THE IMPACT OF INFLUENCERS ON
ONLINE PURCHASE INTENT
School of Business, Society & Engineering
Course: Master Thesis in Business
Course code: EFO 704
Supervisor: Aswo Safari
Date: May 29th, 2017
Date: May 29th, 2017
Level: Master thesis in Business Administration, 15 cr
Institution: School of Business, Society and Engineering, Mälardalen University
Authors: Nadezhda Lisichkova Zeina Othman
Title: The Impact of Influencers on Online Purchase Intent
Tutor: Aswo Safari
Keywords: Influencers; Influencer Marketing; Online Purchase Intent; Consumers;
Online Retailer; Trust.
questions: What are the main features of influencers that have an impact on
consumers’ online purchase intent?
Purpose: The purpose of this thesis is to explore the features that an influencer
possesses or should possess and their impact on online purchasing intent
Method: Results were derived from two focus groups interviews with 12 different
consumers from various countries.
Conclusion: Key findings reveal that perceived authenticity, together with
trustworthiness, credibility, legitimacy, the expertise of the influencers and
their honesty are the main features that have an impact on the consumers and
the online purchase intent. Additionally, the study reveals that there are
other factors besides the upper mentioned features of the influencers, that
affect the online purchase intent of the consumers- the need for the product,
its price, the recommendations, and some others.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction ....................................................................................................................... 1
1.1. Background .............................................................................................................. 2
1.2. Research problem ..................................................................................................... 4
1.3. Purpose and research question ................................................................................. 6
1.4. Disposition ............................................................................................................... 6
2. Literature review ........................................................................................................... 7
2.1. Influencer marketing and influencers ...................................................................... 7
2.1.1. The role of the influencers ................................................................................... 8
2.1.2. Social proof and identifying influencers .............................................................. 9
2.2. Purchasing intention and online purchase intent.................................................... 10
2.2.1 Factors influencing the purchase intent and the online purchase intent ............. 11
2.2.2. Theory of Reasoned Action and Technology Acceptance Model ...................... 13
2.3. Theoretical framework ........................................................................................... 15
2.3.1. Influencers and features of the influencers ........................................................ 15
2.3.2. Purchase intent and factors, influencing the purchase intent ............................. 17
3. Method ............................................................................................................................. 19
3.1. Qualitative research method................................................................................... 19
3.2. Research approach ................................................................................................. 20
3.3. Exploratory research design ................................................................................... 20
3.4. Research philosophy- Interpretivism ..................................................................... 21
3.5. Data generation method- personal interviews and focus groups interviews .......... 21
3.5.1. Personal interviews ............................................................................................ 21
3.5.2. Focus group interviews ..................................................................................... 22
3.6. Participants’ selection ............................................................................................ 22
3.6.1. Size of the sample .............................................................................................. 22
3.6.2. Criteria of the sample ......................................................................................... 23
3.7. Primary data and data analysis ............................................................................... 23
3.8. Validity and reliability ........................................................................................... 25
4. Results .............................................................................................................................. 27
4.1. Focus groups interviews ........................................................................................ 27
4.1.1. Influencers and features of the influencers ........................................................ 27
4.1.2. Purchase intent and factors, influencing the purchase intent ............................ 29
5. Analysis ........................................................................................................................ 35
6. Conclusions .................................................................................................................. 39
6.1. Practical implications ................................................................................................ 41
6.2. Limitations and suggestions for future research ........................................................ 42
References ............................................................................................................................... 44
Appendix ................................................................................................................................. 59
List of figures
Figure 1: Theoretical frame: Consumers’ online purchase intent toward online retailers and the
role of influencers……………………………………………………………………………..18
We would like to express our deepest gratitude to our supervisor Aswo Safari for
his guidance throughout the whole process, for his valuable comments and
feedback, and for sometimes being too tough on us. We really appreciated it!
Further, we would like to thank our colleagues in the seminar group- your
comments and remarks made us go to additional lengths and sometimes revealed
aspects we haven’t thought of before.
Also, we are grateful to all the participants in the interviews and the focus groups-
without your help this thesis would not have been possible.
Nadezhda Lisichkova & Zeina Othman
Västerås, May 2017
Imagine you are sitting on a bus. The bus drives through the city streets, and while you are
looking through the window you see a billboard with George Clooney advertising tequila. Later
in the week, you are about to host a party and you search for various liquor drinks to buy. Of
course, you want it to be a good party, and you want to have good quality alcohol. Then you
start thinking: “Hmm, what was that brand I saw on the billboard?” –You don’t always recall
it. But then your best friend approaches you and says that this particular brand is quite
awesome and that you should buy it. You will ask her/him what this brand is and then buy it.
Does this show that there is power in the reliable and authentic reference or influencer? Does
it mean that the right influencer is not always a celebrity or a star with millions of followers on
the social media platforms?
The world is getting more and more interconnected. People from all ages and countries are
using the internet for access to information, as a networking source, as an alternative for the
traditional shopping by conducting a purchase online (Starkov, 2003), also for socializing.
According to Eurostat’s 2016 survey on the availability of information and communication
technologies (ICT) 79% of the population in the European Union aged 16-74 have used the
internet almost daily or on daily basis (Eurostat, 2016). Hence, approximately two-thirds of the
internet users have made an online purchase, with the majority being in the age groups of 16-
24 and 25-54. Furthermore, the emergence of social media transforms the communication
between companies and consumers; the latter compare prices, check for coupons and deals,
search for product information, look up opinions on products (Nielsen, 2016), or for example
book hotels directly on the hotel website or via various booking platforms (Ratnasingam, 2012),
thus making the word of mouth (WOM) marketing a powerful tool for advertising. Recognizing
this growing trend marketers started to reach out to influential consumers, hoping to benefit
from their ability to convince by sharing the consumption experience with others. The markets
emerge, and the now existing ones transform, with the consumers taking more pro-active role,
being it driven by their love for a certain brand (Martin & Schouten, 2014), or just to defy the
market (Giesler, 2008). A number of studies have shown the important and rising role of family,
friends, neighbors and colleagues play in affecting the choices of the individual (Coleman,
1966; Feick & Price, 1987; Godes & Mayzlin, 2004). And nowadays we are all quite aware
with celebrity endorsements- Brad Pitt and Chanel No.5 perfume, Beyonce and Pepsi, Cristiano
Ronaldo and Nike, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Volvo- these are just a few examples. While some
consumers find it favorable and positive to see a celebrity advertise products or services, it is
not always the case when a celebrity endorsement will drive brand resonance or revenue, as
Nielsen found that 92 % of the people trust recommendations from people they know, and 70%
trust experts’ opinions they read online (Nielsen, 2016). So here come in the digital influencers-
those who create content and share it on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, blogs,
Snapchat, etc. These powerful everyday consumers have the ability to change opinions, to raise
brand awareness or ruin it, and they are able to achieve such outreach or status by constantly
showing they attempt to stay true to their culture.
