012).
To help fill the theoretical and empirical gaps in the influence of source credibility of
eWOM and multicultural marketing on consumer behavior, the current study intends to test
a conceptual framework drawn from persuasion, social identity and social distance theories
to examine the social relations between consumer reviewers with different ethnicities and
Caucasian review readers (or majority consumers). The objectives of this study are to
ascertain whether there is a difference in perceived social relations between Caucasian
consumers and consumer reviewers from the same and a different ethnic background; and
whether such relations may influence consumer trust in the reviewers, as well as consumer
attitude and purchase intention toward the product reviewed. Study findings will help
explain how source trustworthiness and social-relationship distance may impact consumer
decision-making process in a multicultural eWOM marketing context. These findings could
also benefit marketers in developing their brand management and marketing
communication strategies online.
Literature review and hypotheses
Consumer trust in user-generated reviews is likely the primary determinant of the effects of
these reviews, which are posted by other consumers and seen as unrelated to the marketers
interest. The discussion below will advance literature applicable in this context, beginning
with the concept of source trustworthiness.
Source trustworthiness
Research on the effects of online consumer reviews confirms that perceived source credibility
of online consumer reviewers significantly influenced other consumerspurchase intentions
(Al-Debei et al., 2015; Ayeh et al., 2013; Filieri, 2015). For instance, perceived reviewer
credibility positively impacted perceived eWOM review credibility in an online discussion
forum, which in turn directly enhanced product-purchase intentions (Chih et al., 2013).
Likewise, reviewer source credibility moderated the effects of the persuasiveness and
completeness of product recommendations on perceived recommendation credibility, via an
online consumer discussion forum (Luo et al.,2013).
The presence of identifiable reviewer information (e.g. name and residential location) was
found to improve the perceived credibility of online hotel reviews, which amplified their
persuasiveness and impact on booking intention (Xie et al., 2011). Moreover, the influence of
source credibility associated with online consumer reviewers on brand attitude and purchase
intention was also comparable to that of perceived source credibility associated with offline
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product reviewers (Owusu et al., 2016). To understand the potential effects of this trust factor
in relation to multiethnic consumer reviewers, the following hypotheses are proposed:
H1a. Perceived reviewer trustworthiness will be positively related to post-exposure
brand attitude.
H1b. Perceived reviewer trustworthiness will be positively related post-exposure
purchase intention.
Past research also shows that consumer reviewer trustworthiness is influenced by message
factors such as the valence of the reviews. In essence, a positive or negative consumer-
generated review will likely help other consumers decide whether the reviewer is
trustworthy, which in turns helps shape consumersattitude and purchase intention toward
the product itself.
Message valence
Sen and Lermans (2007) study reported that study participants considered a negative
review on a hedonic product as less useful and attributed the negative review to the
reviewers low levels of honesty and capability; participants also viewed a negative review
of a utilitarian product as more useful and attributed the negative review to product-related
reasons, such as product quality. Duan et al. (2008) argued that online consumer reviews
could affect consumer perceptions of a hedonic product (e.g. movies) differently from a
utilitarian product (e.g. laundry detergent), as the volume rather than the valence of those
comments was found to predict box office revenues. These findings are similar to those
reported by other studies that investigated low- vs high-involvement conditions.
Lab experiments showed that participants in the high-involvement condition took the
central information-processing route and were more influenced by the argument strength of
reviews, compared to participants in the low-involvement condition, who used the
peripheral route and were more influenced by review quantity (Lee, 2009; Park et al., 2007).
Schlosser (2011) suggested that perceptions of reviewer ability and willingness (being
genuine) to tell the truth about product use moderated the effectiveness of a two-sided
comment (containing both positive and negative evaluations), when participants perceived
inconsistencies between the rating and arguments given by the reviewer. Park and Park
(2013) found that heterogeneous reviews were more likely than homogeneous reviews to
generate biased product evaluations, depending on prior product preference. The authors
ascribed the results to attribution bias: when the heterogeneity was attributed to the
reviewers, consumers evaluated the product based on prior expectation; when
the heterogeneity was attributed to the product, consumers were more likely to provide
negative product evaluations (Park and Park, 2013).
Jeong and Koos (2015) study tested review valence (negative vs positive) and review
objectivity (objective vs subjective) with South Korean participants. Their findings
indicated that while an objective but negative online review was seen as most useful for
purchase decision making, both an objective and subjective positive reviews significantly
increased product-related attitude and purchase intention. Additional research has also
identified several factors that could moderate the effect of message valence of online
consumer reviews. For instance, Ketelaar et al. (2015) argued that message valence had a
stronger effect on purchase intention for novice camera consumers than expert consumers.
Based on both lab results and Amazon website data, Zhang et al. (2010) revealed that for
consumers who evaluated products associated with promotion consumption goals or a
product used for creating something (i.e. photo-editing software) positive reviews were
more persuasive than negative reviews, due to a positivity bias. Conversely, for consumers
who evaluated products associated with prevention consumption goals or a product used
for avoiding problems (i.e. anti-virus software) negative reviews more than positive
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reviews were deemed helpful, due to a negativity bias. Individual risk tolerance could also
play a role in influencing consumer attitudes, as high risk-averse travelers perceived
negative reviews to be more useful than positive reviews (Casaló et al., 2015).
Other research shows that positive consumer review statements are more valuable to
readers than negative consumer review statements, because the former suggests that a
further consideration of the product is merited (Forman et al., 2008; Li and Zhan, 2011;
Mudambi and Schuff, 2010). A hotel industry study suggests that positive online
consumer reviews are more effective than negative reviews in enhancing consumer
intentions for booking (Tsao et al., 2015). A similar study also indicates that when
positive online consumer reviews and numerical rating details are shown together,
they could increase hotel-booking intentions (Sparks and Browning, 2011). Likewise,
Chevalier and Mayzlin (2006) demonstrated that one-star (negative) reviews had a greater
negative impact on online book sales than five-star (positive) reviews.
Drawing from the theory and literature reviewed above, the hypotheses postulated below
are intended for validating the relations between review valence, reviewer trustworthiness
as well as consumer attitude and purchase intention in a multicultural context:
H2a. Review valence will positively influence perceived reviewer trustworthiness.
H2b. Review valence will positively influence post-exposure brand attitude.
H2c. Review valence will positively influence post-exposure purchase intention toward
the product.
Perceptions of source trustworthiness, brand attitudes and purchase intentions can also be
influenced by factors related to ones social identity, particularly when multiracial consumer
reviewers are involved. The discussion below will review the literature relevant to this
theoretical proposition.
Social identity
According to the concept of social identify, as defined by social identity theory (Tajfel and
Turner, 1986; Tajfel, 1981), people tend to view themselves as members of selected groups
(in-groups), in order to differentiate themselves from others (out-groups) (Xu, 2014). People
are also more likely to agree with their in-group members than with out-group counterparts
(Mackie, 1986; Platow et al., 2000). In particular, people view an in-group source as being
more credible in defining reality than an out-group source (Turner, 1987; Xu, 2014, p. 4).
Information-source identity was also found to motivate people to process the message via a
central cognitive processing route, by increasing perceived group relevance of the issue
(Platow et al., 2000; Xu, 2014, p. 4).