Whether it is for the brand or the consumers, marketers are always looking into the future to
anticipate the upcoming trends in the market (Newman, 2015). People are believed to be the
ones who will mostly influence the marketing and advertising world right now, as they are able
to offer a credible prediction to the trends that will change the way brands connect, and the way
innovative firms will work in within the next few years (Beer, 2015). Thus, people who have
the power to affect the purchase decisions of others due to their real or perceived authority,
knowledge, position, or relationship are identified as influencers (Mavrck, 2014). An influencer
doesn’t necessarily have to be some sort of celebrity, journalist, or blogger, they are a form of
social micro-celebrity (Senft, 2008) and this is where the focus is in this thesis- the micro-
influencers. They can be an ordinary person with the right connections and social pull, and not
inevitably a celebrity, even though they are the first that come to mind when discussing social
influence. Ordinary people who communicate with their friends or social circle can also be
identified as influencers but so can be journalists, experts, public figures with different types of
visibility- highly visible as in celebrities and politicians, or low visible as every-day bloggers
(those famous mostly to their peers). Social media introduced new opportunities for brands to
connect with people and has the ability to link people who influence or exert influence and even
transmit influence. For example, an endorsed celebrity exerts a different type of influence than
a trusted friend or neighbor endorsing the same product, and they, in turn, exert a different type
of influence than a renowned expert (Bakshy, Hofman, Mason & Watts, 2011).
By incorporating social network information into influence strategies and marketing design, the
brands and marketers make it possible to diminish unused resources and simultaneously achieve
bigger sales (Galeotti & Goyal, 2009). One of the places where such strategy is used are the
blogs- places on the internet, where different people publish and share experiences, stories,
pictures, opinions on products and services, with their popularity grown rapidly in the last years-
due to them actually offering information in a synthesized and quite well functional form
(Akritidis, Katsaros & Bozanis, 2011). Furthermore, in the blogosphere users and consumers
can ask and receive information about products and services, and henceforth being influenced
by that same information by the bloggers while making decisions- an illustration are the fashion
blogs. The readers of the fashion blogs and the fashion bloggers stipulate blogs to be actually
more authentic in their content, whilst delivering more independent view than the traditional
fashion media, like Vogue or Elle magazines (Marwick, 2013). Hence, the fashion blogosphere
is viewed as a democratic place where everyone can fit, no matter the size, social status,
sexuality, or gender. At the same time, it has also been disclosed that a substantial number of
famous influencers and bloggers are working with brands and getting compensated in money
or products, so that raises the question about their credibility, trustworthiness, and authenticity.
The increased commercialization brings out some controversies and criticism in the influencer
marketing. Are the bloggers or influencers honest when giving an opinion about a product? Is
this honesty actually paid for, or are they authentic in their core? Does it depend on the amount
of compensation they receive when blogging or advertising a product?
For instance, Emily Austin, a parenting blogger, says:
“We may call each other bloggers, but in the end we’re all just people who want to be heard
and understood. Compassion and camaraderie go a long way, both in blogging and in life.”
Even when a product or review are not flattering but still being published, for example, Elite
Daily posting statements that appeal to their readers (women from Generation Y, or
Millennials), thus adding a deeper connection to them: “Work would be so much better if I
could just not do it and work out instead”. Such post touches upon the need for social proof;
moreover, with bloggers exposing their personality they add up on the connection with the
readers and followers, as personality helps to transition the ad towards something with more
special feeling. Jocelyn Adams, the founder of Grandbaby Cakes, articulates:
“It has to come from me. It has to be my voice… When you start a blog you start with one
follower, and that’s your mom. If you find someone who’s reading your blog who you didn’t
know, you’re like ‘yay.” (Elliott, 2015)
She has huge brands reach out and promotes on behalf of Coca-Cola (Elliott, 2015). Still,
consumers and the followers doubt the brands themselves and their advocates in the faces of
influencers, despite their vow on being “true”,” real”, “not misleading”, “liking”, “honest”, or
Finding convincing and powerful influencers is at the base of the success of viral marketing or
WOM marketing (Kim and Han, 2009). To be able to identify these people who can, and whose
role is to influence, is very important, as by influencing they play a significant role in the buying
decisions of the consumers, and in setting the new trends and preferences. Moreover, trust plays
a major role in influencing the consumers' behavior, as it is a two-way relationship building
block. From the one side there are the producers, vendors, and suppliers (Boughton, Nowak &
Washburn, 1996), and from the other side there is the consumer, who doesn’t want unpleasant
surprises after receiving a product or service (Ganesan, 1994). The purchasing behavior is
therefore influenced by multiple factors, for example online advertising (Manchanda, Dube,
Goh & Chintagunta, 2006; Ha, 2008). Users exposed to banners are usually more prone
towards purchasing, meaning increased purchasing intent, and followed by repeating
purchase probabilities. Expanding on the behavior of the consumers, it has been shown that
consumers actually integrate their real life into their online behavior, and vice versa. Yee
and Bailenson (2007) refer to that as the Proteus effect- similar behavior patterns in both
virtual and real-life settings. Such studies indicate that the both environments are closely
related in the consumer’s mind. Thus brand exposure online will have a similar effect in the
real word, and opposite, as consumers create a virtual representation of themselves by using
the Internet (Schau & Gilly, 2003). This leads to the reasoning that being influenced online
will affect the purchase intent in real life, as well being influenced in general will affect the
purchase intent and perception of products and services. Nevertheless, it remains important
to find out what are the real factors that can influence the consumer in such commercialized
exposure. People usually don’t want to be lied to, especially in the role of consumers- no
one wishes to lose money by buying a non-functional product or unsatisfactory service, due
to misleading advertising.