Flanagin and Metzger (2000) suggested that customer opinions were more influenced by
online reviews with whom they identify. Racherla et al. (2012) also pointed out that perceived
socio-demographic background similarity between an online reviewer and a reader was
found to influence the readers trust in the source. Forman et al. (2008) suggested that when
online community members of a review website rated reviews containing identity-
descriptive information about a reviewer more positively, such ratings could enhance
subsequent product sales. The authors attribute the finding to peer recognition and
conformity to community norms (Forman et al., 2008).
Whittler (1989, 1991) demonstrated that racial prejudice of Caucasians was found to
moderate the effect of an advertising models race on identification with the model, interest
in obtaining more product information, and reactions to source cues. Additional research
also indicates that study participants had more favorable attitudes toward a model or
spokesperson who shared their own ethnic background ( Jeong et al., 2014); they also
perceived the model or spokesperson with their ethnic background to be more similar to
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themselves and more credible (Martin et al., 2004). Other studies show that ads with models
or spokespersons from the same racial/ethnic group as the consumers were more effective in
influencing product attitude and purchase intention than models or spokesperson from a
different racial/ethnic group across samples of Caucasian, African-American, Latinos and
Asian-American participants (Cano and Ortinau, 2012; Elias et al., 2011; Martin et al., 2004;
Sierra et al., 2012).
The current study intends to validate whether perceived similarity in racial/ethnic
identity between a reviewer and a Caucasian reader will influence a readers perception of
reviewer trustworthiness, in addition to their attitude and purchase intention toward the
product reviewed. Based on the relevant theoretical explication of in-group similarity
dynamics and empirical evidence discussed above, the following hypotheses are proposed:
H3a. Reviewers with a similar racial/ethnic identity will be rated more trustworthy than
reviewers with a different racial/ethnic identity.
H3b. Reviewers with a similar racial/ethnic identity will have a greater influence on post-
exposure brand attitude than reviewers with a different racial/ethnic identity.
H3c. Reviewers with a similar racial/ethnic identity will have a greater influence on post-
exposure purchase intention than reviewers with a different racial/ethnic identity.
A corollary conception to social identity involves the concept of social distance. We explore
perceived social distance and the extent to which it can influence perceptions of source
trustworthiness, brand attitudes and purchase intentions in the section to follow.
Social distance
Bogardus (1925) defined social distance as the level of acceptance individuals feel toward
others of varying ethnicities. The construct measures an individuals comfort and sympathy
level toward interacting with members outside of ones in-group in a variety of contexts and
types of interpersonal relationships (Birrell, 1989). Allport (1954) suggested that perceptions
about racial and ethnic groups could be influenced by factors such as personal familiarity
and interaction experience with individuals from these racial ethnic groups. Empirical
studies suggest that ethnic groups tend to prefer contact with in-group members in general
more than with out-group members; they also rate perceived social distance differently
between themselves and different out-groups (Hagendoorn, 1995; Parrillo and Donoghue,
2013; Randall and Delbridge, 2005).
According to Randall and Delbridge (2005), white participants reported the smallest
social distance toward whites, followed by African-Americans, Canadians, Africans,
Mexicans, Asians, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Indians (from India), Russians and Arabs as
target groups. Weavers (2012) summary of five national public opinion polls showed that
black, Hispanic, Jewish and white participants did not want Asian-Americans as neighbors
or to marry their close relatives, compared to individuals from their own ethnic groups.
Jerabek and de Man (1994) found that Canadian Caucasians perceived less social distance
toward the immigrant out-groups”–i.e., Asians, Latino-Americans and Eastern European
immigrants than the social distance that these out-groups perceived toward each other;
Caucasians were also more accepted by these out-groups, compared to the degree to which
these out-groups accepted each other. A study on adolescentsdating relationships
suggested that black females and white males were most likely to have same-ethnicity
relationships outside of school; Hispanic males and females preferred to date across
ethnicities in school (Strully, 2014).
Muraskin and Iversons (1958) early study reporteda relationship between perceived social
distance and perceived similarity in that the greater the perceived social distance toward a
minority group, the greater the perceived dissimilarity to members of that minority group.
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Likewise, perceived interpersonal similarity based on demographics and personality traits is
correlated with social closeness (Liviatan et al., 2008). Wathen and Burkell (2002) contend that
perceived similarity between source and receiver is an important factor influencing perceived
source trustworthiness on the internet. Other studies also show that perceived similarity
between a spokesperson and the audience from the same racial/ethnic group has a positive
effective on product attitudes and purchase intention (e.g. Elias et al., 2011).
Hence, it is reasonable to assume that perceived social distance could impact how a
reader perceives the trustworthiness of a message source as well as the readers attitude and
purchase intention toward the product reviewed. Based on the research and theory
operative in this context, then, we posit that:
H4a. Lower perceived social distance will be positively related to perceived reviewer
trustworthiness.
H4b. Lower perceived social distance will be positively related to post-exposure brand
attitude.
H4c. Lower perceived social distance will be positively related to product-purchase intention.
Lastly, consistent with previous advertising and marketing literature (e.g. Martin et al., 2004),
consumer attitude is hypothesized to predict purchase intention. More formally:
H5. Pre-exposure and post-exposure brand attitude will be positively related to post-
exposure purchase intention.
Method
The study sample was recruited from the student population of a large northeastern
university in the USA. College students are an ideal population for studying online
consumer reviews, as they prefer word-of-mouth as a source (50.5 percent) for receiving
product information relative to any other advertising or promotional sources (On Campus
Research, 2012). Students from a multi-section introductory general education course were
invited to participate in this study; participants were offered extra course credit. Study data
were collected during a one-week period in April of 2015. The initial sample yielded 812
responses; after removing incomplete responses, 620 responses were retained in the final
sample. The responses from the Caucasian participants (n¼398) were utilized for data
analyses to meet study objectives. The average age of the sample was 19.19 (SD ¼1.17); the
gender split was 50.3 percent males and 49.7 percent females. By focusing on the Caucasian
participants as the baseline for evaluation, the relationships between majority consumers
and multiethnic consumer reviewers could be compared to validate the theoretical
assumptions proposed in the study.
Procedure
The internet-based study protocol was approved by the IRB. After expressing informed
consent via reviewing a consent form online, participants were randomly assigned to one of
the six study conditions via this 2 ×3 between-subject design. These six conditions included:
two levels of message valence (positive vs negative) and three reviewers with different ethnic
identities (Caucasian vs African-American vs Asian-American). Participants first responded
to a set of questions that measured demographics, social distance (toward Caucasians, African
and Asian-Americans) and existing attitude toward a brand (i.e. the Hampton Inn). They then
reviewed the mock Yelp page, which contained either a positive or negative review of the
Hampton Inn posted by a Caucasian, African-American or Asian-American reviewer.
Afterwards, participants were asked to rate the reviewer trustworthiness, in addition to their
attitude toward the hotel and intention to book the hotel in the near future.
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Stimulus
The experimental stimulus was a mock Yelp review page about the Hampton Inn.