1.2. Research problem
The thesis blends two areas, influencers in influencer contemporary marketing, and online
purchase intent. But understanding if there is a connection between influencers and the online
purchase intent of the consumers appears to be connected with what actual features these
influencers have, and how they are perceived by their peers.
Much of the research on influencers has been conducted with viewing them as “brand
enthusiasts” (Abidin & Ots, 2016), in the context of influencers as brand advocates (Dolbec &
Fischer, 2015), exploring their success and growth as they are viewed as personal brands
(Abidin & Thomson, 2012). The influencers and their credibility and authenticity have been
researched in the context of brand messaging and awareness, or in the context of fashion
bloggers (Kozinets, de Valck, Wojnicki & Wilner, 2010). At the same time, how popular and
influential the influencers are has been of interest for different researchers. Kwak, Lee, Park
and Moon (2010) measure the influence of the influencers on Twitter by comparing three
different factors- number of followers, rank of the web-page, and number of retweets, with
ranking being the most significant one. Cha, Haddadi, Benevenuto and Gummadi (2010) used
also three measures – number of followers, number of mentions, and number of retweets, and
established the influencers with the most followers do not necessarily score high on the other
Purchasing intention was addressed by different researchers through different contexts. Akar
and Topçu (2011) indicated the higher consumers’ trust is about a product or service online, the
higher the consumer’s purchase intention is. Trust has substantiated to have a considerable
effect on purchasing intention (Li, Kim & Park, 2007). Furthermore, in an online environment
consumers play a significant role via their interactions, which influences how trust is generated
and consequently led to purchase intention (Lee, Khong & Hong, 2014). Meanwhile, the
consumer purchasing decision is influenced by the electronic WOM, which in turn affects the
purchase intent in two ways- positive or negative way (Sa’ait, Kanyan & Nazrin, 2016). It has
also been noted that brand attitude has a positive impact on purchase intention, for instance
when the consumer shows a desire to buy a specific brand this intent is invigorated when the
consumer has a positive attitude towards it (Butt, 2014). Also, brand equity contributes to
customer's’ purchase intention, and brand loyalty has a direct positive role in affecting both of
brand equity and purchase intention (Porral, Fernández, Boga & Mangín, 2015).
The influencers have the ability to affect purchasing decision in their roles of experts, which
shows the connection between influencers and purchasing behavior, while at the mean time it
infers an implicit connection to authenticity, credibility, trustworthiness, and other features an
influencer might possess, as the main reason for trust in experts. Therefore, we can relate our
research problem to the interconnection between influencers and online purchase intent. In this
thesis the focus will be on exploring this interrelation from the point of view of the consumers
themselves, as existing research does not address adequately the question of what are the actual
features of the influencers that influence the online purchase intent.
1.3. Purpose and research question
The purpose of this thesis is to explore the features that an influencer possesses or should
possess and their impact on online purchase intent for consumers. Therefore, this thesis will
combine influencers marketing and online purchase intent in one framework. Hence, we have
the following research question:
What are the main features of influencers that have an impact on consumers’ online purchase
This master thesis is structured as follows. It starts with a literature review on influencers
marketing, influencers, online purchase intent, including a conceptual framework for this study.
Next is the chapter with method introduction and overview of the study, with elaboration on
the research philosophy used and research strategy discussion. After that the results are
presented and followed by analysis in consecutive chapters. Lastly, conclusions are presented,
together with limitations connected to this thesis, as well suggestions for further research.
2. Literature review
The aim of this chapter is to give an outlook of the literature relevant to this thesis’ research.
It starts with the definition of influencer marketing and influencers, their roles and how to
identify them. Next is an overview concerning the purchasing intention and the various factors
influencing it. The chapter ends with a theoretical framework representing a conceptual model
about the consumers’ online purchase intent toward online retailers and the role of influencers.
2.1. Influencer marketing and influencers
The Internet has changed the traditional ways of conducting business and establishing
consumer’s relationships, the way companies and customers interact and the transactions.
Online shopping is gaining a vast popularity and is becoming broadly accepted as a purchasing
tool for products and services. With the emergence of the e-commerce online purchasing
emerges as a new phenomenon, becoming the future of commerce in the digital world
(Bourlakis, Papagiannidis & Fox, 2008). Therefore, social media has become a crucial source
for communicating marketing messages globally, making the organizations, researchers and
marketers be more interested in the value of advertising and the possibility to influence on the
multiple platforms (Saxena & Khanna, 2013). Hence, influencer marketing is a practice, which
is extremely hyped lately, and can be defined as a form of marketing that involves activities
aimed towards identifying and building relationship with individuals who have the capability
to influence over potential buyers (Wong, 2014). It follows the concept of a “trusted advisor”,
as defined by Brown and Hayes (2007), and is perceived as a resemblance to the older TV
commercials, where celebrities are featured to leverage their popularity and advertise a brand.
Producing a content, that can go viral and achieve substantial marketing success, is considered
to be the most difficult (Watts, Perretti & Frumin, 2007). By tapping into influencer marketing
the companies are able to stimulate the consumers to buy their products, and create a significant
retail lift. Brown and Hayes (2007) postulate three patterns to tap into influencer marketing.
First, marketing “to” influencers- increasing the brand’s awareness within the community of
the influencer. Second, marketing “through” the influencer by using the influencers to surge the
brand’s awareness amid target consumers; and third, by marketing “with” influencers by
transforming the influencers into brand advocates (Brown & Hayes, 2007). But what are
There are a few definitions of what influencers are, but for the purpose of this thesis we focus
on the following definition of influencers, as an extremely popular multimedia form of micro-
celebrities. Influencers are people who operate on numerous types of social media, and often
simultaneously on few platforms, such as Instagram (known as Instagrammers), YouTube
(known as YouTubers), Tweeter (known as Tweeters), and different professional and or
commercial bloggers (Abidin, 2016), who are famous “to a niche group of people” (Marwick,
2013, p.114), unlike the mainstream celebrities. Marwick (2016) describes the micro-celebrities
as regular people drawing on the culture of celebrities to boost their popularity within a network,
using online tools. They do not do this just out of nowhere, it includes wary curation of” self-
conscious, carefully constructed personas” (p.334), empowered by strategical sharing of
information, and aimed at building a specific relationship with followers (Marwick, 2016). This
specific relationship is para-social- giving the illusion of having an actual face-to-face
relationship between the follower/fan and the influencer (Horton & Wohl, 1956).
Para-social communication can create the feeling of intimacy and relationship as it would be in
real life conditions with interpersonal communication (Chen, 2014; Horton & Wohl, 1956). By
commenting on the different social media where they have account the micro-celebrities are
expanding the para-social relationship (Marwick, 2016). It is argued, that by staying in touch
and having direct interaction with their followers and supporters they are able to maintain and
grow their popularity. In her study on the micro-celebrities in Singapore’s lifestyle and fashion
area Abidin (2015) states that these micro-celebrities, whom she calls influencers, are giving
the impression of intimate interaction, or communicative intimacy. They do that by utilizing
different techniques- posting rawer and not highly photo shopped pictures, asking for comments
in order to improve content, or showing they are down to earth personas with everyday
2.1.1. The role of the influencers
In the WOM marketing nowadays the influencers play a very important role, and at the same
time their recognition is fast growing (Scoble & Israel, 2006) due to them offering synthesized
information in various forms and functionality (Akritidis, Katsaros & Bozanis, 2011). The main
factors defining the consumer’s propensity of being influenced by a specific influencer are
highly dependent on the right information, at the right time, on the right place and from the
right person (Wu, 2012). The influencers withstand a special part in the virtual community -
they spread information via various social media channels, such as blogs and social networks;
they share stories and pictures; they relate to their experiences; they express different opinions
about numerous subjects, services and products; they are an illustration of the particularly
important phenomenon of influencing (Alsulaiman, Forbes, Dean & Cohen, 2015; Alhidari,
Iyer & Paswan, 2015).
Contrasting the celebrities who are usually public figures with vast amount of flowers and fans,
influencers are creating advertorials on social media or on blogs. Sometimes they receive
payment in exchange for writing or promoting products and/or services. Bloggers have an
audience that is interested in specific topics for discussions, and the popularity of online blogs
is not unrecognized by the marketers- after all 77% of all internet users read blogs (McGrail,
2013). Accordingly, marketers have started using bloggers as endorsers, as they may be
perceived as more credible than celebrities (Mendoza, 2010). Hence, the connections forged by
the internet mean that brands wanting to be perceived as authentic will turn their marketing
efforts towards seeding information or products with influencers, relying on their ability to
provide the consumers with the feeling of “people like me” (Solis, 2016, p.1) - cited as the
highest form of influence by the consumers themselves (cf. Nielsen, 2016). This means that
brands have to carefully look for influencers who generate genuine interest, and these
influencers can differ from the traditional celebrities and paid endorsements.
2.1.2. Social proof and identifying influencers
In order to make use of the potential of influencers the companies need to be able to identify
them, as optimal use of social networks actually generates higher sales and bigger profits
(Galeotti & Goyal, 2009). It is a process, that is difficult, and an area of interest in marketing
research (e.g. Kirby & Marsden, 2006; Rosen, 2000). Rimé (2009) argues that sharing emotions
helps with coping while enhancing the social integration and the ties to others. People share
with others, thus generating social support (Buechel & Berger, 2012), as they want to be
accepted by the society (Reiss, 2004) and looking for social proof. According to Baer and
Naslund (2011) social proof is what makes one legitimate in the world of social media, it is the
indicator showing a behaviour that is easy to identify and beneficial. Online social proof is
manifested by usually the amount of “Likes”, comments, shares, or retweets one’s post
generates. But Baer and Naslund (2011) argue that the number of followers is an indicator of
popularity, not an indicator of good performance. Furthermore, the authors claim that it is not
popularity that matters, but rather the influence. In order for the marketers to be able to identify
influential influencers they need to focus their efforts on finding these influencers, whose
community is engaged in responding and commenting. This line of argument is supported by
Schaffer (2013), who posits that influence is measured by the level of involvement of the
followers, the follow-up e-mails, and the value and numbers of purchases completed via a
Some research in the past tried to identify those people who are able to change opinions
(Stewart, 1964; Watts & Dodds, 2007; Weimann, 1994) or as they were called “opinion leaders”
by engaging social network analysis. As social proof differs, depending on whether the
communication is with a close friend or relative, considered as a strong tie (Granovetter, 1973),
or a weak tie- an acquaintance. Reingen and Kenan (1986) posit social ties act as a tunnel for
transmitting information related to products, proving there is a relationship between the
information flow and the tie strength.
Furthermore, influencers can also be identified via different factors- for instance, by searching
inside community blog pages, where the influence is asymmetric- some people are more
influenced than others (Domingos & Richardson, 2001). Or in compliant engagements via
hidden influence between users (Herlocker, Konstan, Terveen & Riedl, 2004), showing that the
importance of the influencer is likewise constructed on the indirect influence he/she has on
2.2. Purchasing intention and online purchase intent
Purchasing intention is one of the major and central concepts studied in the marketing literature.
The interest of marketing scholars in purchasing intent stems from its affiliation with the
consumer buying behavior (Goyal, 2014). Intentions are deemed as potent predictors of future
outcomes (Vineyard, 2014). As stated by Ajzen (1985) intentions are indicator of to what degree
people are willing to approach a certain behavior and how many attempts they are trying in
order to perform a certain behavior. In agreement with Ajzen’s work, Liu, He, Gao, & Xie
(2008) posit lack of intention to purchase online is the main problem in the development of e-
commerce. The purchasing process starts when a consumer browses products, which in turn
may lead to the purchase of a specific item (Vineyard, 2014). Purchasing intention is the
likelihood of the customer to buy a specific product or service (Vineyard, 2014). It is also the
tendency towards the plan of making a purchase of good or services in the future (Goyal, 2014).
Furthermore, the concept of purchase intention can be identified as one of the components of
consumer cognitive behavior on how an individual intends to buy a specific brand or product
(Hosein, 2012). Purchase intention demonstrates that consumers will use their experience,
preference and external environment to gather information, evaluate alternatives, and make
their purchasing decisions (Chi, Yeh, & Tsai, 2011). Online purchasing intention is defined as
the consumer willingness to make online transactions (Meskaran, Ismail & Shanmugam, 2013).
Research has shown that consumer’s intention to purchase has a considerable effect on their
actual purchase decisions. Companies realize the importance of purchasing intention as it is
linked to their desire of increasing the sales of the products and services in order to maximize
profits (Hosein, 2012). Moreover, purchase intentions are routinely measured and used by
marketing practitioners as an input for sales or market share forecasts for both existing and/or
new products and services, as the purchase intentions’ data can assist managers in their
marketing decisions related to market segmentation and promotional strategies (Goyal, 2014).