While eWOM has been found to influence online sales performance of hotels (Wang et al.,
2015) and Yelp is a popular online customer review site, the Hampton Inn is considered as
affordable for most travelers and the top mid-market hotel brand (The Harris Poll, 2015).
The mock web page contains a description about the Downtown Hampton Inn in Miami,
including price, amenities, a starrating (indicating the quality of hotel amenities) and a
consumer review. It also displayed two interior photos of a hotel room and a separate photo of
a pool and a gym. A male reviewer shown via a profile photo and a user name in addition to
a Yelp-style user profile also appeared on the mock web page. The photo images of the three
ethnic reviewers were created based on a composite of photo images of male college
students compiled through a Google search from each respective racial/ethnic group.
Appearing next to each profile photo was a consumer review of the Hampton Inn. The valence
of the review was manipulated by either a positive or negative tone in the review, in
conjunction with the starrating system of Yelp. While a negative review appeared with a
one-star image, a positive review was presented next to a five-star image.
Manipulation check
Participants were asked to identify the reviewer ethnic identity via a dichotomous measure;
results show that they correctly identified the ethnicity of each reviewer ( χ
2
(4) ¼646.22,
po0.001). They also successfully evaluated the valence of the customer review as either
negative (M¼2.16, SD ¼1.43) or positive (M¼6.24, SD ¼0.84) on a seven-point scale
(1 strongly disagreeto 7 strongly agree)(t(322.03) ¼34.20, po0.001). Reviewer
physical attractiveness was also assessed; ANOVA results show that perceived physical
attractiveness level differed across the three reviewers (F(2, 395) ¼16.66, po0.001). The
post hoc analysis indicates that the African-American reviewer (M¼4.76, SD ¼1.47) was
seen as most attractive, followed by the Caucasian reviewer (M¼4.16, SD ¼1.39) and the
Asian-American reviewer (M¼3.76, SD ¼1.38). Based on these results, physical
attractiveness was analyzed as a covariate.
Measures
Social distance. This construct was operationalized to reflect two dimensions: social contact
and social relationship. Six items were constructed to measure social contact;these items
ask participants to separately evaluate their comfort level in making social contact with
individuals who are Caucasian, African or Asian-Americans on a seven-point scale (1 ¼not
comfortableand 7 ¼totally comfortable). The six items include: recruiting the individual
to be a roommate/housemate, teaming up with the individual in a work-group, hanging out
with the individual at school, initiating social contact with the individual, socializing with
the individual as a co-worker and reporting to the individual as a supervisor. Another six
items adapted from the widely adopted Bogardus (1925) scale were utilized to measure
participant comfort level to engage in a social relationshipwith each ethnic group. These
six items are having the individual as a next-door neighbor, bonding with the individual as a
friend, having the individual as a relative through marriage, bringing the individual into
ones family through marriage, going out on a date with the individual and conversing with
the individual on the street.
All items were later reverse coded, so that a lower score indicated a smaller social distance
or a greater comfort level. Principal component analysis with varimax rotation was conducted
for both sets of measures for each ethnic message source condition. Each set of measures
produced a one-factor solution. For the social-contactfactor, the final reliability levels were
0.96, 0.95 and 0.98 for Asian-Americans, African-American and Caucasians, respectively.
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For the social-relationshipfactor, the final Cronbachs reliability coefficients were 0.90, 0.89
and 0.97 for Asian-Americans, African-Americans and Caucasians, in that order.
Pre-exposure brand attitude. This concept was assessed using a seven-point scale
(1 ¼strongly disagree and 7 ¼strongly agree). A principal component analysis generated a
single dimension for the three items (α¼0.94).
Reviewer trustworthiness. This construct was reflected by five measurement items on a
semantic differential scale, adapted from Ohanian (1990). The factor analysis generated a
single dimension. After removing one item with a low αvalue based on the initial reliability
test, the remaining four-item scale including unreliable-reliable, undependable-dependable,
dishonest-honest and insincere-sincere yielded a strong Cronbachs coefficient (0.94).
Post-exposure brand attitude. Participant attitude toward the hotel was measured by six
original items and gauged on a seven-point scale (1 ¼strongly disagreeand 7 ¼strongly
agree). A sample item states, I believe that this is a reasonably good hotel.The
Cronbachs reliability for these items is 0.94.
Purchase intention. This concept was described by three original measurement items and
evaluated on a seven-point scale (1 ¼strongly disagreeand 7 ¼strongly agree).
A sample item includes, I will consider staying at this hotel, if I travel to Miami with my
friends.The Cronbachs reliability for the three items is 0.95.
Results
To compare perceived social distance toward Caucasians, Asian-Americans and African-
Americans, a pairwise t-test was conducted (see Table I). Results showed that participants
perceive smaller social distance in making social contactwith Caucasians (M¼1.29,
SD ¼0.83) than with Asian-Americans (M¼1.63, SD ¼1.00, t(397) ¼7.59, po0.001) or
African-Americans (M¼1.67, SD ¼1.05, t(397) ¼8.52, po0.001); their perceived social-
contactcomfort level with Asian-Americans and African-Americans is not significantly
different (t(397) ¼1.41, p¼0.16). Participants perceived smaller social distance in entering
in a social relationshipwith Caucasians (M¼1.31, SD ¼0.85) than with Asian-Americans
(M¼2.05, SD ¼1.16, t(397) ¼13.25, po0.001) or African-Americans (M¼2.13, SD ¼1.19,
t(397) ¼14.28, po0.001); they also perceive a greater social-relationshipcomfort level
with Asian-Americans than with African-Americans (t(397) ¼2.44, po0.05).
ANCOVAs were conducted to test the research hypotheses and answer the research
questions. To facilitate data analysis, a new variable was created to align the responses for
the two-factor social distance measures with each ethnically identified reviewer. While
reviewer ethnicity and message valence were treated as fixed factors, social contactand
social relationshipand physical attractivenesswere entered as covariates for the
trustworthinessmodel; the post-exposure attitudemodel also included pre-exposure
attitudeas a covariate. The purchase intentionmodel included all the covariates
mentioned above and post-exposure attitudeas a covariate. The interaction effect between
Variables Ethnic group M(SD) Ethnic group M(SD) t
Perceived comfort level
in making social contact
a
Caucasian 1.29 (0.83) Asian 1.63 (1.00) 7.59***
Caucasian 1.29 (0.83) African 1.67 (1.05) 8.52***
Asian 1.63 (1.00) African 1.67 (1.05) 1.41
Perceived comfort level
in entering social relationship
b
Caucasian 1.31 (0.85) Asian 2.05 (1.16) 13.25***
Caucasian 1.31 (0.85) African 2.13 (1.19) 14.28***
Asian 2.05 (1.16) African 2.13 (1.19) 2.44*
Notes:
a,b
A lower value reflects a greater comfort level and a shorter social distance. ***po0.001;
**po0.01; *po0.05
Table I.
Pairwise comparisons
for perceived social
distance to Caucasian,
Asian and African-
Americans
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the two fixed factors on perceived trustworthiness was tested for the post-exposure
attitudemodel; the interaction effect between physical attractiveness and trustworthiness
two related source credibility dimensions (Ohanian, 1990) was tested for post-exposure
attitudeand purchase intentionmodels.
H1a posits that perceived reviewer trustworthiness would be positively related to post-
exposure brand attitude. Results demonstrate that reviewer trustworthiness had a significant
effect on post-exposure brand attitude (F(1, 386) ¼5.67, po0.05, partial η
2
¼0.01), providing
support for H1a (see Table II). H1b asserts that perceived reviewer trustworthiness would
be positively related to post-exposure purchase intention. No significant effect was found;
H2b was thus not validated (see Table III).
H2b postulates that review valence would influence post-exposure brand attitude.
Findings indicate a significant main effect (F(1, 386) ¼369.11, po0.001, partial η
2
¼0.53),
showing that a positive review generated a more positive post-exposure brand attitude
(M¼5.46, SE ¼0.07) than a negative review (M¼3.41, SE ¼0.07) (see Table II).
H2c presumes that review valence would influence purchase intention. Results reflect a
significant main effect (F(1, 385) ¼7.08, po0.01, partial η
2
¼0.02), indicating that a positive
review significantly predicted a stronger purchase intention (M¼4.54, SE ¼0.09) than a
negative review (M¼4.16, SE ¼0.09) (see Table III).
H2a proposes that review valence would influence perceived reviewer trustworthiness.
Results reveal a significant main effect (F(1, 389) ¼10.84, po0.01, partial η
2
¼0.03),
df Fpη
2
Review valence 1,386 433.64 *** 0.53
Reviewer ethnicity 2,386 1.93 0.15 0.01
Review valence ×reviewer ethnicity 2,386 10.75 *** 0.05
Covariates
Pre-exposure brand attitude 1,386 33.12 *** 0.08
SD-social contact 1,386 0.37 0.54 o0.01
SD-social relationship 1,386 0.55 0.46 o0.01
Source trustworthiness 1,386 5.67 * 0.01
Physical attractiveness 1,386 2.95 0.09 0.01
Trustworthiness ×physical attractiveness 1,386 3.18 0.08 0.01
Notes: SD, social distance. R
2
¼0.59. *po0.05; **po0.01; ***po0.001
Table II.
ANCOVA results
for post-exposure
brand attitude
df Fpη
2
Review valence 1,385 7.08 ** 0.02
Reviewer ethnicity 1,385 0.31 0.74 o0.01
Review valence ×reviewer ethnicity 2,385 0.17 0.84 o0.01
Covariates
Pre-exposure brand attitude 1,385 15.69 *** 0.04
Post-exposure brand attitude 1,385 249.65 *** 0.39
SD-social contact 1,385 0.79 0.37 o0.01
SD-social relationship 1,385 2.11 0.15 o0.01
Source trustworthiness 1,385 2.48 0.12 o0.01
Physical attractiveness 1,385 1.32 0.25 o0.01
Trustworthiness ×physical attractiveness 1,385 1.66 0.20 o0.01
Notes: SD, social distance. R
2
¼0.68. *po0.05; **po0.01; ***po0.001
Table III.
ANCOVA results for
purchase intention
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suggesting that a reviewer who posted a positive review was seen as more trustworthy
(M¼5.64, SE ¼0.07) than a reviewer that posted a negative review (M¼5.32, SE ¼0.07,
see Table IV).
H3a assumes that participants will rate a racially/ethically similar reviewer as more
credible than a racially/ethnically dissimilar reviewer. Results show that there was a
significant main effect of reviewer ethnicity on perceived reviewer trustworthiness
(F(2, 389) ¼13.12, po0.001, partial η
2
¼0.06). The post hoc analysis suggests that the
Caucasian reviewer was rated as less trustworthy (M¼5.12, SE ¼0.09) than either the
Asian-American (M¼5.58, SE ¼0.08, po0.001) or the African-American reviewer
(M¼5.74, SE ¼0.09, po0.001); perceived trustworthiness between the Asian-American
and African-American reviewers was not significantly differentiated. H3a hence generated
significant findings that were not in the hypothesized direction (see Table IV). A significant
interaction effect between reviewer ethnicity and review valance (F(2, 389) ¼3.24, po0.05,
partial η
2
¼0.02) was also found. The post hoc analysis shows that when the review was
negative, the African-American reviewer (M¼5.75, SE ¼0.12) was rated most trustworthy,
compared to the Asian-American reviewer (M¼5.32, SE ¼0.12) and the Caucasian reviewer
(M¼4.88, SE ¼0.12). When the review was positive, the Asian-American reviewer was
rated most trustworthy (M¼5.83, SE ¼0.12), relative to the African-American reviewer
(M¼5.74, SE ¼0.13) and the Caucasian reviewer (M¼5.36, SE ¼0.12).
H3b proposes that a racially/ethnically similar reviewer will positively influence post-
exposure attitude toward the hotel more than a reviewer representing another race/
ethnicity. The effect of reviewer ethnicity was not significant, hence H3b was not supported
(see Table II). Nonetheless, the interaction effect between review valence and reviewer
ethnicity was significant (F(2, 386) ¼10.75, po0.001, partial η
2
¼0.05). When the review
was negative, participants in the African-American reviewer condition (M¼3.05, SE ¼0.12)
had the most negative attitude toward the hotel, compared to the Asian-American reviewer
condition (M¼3.47, SE ¼0.11) and the Caucasian reviewer condition (M¼3.72, SE ¼0.12).
When the review was positive, participants in the Asian-American reviewer condition
expressed the most positive attitude toward the hotel (M¼5.62, SE ¼0.12), relative to the
African-American reviewer condition (M¼5.57, SE ¼0.13) and the Caucasian reviewer
condition (M¼5.19, SE ¼0.12).
H3c presumes that reviewers with a similar racial/ethnic identity will positively influence
post-exposure purchase intention more than reviewers with a dissimilar racial/ethnic
identity. This hypothesis was not supported, since no main effect was generated.
The interaction between reviewer ethnicity and review valence was also not significant;
purchase intention hence did not differ significantly in the three ethnic reviewer conditions
(see Table III).
H4a-H4c investigate the assumptions that perceived social distance to Caucasian, Asian
and African-Americans will predict perceived trustworthiness, brand attitude and purchase
df Fp η2
Review valence 1,389 10.84 ** 0.03
Reviewer ethnicity 2,389 13.12 *** 0.06
Review valence ×reviewer ethnicity 2,389 3.24 * 0.02
Covariates
Physical attractiveness 1,389 24.20 *** 0.06
SD-social contact 1,389 5.74 * 0.02
SD-social relationship 1,389 0.81 0.37 o0.01
Notes: SD, social distance. R
2
¼0.22. *po0.05; **po0.01; ***po0.001
Table IV.
ANCOVA results for
perceived source
trustworthiness
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intention associated with the consumer reviews posted by reviewers from these
ethnic groups, respectively. Results from testing H4a reveal that the social-contact
factor of social distance was a significant predictor of perceived reviewer trustworthiness
(F(1, 389) ¼5.74, po0.05, partial η
2
¼0.02), suggesting that participantscomfort level in
making social contact with these three ethnic groups influenced their trust in reviewers with
these ethnic backgrounds (see Table IV). The social-relationshipfactor did not show a
significant effect on reviewer trustworthiness, indicating that the comfort level with
entering into an interpersonal relationship with these three ethnic groups was irrelevant to
participant trust in reviewers with these ethnic backgrounds. H4b and H4c similarly failed
to receive support, as neither social contactnor social relationshiphad a significant
impact on post-exposure brand attitude (see Table II) or purchase intention (see Table III).