According to Moe (2003), purchase intention can be linked to both goal-oriented and
exploration-oriented browsing behavior. Goal-oriented consumers are prone to look for
information before making any purchase decision towards a specific product, while the
exploration-oriented consumers are recognized as the ones who act freely and openly, meaning
that they do not make pre-plans before the purchase of any item. These two distinctions can be
found in both regular and online consumers (Ramlugun & Jugurnauth, 2014). According to
Belch and Belch (2003), a purchase intention arises as an outcome of the information search
and alternative evaluation stages, once consumers have satisfied their comparison with
competitor products (Belch & Belch, 2003).
2.2.1 Factors influencing the purchase intent and the online purchase
There are different factors that affect purchasing intent and the intention to purchase online,
other than those related to the influencers’ features. They include brand awareness, perceived
quality, customer loyalty, perceived value, and others, which are explained further in this
The consumer's’ ability to organize and recall a brand is known as brand awareness (Yaseen,
Tahira, Gulzar & Anwar, 2011). A product with high brand awareness will attract more
consumer and retailers, because of its high market share and the quality beliefs attributions.
Store brand awareness has found to have a positive and significant impact on purchasing intent
(Richardson, Jain & Dick, 1994; Porral, Fernández, Boga & Mangín, 2013; Semeijn, Van Riel
& Ambrosini, 2004). Additionally, Yaseen, Tahira, Gulzar and Anwar (2011) define customer
loyalty as the tendency to favor a certain brand or product over other product, and it assures
customer the repurchase of constructive brand on mind in the future. Furthermore, they revealed
a significant impact of brand awareness, perceived quality and customer loyalty on purchase
intention. This also coincides with what Porral,Fernández, Boga & Mangín (2013) found in
their study regarding a positive influence of store brand loyalty and store brand perceived
quality on consumers’ purchase intent.
Brand Equity is defined as “the set of assets and liabilities linked to a brand, its name or symbol,
which enhances or decreases the value provided by a product or service to the company and its
customers” (Porral ,Fernández, Boga & Mangín, 2013, p.96). Hence, it contributes to
customer's’ purchase intention when store brands create value for customers (Porral ,Fernández,
Boga & Mangín, 2013). Moreover, there is a positive significant relation between dimensions
of brand equity, brand preference and purchase intention (Cobb-Walgren, Ruble & Donthu,
1995; Myers, 2003).
Perceived value is defined as a “customer’s overall assessment of the utility of a product (or
service) based on perceptions of what is received and what is given” (Zeithaml, 1988, p.14, e.g.
Sweeney & Soutar, 2001). Consumers will buy a product with high perceived value, as
Zeithaml (1988) suggested that the higher perceived value is, the higher purchase intention is.
Chi, Yeh and Tsai (2011) also proofed the higher perceived value is, the higher purchase
Website quality is a substantial factor in electronic commerce as customers’ perceptions of
website quality positively influence their intentions to use the website (Chang & Chen, 2008).
Website quality directly affects purchase intentions (McKnight, Choudhury & Kacmar 2002).
A study by Chang, Kuo, Hsu and Cheng (2014) indicated that perceived trust is positively
influenced by website quality, and purchase intention is positively influenced by perceived
trust. Furthermore, the availability of useful and pertinent information online positively
influences customers’ purchasing intention and subsequently leads to the actual purchase
(Leelayoutahyotin, 2004). Rozekhi, Hussin & Noor (2014) suggested that website features have
strong positive effect on customer purchasing intention, due to the useful information contained
in the website.
Past online experience is one of the predecessors of online purchase intention (Meskaran, Ismail
& Shanmugam, 2013). A study by Weisberg, Te'eni and Arman (2011) indicated that past
purchasing predicts the intentions to purchase and that trust and social presence act as partial
mediators. Moreover, customer’s experiences via online blogs’ involvement significantly
increases the effects of customer experiences on purchase intention (Hsu & Tsou, 2011).
Additionally, the consumer purchasing decision is influenced by the electronic WOM which
affects the purchase intention either in a positive or negative way (Sa’ait, Kanyan & Nazrin,
2016). Mikalef, Giannakos and Pateli (2013) indicated that product browsing and word of
mouth intention are inextricably linked, which enhance the probability of conducting a
Naturally, the consumer willingness to share his/her information over the Internet dictates the
purchase decision, as some researches addressed privacy as a factor that influences the online
purchase intention (Belanger, Hiller & Smith, 2002; Tariq & Eddaoudi, 2009). Endorsers and
their expertise regarding the product, trustworthiness and their physical attractiveness are some
additional influencing aspects. The more the person who endorses a product or brand fits these
criteria, the more likely they are to positively influence the purchase intent, and vice versa (Fred,
2015; Pornpitakpan, 2004a). Albeit, a contradicting study by Chi, Yeh and Tsai (2011)
suggested the moderating effect of advertising endorser does not affect purchase intention, and
that consumers don’t get influenced by the recommendation from an advertising endorser when
evaluating their purchases.
2.2.2. Theory of Reasoned Action and Technology Acceptance Model
Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) and the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) also provide
underpinning conceptual frameworks for understanding and investigating factors that affect
online purchase intention.
The Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) is one of the essential and most influential theories of
human behavior, created by Fishben and Ajzen in 1975, and has been used to predict a wide
range of behaviors. TRA states that behavior is preceded by intentions; the intentions are
determined by the individual’s attitude toward the behavior and the individual’s subjective
norms, which mean intention acts as the prime determinant of the actual behaviour (Meskaran,
Ismail & Shanmugam, 2013). In this line subjective norm is perceived social pressure to engage
or not to engage in a certain behavior. Subjective norm is believed to be determined by a set of
normative beliefs. Normative beliefs “are concerned with the likelihood that important referent
individuals or groups would approve or disapprove of performing the behavior” (Meskaran,
Ismail, & Shanmugam, 2013, p.308). Whereas attitude refers to the person’s own performance
of the behavior rather that to his/her performance in general. An attitude satisfies a personal
motive, as a matter of fact brand attitudes along with the way they are formed, both impact the
ultimate goal of creating a purchase intention among consumers (Murphy, 2014).
Trust has been measured as the most critical factor which encourages customers to conduct
purchases over the internet, and has a significant impact on the customer's purchasing intents
especially when dealing with unfamiliar web vendors, due to the high levels of uncertainty
accompanied with online exchanges (Safari, 2014). However, the effect of uncertainty is
mitigated when trust exists between the two parties. Uncertainty avoidance is directly linked to
multidimensional trust beliefs (Dorfman & Howell, 1998). Online shoppers are constantly
concerned about uncertainty, providing that uncertainty increase transaction cost and reduce
acceptance of electronic channels (Liang & Huang, 1998). Dorfman & Howell define
uncertainty avoidance as “the extent of feeling threatened by uncertain or unknown situations”
(Hwang, 2009, p.90). Uncertainty avoidance moderates systematically the relationship between
social norms and intentions to adopt (Srite & Karahanna, 2006).
Lack of trust is considered as a major limitation in the online purchase (Rahi, Ghani &
Muhamad 2017). A higher level of trust in online shopping leads to a more positive attitude and
higher intention to purchase (Cho & Jialin, 2008). Hence, the more a person trusts the company,
the less he/she will perceive risks associated with online buying. Consequently, perceived risk
negatively influences the attitude towards online shopping (Heijden, Verhagen & Creemers
2003). Also, brand image affects the perceived risks an individual comprehends, and has a
direct influence on online purchase intention (Johnson, 2015). Therefore, building trust in
customers’ perception influences the online shopping intention, and by that customers tend to
accept any potentially negative effects or loss caused by embracing online shopping (Lai &
The Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) was first developed by Davis to explain user
acceptance of technology in the workplace (Davis, 1989). TAM adopts a causal chain of beliefs,
attitudes, intention, and overt behavior that social psychologists Fishbein and Ajzen (Fishbein
& Ajzen, 1975; Ajzen, 1991) have put forward under the Theory of Reasoned Action (Heijden,
Verhagen & Creemers 2003), where intention is determined by the person’s attitude toward the
use of that technology and his/ her perception concerning its usefulness. Attitudes are formed
from the beliefs a person holds about the use of the technology. According to Davis (1989) two
cognitive beliefs are posited by TAM. The first belief - perceived usefulness, is the user’s “The
degree to which a person believes that using a specific application system will enhance his or
her job performance” (p. 320); while the second belief perceived ease of use is “the degree to
which a person believes that using a particular system would be free of efforts” (p.320).
The TAM, presented above, has been developed further by Venkatesh and Davis in 2000, where
the authors added variables like subjective norm and experience. Their research show these and
other variables are correlated with the intention. In some later studies researchers found that
many different variables like risk and trust that are also influencing the attitude, intention or
actual shopping behavior (Wang, Zhi & Li, 2014). Trust as a factor was first added to the TAM
by McCloskey in 2006, who was focusing on trust of the consumers concerning the ability of
the retailers to keep their personal data safe. The findings revealed that trust has a positive effect
on the two main variables (perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use) as well as on actual
system use (McCloskey, 2006).
2.3. Theoretical framework
The theoretical framework in this master thesis is based on the literature used previously, and
the conducted pre-study (explained later on in this paper in the Methodology part) before the
Countless brands have engaged influencers in their attempts to reach out more consumers and
influence their purchasing behavior. These brands vary from small and not so famous ones, to
Gucci, Canon, KLM (Abidin, 2016). Multinational corporations (MNCs), government and non-
government (NGOs) organizations, education and political entities have realized the extensive
popularity and fame bloggers are gaining, and invite them for promoting causes or raise
publicity to their projects. Their ability to influence is connected with the features they possess-
authenticity, credibility and trustworthiness, competence and independence.
2.3.1. Influencers and features of the influencers
The concept of authenticity is one of the most important in marketing nowadays (Brown,
Kozinets & Sherry, 2003), and the increasing commercialization altered the way consumers
perceive authenticity in the contemporary world (Holt, 2002). Since bloggers usually write
about topics that are interesting to them they are engaged and seen by the readers as already
experts, making them look as more credible, and having a better expertise than the celebrities.
However, when consumers see a celebrity promoting a brand they connect that with the
possibility that the celebrity is engaged due only to the monetary binding (being paid to
advertise), unlike the majority of the bloggers (Forrest & Cao, 2010). Authenticity forms the
uniqueness of the influencer, as consumers seek authenticity in both companies and brands
(Willemsen, Neijens, Bronner & Ridder, 2011). Consumers want an authentic experience, not
a powdered replication of an imaginary experience as sometimes is the case with celebrity
endorsers. Authenticity is viewed as the ability to be true to one’s self (Molleda, 2009).
Credibility and perceived trustworthiness of influencers are found to be two of the features
making the influencers effective brand promoters (Chu & Kamal, 2008). Credibility is one of
the main protruding factors in persuasion (e.g. Pornpitakpan, 2004b), especially in online
setting when the consumer doesn’t have the possibility to actually feel and touch the product
(Everard & Galetta, 2006). Moreover, credibility is important for the bloggers and micro-
celebrities as it nurtures their effectiveness, and boosts their own media image and self-brand
(Chu & Kamal, 2008). When an influencer is seen as more credible the purchase intents of the
target groups are higher (Silvera & Austad, 2004), as he/she is seen as having higher expertise,
trustworthiness and attractiveness. Thus they augment the contemporary marketing strategies,
as consumers might still feel distant from the celebrities, but closer to the influencers, making
them more likable. Ohanian (1990) argues that when measuring trustworthiness, the most
important variable is likability. Trustworthiness is foreseen as an imperative variable in an
online environment. Consumers perceive trust as “the degree of confidence that a source is
motivated to communicate valid assertions” (Willemsen, Neijens, Bronner & Ridder, 2011, p.
17), meaning that even though companies might be experts in their areas they might not be
perceived as trustworthy. Nonetheless consumers will read blogs, or see a review by an
influencer who is confident, and will judge it as more trustworthy. The influencers are seeming
as giving honest opinions about the products/services. Thus their followers identify more with
them than with the manufacturers, and subsequently trusting the product information better
(Cheong & Morrison, 2008).