H5 proposes a positive relationship between brand attitude and purchase intention. Both
pre-exposure attitude (F(1, 385) ¼15.69, po0.001, partial η
2
¼0.04) and post-exposure
attitude were found to have a significant effect on purchase intention (F(1, 385) ¼249.65,
po0.001, partial η
2
¼0.39), lending support to H3 (see Table III).
Analysis of covariates show that physical attractiveness had a significant main effect on
perceived trustworthiness (F(1, 389) ¼24.20, po0.001, partial η
2
¼0.06, see Table IV), but
not on post-exposure attitude or purchase intention. The interaction effect between physical
attractiveness and trustworthiness on post-exposure attitude and purchase intention was
not statistically significant (see Tables II-III).
Discussion
This study is the first to apply social distance theory to explain cross-cultural trust in a digital
marketing context. In doing so, the current research tested an updated social distance scale to
better reflect contemporary social relations and expanded the application of social distance
theory from a sociological inquiry to marketing and digital communication research. Findings
indicate that even though perceived social distance is relatively low between Caucasian
participants and the other racial/ethnic groups, their perceived social distance toward
individuals with a Caucasian identity (in-group members) remains significantly smaller than
that toward individuals with an Asian or an African-American identity.
Consistent with our assumption, the social-contact dimension of the social distance
construct introduced in the current study has a significant effect on source trustworthiness.
By comparison, the social-relationship dimension of the social distance concept is irrelevant
to perceived source trustworthiness. This suggests that study participants perceive the
reviewer with whom they are more comfortable to interact and share common social spaces
to be more trustworthy. But whether participants feel comfortable with establishing a social
relationship with an individual from another ethnicity is irrelevant to how they assess the
trustworthiness of a consumer reviewer.
Although review valence has been studied in previous research on eWOM, no consensus
has emerged regarding the persuasive effect of positive vs negative reviews. This study
found that a positive review enhanced reviewer trustworthiness more than a negative
review. It is possible that the positive reviewer is seen as more fair and believable.
By contrast, it is likely that the negative reviewer is viewed as being overly critical due to a
potential bad experience that could occasionally happen to any hotel guest. These findings
are consistent with previous research, which suggests that positive statements could be
seen as more valuable and helpful in terms of suggesting further consideration for the
product (Forman et al., 2008; Li and Zhan, 2011; Mudambi and Schuff, 2010). They also
confirm past findings, which reveal that review valence has an influence on consumer brand
attitude and sales of books (Chevalier and Mayzlin, 2006).
Findings also show that participants had the most negative brand attitude when
encountering a negative review posted by the African-American reviewer, followed by the
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Asian-American reviewer and then the Caucasian reviewer. Participants also had the most
positive brand attitude after reading a positive review posted by the Asian-American
reviewer, followed by the African-American reviewer and the Caucasian reviewer, in that
order. These results are similar to those associated with perceived reviewer trustworthiness
reported above, which ranks the African-American reviewer as more trustworthy than
the Asian-American reviewer and the Caucasian reviewer. This suggests that even as the
Caucasian participants perceived lager social distance between themselves and the two
ethnic groups, the two ethnic reviewers were still able to significantly influence participant
attitude toward the product.
Perceived physical attractiveness of consumer reviewers has a significant influence on
perceived reviewer trustworthiness, as the African-American reviewer was rated more
physically attractive than the Caucasian and the Asian-American reviewers (in that
order). The significant role of physical attractiveness reported here is compatible with
previous literature on the relations between perceived physical attractiveness and
source credibility (Ohanian, 1990). Past research shows that Asian-American males are
perceived to be physically unattractive and asexual (Rhodes et al., 2005); they are often
portrayed with the model minoritystereotypes in the media, including nerdy and
studious as well as lacking in leadership ability or masculinity (Shah, 2003; Shek, 2007;
Shim, 1998; Kawai, 2005). In spite of these unflattering images of Asian-American males,
Caucasian participants still rated the Asian-American reviewer as being more trustworthy
than the Caucasian reviewer.
Turing to brand attitude and purchase intention, pre-exposure brand attitude
significantly predicted post-exposure brand attitude; pre-exposure and post-exposure
brand attitude also emerged as significant predictors of post-exposure purchase intention.
Source trustworthiness was found to be significantly related to post-exposure brand
attitude, but not purchase intention, confirming previous work (Hansen et al., 2014; Li and
Zhan, 2011). The same was not true for either social distance or reviewersphysical
attractiveness. Failure to find a significant effect of these variables on purchase intention
could perhaps be explained by potential moderators that were not measured in the study;
these moderators could include preference for or loyalty toward other hotel brands, cost
consideration and the like (Chiang and Jang, 2007). As most college students have yet to
make more independent travel and hotel-booking decisions on their own, their lack of
experience in selecting hotel accommodations might also have contributed to this result
(Ricci and Wietsma, 2006).
Allens (1975) early research shows that white participants who scored low on
prejudice toward African-Americans rated a list of black public figures more favorably
than white public figures, on average. As this millennial generation experiences a fair
amount of cultural diversity in their daily life, either through interpersonal contact or
popular culture (e.g. hip hop music), they may be less concerned about the ethnicity of a
message source. This is consistent with research suggesting that millennials express
relatively progressive positions on such issues as acceptance of interracial dating
and marriage (Pew Research, 2010). On the other hand, these findings also contradict
previous studies that indicate an individuals tendency to be persuaded by an in-group
member more than by an out-group member (Mackie, 1986) and to perceive greater
trustworthiness in the source that shares the same ethnic identity than a source that
does not (Martin et al., 2004).
An additional explanation for these complex results could be a black sheep effect
(Marques et al., 1988; Harmon-Kizer, 2016). That is, people judge a likable in-group member
more positively than a likable out-group member, but they judge a dislikeable in-group
member more negatively than a dislikeable out-group member. This is similar to the outcome
of subjective representation of in-group normative pressure (Marques and Paez, 1994),
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where individuals might hold a higher standard for their in-group peers; but when that
expectation of meeting a higher standard is violated, then an in-group member will be more
severely judged than an out-group member in a comparable situation. Therefore, a persuasive
message from a non-prototypical source that shares the same ethnic identity with a receiver
could fare worse than the source with a different ethnic identity. Moreover, according to past
research on social identity, persuasion effect of an in-group is also contingent on the
contextual salience of group identity (Tajfel and Turner, 1986). In this study, providing
a consumer review for a hotel may not activate a strong in-group vs out-group
differentiation based on ethnicity, but may induce social identification in other dimensions
(e.g. age or socio-economic status).
As mentioned above, perceived social distance between the Caucasian study
participants and the two out-groups was relatively small. As most college students
have plenty of opportunities to interact with ethnic minority peers and faculty on
campus, they may not perceive a great social-contact distance toward individuals with an
Asian or African-American identity. However, the findings from a national survey reveal
that there appears to be a highly noticeable social-relationship distance between
Caucasians and other ethnic groups. Using 100 social network friends as the basis for
comparison (Public Religion Research Institute, 2014), the study shows that while an
average white American has 91 white friends, she/he has one friend each who is black,
Asian, Hispanic, mixed-raced or of other races. This empirical evidence thus further
confirms how Caucasian participants perceive a greater perceived social distance
between themselves and their non-white counterparts and feel more comfortable in
making social contacts than entering a more intimate social relationship with them. It also
showcases the complicated phenomenon of race, social identity, social distance and
consumer behavior.
Limitations and implications
There are several limitations in this study. First, the manipulation failed to keep physical
attractiveness level of an average-lookingmale spokesperson equal across three
different races; other experimental studies may yield a different result. Second, the mock
web page did not show the reviewers credibility status as a badge next to his profile nor
additional reviews posted by other reviewers, as they would have normally appeared on
the Yelp site. The absence of these features might influence participant evaluation of the
mock reviews. Third, using Caucasian participants as the baseline for analysis narrowed
the scope of our study. As the first study on this subject, this approach allowed for a more
succinct explanation of a highly complex phenomenon. Fourth, the study focused on three
racial groups whose facial features are strongly tied to their ethnic identity; hence a major
ethnic group, the Hispanics/Latinos, was not included. Lastly, the generalizability of
current study findings primarily applies to college students instead of the general adult
population as a whole.
Implications for research
The current study extended and updated the original social distance scale from Bogardus
(1925), by broadening its empirical relevance to multiculturalism in a digital marketing
context. As social-contact factor was found to play a significant role in explaining consumer
behavior but not the social-relationship factor, these finding provide a new and potentially
significant theoretical contribution to the market research literature. These results flow
logically from the homophily dynamics outlined above, as most consumers will likely make
social contact with individuals of a different ethnic identity in various social circumstances.
However, engaging in a more intimate social relationship with individuals of a different
ethnic identity is primarily a matter of personal choice.
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The social-contactfactor introduced in this study could play a significant role in
influencing consumer perception of multicultural message source credibility and likability.
For example, social media interactions between consumers and popular public figures
(e.g. popular cultural icons or athletes) from diverse racial/ethnic groups albeit superficial
and likely parasocial in nature could be instrumental in helping to reduce perceived social
distance between multiracial social groups. Since the existing literature has largely focused
on applying the ethnic identity concept to explain consumer preferences and behaviors, the
present studys treatment of perceived social distance between a message source and
message receiver could provide an important theoretical consideration for a wide variety of
multicultural marketing research settings and practice.
Implications for practice
As evidenced by the study findings, consumer ability to trust the judgment and hence the
product recommendations made by the ethnic reviewers can influence their attitude toward
the product reviewed by these reviewers. In particular, the reviews posted by the African
and Asian-American reviewers each significantly impacted how consumers evaluated their
liking or disliking of the product in question. Compared to past research, these results imply
a shift in interracial relations, which extends to the eWOM marketing context. These
findings, by no means suggest a post-racial society, where an average-lookingconsumer
reviewer from a racially incongruent background will necessarily be more effective than a
racially congruent consumer reviewer.
College campuses represent a unique microcosm in society, one in which cultural
diversity is systematically cultivated. As such, the social distance that study participants
perceived between different racial/ethnic groups could help foretell how multiculturalism
may function in society. Future studies could consider testing the validity of social distance
construct in relation to how multicultural digital information sources are perceived and
evaluated as well as how they might affect individualsbeliefs, attitudes and behaviors
in a wide variety of online venues, including online social networks. As social distance is a
relatively fluid concept, empirical field research in eWOM is needed to validate the current
study findings. The validation of the social distance construct in a digital marketing context
could also have strong implications for other digital social-interaction settings, such as
social marketing and risk communication, among others.
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Further reading
Chang, W. (1993), M. butterfly: passivity, deviousness, and the invisibility of the Asian-American male,
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Examining characteristics of information content by product type,Decision Support Systems,
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Corresponding author
Carolyn A. Lin can be contacted at: carolyn.lin@uconn.edu
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... As a product of this process, online consumer reviews have emerged as a phenomenon influencing consumer purchase decisions (Tonietto & Barasch, 2020). Compared to traditional promotional marketing techniques and WOM, which are limited to a local physical social network (Lin & Xu, 2017), the impact of online consumer reviews is beyond local communities. It uses information technology and internet tools to reach people all over the world (Clemons et al., 2006). ...
... Review effectiveness is defined as the degree to which a review can help consumers comprehend information and understand the judgmental task (Beurer-Zuellig & Klaas, 2020). Review effectiveness is multi-dimensional, and its three dimensions are popularity, helpfulness, and persuasiveness (Lin & Xu, 2017;Wu, 2017). Likes on reviews denote the helpfulness of the review (Hu et al., 2008); they indicate the richness of the information contained in the review. ...
... Hu et.al (2008) showed that highly liked reviews represent the predisposition of a review in helping consumers evaluate the information contained in the review. Review popularity represents the proneness of a review in attracting consumer attention (Zou et al., 2011) and is responsible for building awareness among consumers (Lin & Xu, 2017). Review persuasiveness is the final determinant of effectiveness; it convinces consumers to persuade and committing to making purchases (Kuan et al., 2015). ...
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... For instance, the bulk of offline WOM research has focused its research attention on understanding the influence of tiestrength between the WOM participants on the effectiveness of articulated WOM on either the sender (Chawdhary & Dall'Olmo Riley, 2015) or the receiver (Bansal & Voyer, 2000;Brown & Reingen, 1987;Hoye & Lievens, 2007;Mladenović et al., 2021;Nitzan & Libai, 2011) at the expense of understanding the influence of homophily. Furthermore, much of the recent research on WOMhomophily relationship is within the online context (Ladhari et al., 2020;Lin & Xu, 2017) neglecting to understand this vital relationship in the offline context. It is important to note that online homophily is conceptually distinct from homophily in the offline context (Brown et al., 2007) and thus it may be erroneous to generalize the results secured in the online environment to the offline context. ...
... Given that WOM is an exchange of social information between individuals (Berger, 2014), scholars have identified, homophily between individuals as one of the interpersonal factors that can influence the effectiveness of conversations or social information exchanged between individuals (Sweeney et al., 2008). Accordingly, marketing scholars have investigated the influence of homophily in both the online and offline environment on the effectiveness of e-WOM and traditional face-to-face WOM and on the subsequent firm-related outcomes such as purchase behaviour and brand attitudes (Lin & Xu, 2017;Nitzan & Libai, 2011;Steffes & Burgee, 2009). ...
... Furthermore, findings show that online homophily significantly influences perceived e-WOM usefulness and credibility, intention to purchase and e-WOM adoption (Fu et al., 2018;Ismagilova et al., 2020;Zhang et al., 2021). The extant literature also acknowledges contrarian results related to the influence of online homophily wherein e-WOM received from ethnically similar senders was not found to be more effective in positively influencing the recipients brand attitudes and purchase intentions as compared to e-WOM received from ethically distinct e-WOM sources (Lin & Xu, 2017). Recent e-WOM studies found that, recommendations received from friends similar on values stimulates recipient's intention to spread brand-related information and engage in future e-WOM. ...