Competence is the extent to which a source is deliberated as expert, making it trustworthy,
depending on the knowledge and proficiency about a topic (Willemsen, Neijens, Bronner &
Ridder, 2011). The concept of competence relates to the ability of the influencer to endorse
certain intents (Fiske, Cuddy & Glick, 2006), as competence is a dimension of human social
cognition. Furthermore, it echoes “traits that are related to perceived ability, including
intelligence, skill, creativity and efficacy” (Fiske, Cuddy & Glick, 2006, p. 1). By self-
proclaiming their expertise people aim at constructing the impression that makes them being
perceived favorably and in better light by others, and perhaps increasing their persuasion traits
(Willemsen, Neijens & Bronner, 2012). Furthermore, competence is directly linked with
credibility and the ability of the influencer to make valid statements (Chu & Kamal, 2008).
Since communication is two-sided it is essential to provide accurate information, as it leads to
higher competence perception. In this research context, independence is defined as a condition
in which an individual is able to use their mind and body, regardless of social constraints or
conscience. Independence is an element of authoritarianism (e.g. Langner, Hennings &
Wiedmann, 2013; Oesterreich, 1998; Ogawa, 1981; Oesterreich, 1974) that making a person to
act on his authority without doubting or inquiring their ethics, morality and integrity.
Independence is a tool for measuring the consumer’s view to influence in the context of social
influencers. That leads to the suggestion that the higher the independence individual possess,
the higher his/her abilities are to use opportunistically his/her influencing powers (Langner,
Hennings & Wiedmann, 2013).
2.3.2. Purchase intent and factors, influencing the purchase intent
The rise of technology and the Internet advancement have led to the expansion of different
firms and business online, causing a number of studies to take a closer look at the consumer’s
online purchasing intention (Heijden, Verhagen & Creemers, 2003) - when customers intend to
search, select and purchase products over the Internet. Hence, the Internet affects the customer
decision-making behavior in all stages of their purchase- the pre-purchase, purchase and post-
purchase (Meskaran, Ismail & Shanmugam, 2013). The structure of the website, being it well-
organized and attractive is what is important during that stage of purchasing decision making-
the pre-purchase stage (Koo, Kim & Lee, 2008). During the purchasing stage the most valuable
points forwarding the consumer towards buying are the information quality and sale services
of the merchant. And in the post-purchasing stage the ability to return or exchange a product
when there is a concern or problem with it is considered to be the most important (Liang & Lai,
From the discussion above the features of the influencers might have an impact on consumers’
purchase intent when buying from online retailers. Therefore, a conceptual model for this study
is developed and illustrated in Figure 1 below.
This methodology chapter of the thesis introduces the used method to generate empirical data
and analyze it for solving the research problem at hand based on the data from the empirical
study. The definitions of the method-related terms are stated, as well the chapter provides
information how the data was generated, the participant’s information, and elaborates on the
reasons behind the chosen approaches.
3.1. Qualitative research method
This thesis is qualitatively situated. To be able to justify the chosen research method in relation
to our topic, it is important to understand qualitative research methods more generally.
According to Shank (2002, p.5), “qualitative research is defined as a form of systematic
empirical inquiry into meaning”. Systematic means planned, organized and public, following
rules agreed upon by members of the qualitative research society, while empirical means that
this type of research instructed by experience. Inquiry into meaning implies that researchers try
to understand how others can sense and benefit of their experience. Qualitative research
methods comprise techniques or practices for data collection and analysis that generates
qualitative data different from numbers (Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2012).
Furthermore, qualitative research involves an interpretive and naturalistic approach meaning -
that qualitative researchers study subjects in their natural settings, attempting to interpret the
study phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them (Ospina, 2004). This means
that the subject is studied within its natural setting and the results are interpreted accordingly.
The interpretation can be performed by using a range of empirical data gathered through
different techniques such as interviews, observations and ethnographic experience.
The argument for using qualitative research for this particular master thesis is based on the fact
that this method allows for insightful exploration of the objects under study here, and aims to
grasp the topic from the point of view of the included local population (Mack, Woodsong,
Macqueen, Guest & Namey, 2005). Further, this approach is applicable in circumstances where
no or little research has been conducted, as is the case of influencers and online purchase intent
from the view of the consumers. Hence, using this qualitative approach will give the ability to
provide “complex textual descriptions of how people experience a given research issue”
(Mack, Woodsong, Macqueen, Guest & Namey, 2005, p.1). Moreover, using the qualitative
research as a study tool helps to develop concepts that contribute to understand the phenomena
under investigation with stressing on the meanings, experiences and views of the participants
3.2. Research approach
For this thesis the researchers will begin with a pre-study using an inductive approach to obtain
knowledge as basic foundation to the theoretical selection. After addressing the theories, new
empirical data will be gathered in an abductive manner through conducting focus group
The inductive approach starts with observing a certain instance, seeks to establish initial
concepts, and draws preliminary thoughts and ideas in order to reach generalizations about the
phenomenon under investigation, and sees if these generalizations can be applied to the
phenomenon, while remaining at the same time flexible and open for alternative explanations
(Hyde, 2000). Moving to the abductive approach which was chosen for this thesis, it involves
a dual usage of inductive and deductive approaches, and allows the researcher to start from the
known facts and work towards finding an explanation. Abductive approach can be referred to
as an interplay between the theory and the gathered data (Dubois & Gadde, 2002). With an
abductive approach the researchers aim to understand social phenomena with regard to the
actions of social actors, making it necessary to study the existing literature in order to get an
understanding of the social environment (Ong, 2012), which in our case is influencers and their
effect on online purchasing intentions. On one hand, the researchers are somehow testing
existing theory based upon our empirical data collection. Nevertheless, due to the under-
researched nature of this phenomenon from an academic point of view, an entirely deductive
approach would be inappropriate. Here, the attempt is to combine different theoretical fields
into a coherent framework; wherefore the abductive approach is suitable, as new insights can
be gained from the primary data collected (Saunders, Lewis, & Thornhill, 2009). A further
justification for using this approach, is that it recognizes human behavior is influenced by the
way individuals interpret the situations they find themselves in. This reassures the
appropriateness of using abductive approach for this study (Reichertz, 2007).
3.3. Exploratory research design
This master thesis is prone towards exploratory design as the purpose is to look into the features
of the influencers that affect the consumers’ online purchase intent. Therefore, since the
research here is qualitative in nature, it is associated with using exploratory research design. An
exploratory study seeks to find out ‘what is happening, researches new insights and asks
questions in a new light’ which is the purpose of this thesis (Saunders, Lewis, & Thornhill,
2012, p.78). Exploratory research design is suitable as it contests new problems for which there
has been little or no previous researching made (Brown, 2006).