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This research examines how similarities in educational and ethnic backgrounds (status homophily), between word of mouth (WOM) participants, influences the effectiveness of received offline WOM on the recipient’s behavioural intentions. The educational similarity between individuals is conceptualized as acquired homophily, whereas ethnic similarity is defined as ascribed homophily. This study employs scenario-based experiments, and the results suggest that positive and negative WOM received from homophilous sources is more effective in influencing the recipient’s purchase and WOM re-transmission intentions than recommendations received from heterophilous sources. This research expands the literature about offline WOM and the multidimensional status-homophily construct by providing insights on the differential influence of positive and negative recommendations received from WOM sources similar or dissimilar to the WOM recipients in terms of their educational and ethnic backgrounds. This is important from both the theoretical and practitioner perspective as the recent focus of scholarly research is on understanding the relationship between online homophily and e-WOM at the expense of offline WOM-homophily relationship.
... As a product of this process, online consumer reviews have emerged as a phenomenon influencing consumer purchase decisions (Tonietto & Barasch, 2020). Compared to traditional promotional marketing techniques and WOM, which are limited to a local physical social network (Lin & Xu, 2017), the impact of online consumer reviews is beyond local communities. It uses information technology and internet tools to reach people all over the world (Clemons et al., 2006). ...
... Review effectiveness is defined as the degree to which a review can help consumers comprehend information and understand the judgmental task (Beurer-Zuellig & Klaas, 2020). Review effectiveness is multi-dimensional, and its three dimensions are popularity, helpfulness, and persuasiveness (Lin & Xu, 2017;Wu, 2017). Likes on reviews denote the helpfulness of the review (Hu et al., 2008); they indicate the richness of the information contained in the review. ...
... Hu et.al (2008) showed that highly liked reviews represent the predisposition of a review in helping consumers evaluate the information contained in the review. Review popularity represents the proneness of a review in attracting consumer attention (Zou et al., 2011) and is responsible for building awareness among consumers (Lin & Xu, 2017). Review persuasiveness is the final determinant of effectiveness; it convinces consumers to persuade and committing to making purchases (Kuan et al., 2015). ...
Preprint
Full-text available
Increasing online shoppers have generated enormous amount of data in form of reviews (text) and sales data. Aggregate reviews in form of rating (stars) have become noticeable indicators of product quality and vendor performance to prospective consumers at first sight. Consumers subjected to product discount deadlines search for ways in which they could evaluate product and vendor service using a comprehensible benchmark. Considering the effect of time pressure on consumers, aggregate reviews, known as review valence, become a viable indicator of product quality. This study investigates how purchase decisions for new products are affected by past customer aggregate ratings when a soon-to-expire discount is being offered. We examine the role that a consumer's attitude towards review valence (RV) plays as an antecedent to that consumer's reliance on RV in a purchase decision for time-discounted search goods. Considering review credibility, diagnosticity, and effectiveness as determinants of consumer attitude in a time-constrained search and purchase environment, we follow the approach-avoidance conflict theory to examine the role of review valence and perceived uncertainty in a time-constrained environment. The data was collected through an online survey and analyzed using structural equation modelling. This study provides significant implications for practitioners as they can better understand how review valence can influence a purchase decision. Empirical analysis includes two contributions: 1. It helps to understand how consumer attitude toward review valence, when positively influenced by the determinants, can lead to reliance on review valence, further influencing purchase decision; 2. Time constrained purchase-related perceived uncertainty negatively moderates the relationship between consumer attitude and reliance on review valence.
... Moreover, recent research has produced results which contradict the findings of prior studies regrading spokespersons' persuasiveness of ethnic similarity and physical attractiveness. For instance, Lin and Xu (2017) found that, despite recognizing a larger social distance, Caucasian participants were significantly influenced by Asian-American and African American online reviewers toward specific products. Furthermore, the Caucasians also rated Asian-American reviewers to be more trustworthy than even themselves (i.e., Caucasian reviewers) even after rating Asian-American males to be physically unattractive (Lin and Xu, 2017). ...
... For instance, Lin and Xu (2017) found that, despite recognizing a larger social distance, Caucasian participants were significantly influenced by Asian-American and African American online reviewers toward specific products. Furthermore, the Caucasians also rated Asian-American reviewers to be more trustworthy than even themselves (i.e., Caucasian reviewers) even after rating Asian-American males to be physically unattractive (Lin and Xu, 2017). ...
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... According to Royo-Vela and Black (2020), consumers' attitude toward the ad is known as an important mediator that links ad processing to consumers' brand assertions. Other research studies have shown that when exposed to an ad featuring a model from the consumer's ethnicity, consumers showed a more positive attitude toward the model (Lin and Xu, 2017) and perceived the model as both more similar (to the consumer) and more credible (Lin and Xu, 2017). Previous scholars have noted that ethnic identification influences consumers' attitudes and behavior (Appiah, 2001;Elias et al., 2011). ...
... According to Royo-Vela and Black (2020), consumers' attitude toward the ad is known as an important mediator that links ad processing to consumers' brand assertions. Other research studies have shown that when exposed to an ad featuring a model from the consumer's ethnicity, consumers showed a more positive attitude toward the model (Lin and Xu, 2017) and perceived the model as both more similar (to the consumer) and more credible (Lin and Xu, 2017). Previous scholars have noted that ethnic identification influences consumers' attitudes and behavior (Appiah, 2001;Elias et al., 2011). ...
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Purpose From a distinctiveness theory and elaboration likelihood model (ELM) perspective, this study aims to investigate the determinants, the direct and indirect effects of ethnic identification on brand attachment, brand love and behavioral outcomes. The authors examine two types of products (high- vs low-involvement). Design/methodology/approach In a survey, participants were randomly assigned to four conditions consisting of two high-involvement (i.e. a smart watch and a car) and two low-involvement (i.e. a soda/soft drink and a shampoo) stimuli. A total of 192 respondents participated in this study; 39% were male, 61% were female and 90% were 18-22 years old. Findings In line with ELM, the authors offer evidence that ethnic advertising is more effective for low-involvement products targeted at African American consumers. Results also showed that brand attachment partially mediates the effect of ethnic identification with the ad (EthIdenAD) and brand love. In summary, the structural equation modeling (SEM) results support the efficacy of ethnic-targeted ads for developing brand attachment, brand love and behavioral outcomes. Practical implications Using ethnically targeted ads to target minority groups may not be sufficient to increase the efficacy of ads. According to distinctiveness theory, African Americans with different levels of ethnic identification will respond differently to ad attitudes, brand attachment, brand love, identification with the model in the ad and varying degrees of belief that the ad was targeted toward them. Originality/value This study examines the effect of ethnically targeted advertising on brand love, and behavioral outcomes with the mediation effect of brand attachment and moderation effect of product involvement. The results of this study suggest several theoretical and practical implications for marketing and brand management, including directions for advertising strategy and consumer–brand relationships.
... Research has shown that product reviews can affect both purchase intention [21,41] and repurchase intention [10,32,34]. In the literature, the valence of product reviews refers to "the evaluative direction of the review, and can be positive, neutral or negative" [60: p. 245], which influences trustworthiness, brand attitude, and purchase intention [43]. Negative product reviews are more effective in reducing risk and helping shoppers accurately evaluate product quality compared with positive product reviews [41]. ...
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The structural assurance (SA) of e-commerce platforms determines how safe it is for shoppers to purchase from merchants. However, it remains unclear whether SA encourages repurchasing from the same merchant or switching to another merchant within the platform. This study investigates the main effect of SA on repurchasing and its moderating effect on the relationship of personal experience and product review with repurchasing. To test this effect, we designed a shopping experiment to capture shoppers’ thoughts and feelings (12 sessions, 192 university students). The results show that shoppers on high-SA platforms are less likely to repurchase from the same merchant. Moreover, the effects of negative personal experience and negative product reviews on repurchases mainly stem from egoistic resentment and sympathetic resentment, respectively; the former effect is stronger than the latter effect. As a moderator, low SA strengthens the negative effect of negative personal experience on repurchase behavior.
... For instance, a recent study by TripAdvisor reported that more than 81% of travelers always or frequently read online reviews before booking accommodation online, and over half of respondents (55%) browsed multiple reviews across several pages (TripAdvisor and Ipsos MORI, 2019). Some studies have investigated online reviews' role in influencing consumer purchases of physical products (Wang et al., 2020b), accommodation services (Lin and Xu, 2017;Sparks and Browning, 2011) and trips (Xiang and Gretzel, 2010). Noticeably, consumers tend to depend more on online reviews to minimize potential risks when buying services than when purchasing physical goods because experience goods' characteristics can only be ascertained upon consumption (Mudambi and Schuff, 2010). ...
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Purpose Drawing on attribution theory, the current paper aims to examine the effects of review content structures on online review helpfulness, focusing on three pertinent variables: review sidedness, information factuality, and emotional intensity at the beginning of a review. Moreover, the moderating roles of reviewer reputation and review sentiment are investigated. Design/methodology/approach The review sentiment of 144,982 online hotel reviews was computed at the sentence level by considering the presence of adverbs and negative terms. Then, the authors quantified the impact of variables that were pertinent to review content structures on online review helpfulness in terms of review sidedness, information factuality and emotional intensity at the beginning of a review. Zero-inflated negative binomial regression was employed to test the model. Findings The results reveal that review sidedness negatively affects online review helpfulness, and reviewer reputation moderates this effect. Information factuality positively affects online review helpfulness, and positive sentiment moderates this impact. A review that begins with a highly emotional statement is more likely to be perceived as less helpful. Originality/value Using attribution theory as a theoretical lens, this study contributes to the online customer review literature by investigating the impact of review content structures on online review helpfulness and by demonstrating the important moderating effects of reviewer reputation and review sentiment. The findings can help practitioners develop effective review appraisal mechanisms and guide consumers in producing helpful reviews.
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Purpose This study aims to formulate a new framework for identifying deception in consumer reviews through the lens of interpersonal deception theory (IDT) and the persuasion knowledge model (PKM). It evaluates variables contributing to consumer intentions to purchase after reading deceptive reviews and proposes deception identification cues to be incorporated into the interpersonal communication theoretical framework. Design/methodology/approach The first study is qualitative and quantitative, based on sentiment and lexical analysis of 1,000 consumer reviews. The second study uses the US national consumer survey with a partial least squares partial least squares-structural equation modeling and a process-based mediation–moderation analysis. Findings This study shows deceptive characteristics that cannot be dissimulated by reviewing consumers that represent review legitimacy based on review valence, authenticity, formalism and analytical writing. The results also support the central role of consumer suspicion of an ulterior motive, with a direct and mediation effect regarding consumer emotions and intentions, including brand trust and purchase intentions. Research limitations/implications This paper presents a new framework for identifying deception in consumer reviews based on IDT and PKM, adding new theoretical elements that help adapt these theories to written digital communication specificities. This study clarifies the role of suspicion in a deceptive communication context and shows the variables contributing to consumers’ purchase intention after reading deceptive reviews. The results also emphasize the benefits of lexical analysis in identifying deceptive characteristics of reviews. Practical implications Companies can consider the vulnerability of certain generations based on lower levels of suspicions and different linguistic cues to detect deception in reviews. Long-term, marketers can also implement deception identification practices as potential new business models and opportunities. Social implications Policymakers and regulators need to consider critical deception cues and the differences in suspicion levels among segments of consumers in the formulation of preventative and deception management measures. Originality/value This study contributes to the literature by formulating a new framework for identifying deception in consumer reviews, adapted to the characteristics of written digital communication. This study emphasizes deception cues in electronic word-of-mouth and provides additional opportunities for theorizing deception in electronic communication.
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Social media allows brands a place to reinforce their identities and build positive interactions with their customers. Despite all the benefits social media offers to brands, it is also is a place where consumers can post negative comments (unintended consequence #1) with the intention to cause harm (value-destruction). But could these value destruction attempts backfire, resulting in value-creation for the brand (unintended consequence #2)? Study 1 (qualitative online content analysis) uses 237 real consumer comments on brand posts to explore the initial unintended consequence—the phenomenon of consumers posting negative comments on innocuous brand posts and identifies four categorizations based on two distinct comment types (personal vs. brand) and tones (lecturing vs. mocking). Building on Study 1, Study 2a investigates how observing consumers view the four different comment categorizations identified in Study 1 and explores whether they vary in terms of their justification (i.e., justified vs. not). Study 2b identifies which categorizations impact observing consumers’ perceptions of a comment as “complaining” or “trolling”. Lastly, Study 3 utilizes an experiment to test unintended consequence #2—we find that “trolling” negative comments on innocuous brand posts can increase observing consumers’ likelihood to engage with the brand.
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Purpose - The purpose of this study is to explore the antecedents of consumers' online review intention in e-commerce platforms from a unique perspective of consumer commitment and platform design. Meanwhile, for the dual platform strategy, i.e., providing both the web and mobile platforms simultaneously, which is widely adopted in the industry but lacks theoretical concerns, we aim to examine the differences that platform design influences consumer commitment, consequently contributing to online review intention, between the web and mobile contexts. Design/methodology/approach - A cross-sectional online survey is employed, and a structural equation model based approach is utilized to analyze the data collected from both the website preferred consumers (N=167) and the mobile app preferred consumers (N=247). Findings - The results indicate that instrumental support design factors and socio-emotional support factors positively influence consumer commitment, which further affect online review intention positively. Furthermore, design factors in different use contexts generate different impacts, and consumer commitment generates greater effect on online review intention in the mobile than in the web context. Empathy is found to be an important motivator of consumer commitment in both contexts. Originality/value - As one of the first attempts to capture the differences in the relationship between platform design on consumer commitment and online review intention in different use contexts within the dual-platform e-commerce, this study provides insights for e-commerce platform managers and designers to promote consumer commitment and online review engagement by prioritizing the platform design.
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