3.4. Research philosophy- Interpretivism
The researchers of this master thesis have conducted eight preliminary interviews and two focus
group interviews. Since the aim is to gain insights in the thoughts and beliefs of these
interviewees as customers the chosen research philosophy was interpretivism. This approach
states that to get results in a research study it is fundamentally important to understand the
differences of humans as social actors, the motives, meanings and other experiences (Bryman
& Bell, 2015). The researchers are required to adopt an empathetic stance- they ought to enter
the social world of the studied subjects and make sense from their point of view (Saunders,
Lewis & Thornhill, 2012). Interpretivism involves using approaches that view reality as
something subjective based on meanings and understandings in which researchers interpret
elements of the study, and their values are inherent in all phases of the research process. Thus,
interpretive researchers are more interactive and participatory in their research studies, as they
believe that just as people can't be separated from their knowledge, researchers can't be
separated from their research subject (Chowdhury, 2014).
Since the aim of the thesis is not to generalize in a statistical sense and predict, but rather to
interpret and understand human behavior, this research philosophy is suitable.
3.5. Data generation method- personal interviews and focus
For the purpose of this master thesis the primary data collection techniques includes personal
interviews and focus groups with various consumers, conducted on the territory of Sweden.
The gathered data via personal interviews in the pre-study was used as a guidance for the
theoretical framework and focus groups.
3.5.1. Personal interviews
In order to investigate the characteristics of the influencers and its impact on consumers’ online
purchasing intent, it is crucial to study and understand the initial perception of the interviewees.
For this purpose, personal interviews help to obtain the preliminary data required for the chosen
topic (Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2012). Eight personal interviews (including both face to
face and telephone interviews) were conducted as part of a pre-study, where we aimed to
interpret the perceptions of the interviewees on the research. Qualitative interviews are used to
provide new insight into a social phenomenon since the respondents are able to motivate and
reflect their thoughts on a multiple subjects in a diverse way (Folkestad, 2008).
3.5.2. Focus group interviews
In the main study, focus group method was used and applied for understanding influencers and
their features impact on online purchasing intent. The main purpose of this study is to draw
upon respondents’ attitudes, feelings, beliefs, experiences, and reactions (Saunders, Lewis &
Thornhill, 2012). Hence, using focus group interviews allow the researchers to gain such
insights in a way that wouldn’t be possible using other qualitative methods. Focus group
research offers several strengths compared to other qualitative studies. First, in this interactive
setting, participants are motivated to speak to each other, ask questions, exchange ideas, probe
and comment on other's points of view (Kitzinger, 1994). Second, focus groups are useful for
exploring people's knowledge and experiences and can be used to assess how people think and
why they think that way (Kitzinger, 1995). Albeit, due to the different personalities,
backgrounds, and experiences of the participants, a weakness of this method could be that some
participants may get influenced or biased by other’s opinion during discussions, in a way that
they would show different opinions if they were interviewed individually. This must be taken
into consideration when analyzing the focus group data (cf. Safari, 2012).
3.6. Participants’ selection
3.6.1. Size of the sample
The data collection was conducted by searching for a vast amount of information gathered from
eight pre-study interviews and two focus group interviews. The total number of interviews in
the pre-study and the focus groups delivers data that is enough for analyzing and getting new
insights for this master thesis research, especially since the researchers are using qualitative
method, which was explained earlier. This means that the number of the interviews does not
have to be extensive but the combination of two data collection methods- pre-study semi-
structured interviews and two focus groups interviews would provide enough information in
order to answer the research questions and address the purpose properly. With a larger sample
the provided findings would be more relevant and due to the fact that the subject under interest
here lacked research more than one study was needed. Conducting qualitative research is efforts
intensive on one hand, as well as time consuming, therefore a large sample will be hard to
analyze (Mason, 2010). On the other hand, qualitative sample is usually a subject to a
diminishing return – which means gathering more data will not result in having more
information (Crouch & McKenzie, 2006). Nonetheless, this master thesis’ researchers have
reviewed the existing literature for studies and theories on the topic of influencers and online
purchase intent to facilitate new insights.
Furthermore, given the time constraint of only ten weeks the researchers were able to perform
only eight pre-study interviews and two focus groups interviews. However, the focus was rather
on performing high-quality semi-structured interviews.
Lastly, by conducting a pre-study, and two focus groups the researchers reached saturation in
both phases of the research process. Saturation in this sense is defined by Saumure and Given
(2008, p.3) as “point in data collection when no new or relevant information emerges with
respect to the newly constructed theory”.
3.6.2. Criteria of the sample
Certain criteria were established on the basis of which the interviews were performed and the
participants were selected. These criteria were constructed according to the literature review
and the theoretical framework. Therefore, by interviewing the participants adequate reliable and
rich data will be provided for the purpose of this study. In line with the recommendations of
Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2009) we applied purposive sampling method with high
heterogeneity, as this research is not quantitative in nature and it is not helpful to increase
generalizability by selecting a random sample.
The criteria were as following:
Consumers who have social media accounts and/ or read blogs/online content
Consumers who use social media to communicate
Consumers who are aware of influencers
Consumers who purchase online at least once in their life
The demographics data for the participants and their social media presence data can be found
in the Appendix, Table 1 and Table 2.
3.7. Primary data and data analysis
For the purpose of this thesis, primary data collection was generated in two levels; first a pre-
study was conducted which included eight personal interviews. Secondly, two focus group
interviews were conducted to generate empirical data for the main study. As being said, in order
to investigate the characteristics of influencers and the effect on online purchasing intent, it was
crucial to study and understand the initial perceptions of the interviewees. For this purpose,
personal interviews helped to obtain the preliminary required data for the chosen topic
(Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2012). While the focus group interviews provided access to in
depth data and that's where the study’s main empirical data was collected.
The sample for the pre-study included both males and females ranging from 25-50 years old,
from different countries- Sweden, Germany, Poland, Jordan, and Bulgaria. The pre-study was
conducted to receive a general understanding of the influencer marketing phenomenon, in terms
of how the participants viewed influencers, as well as to explore and identify the important
features of influencers and their impact on consumers’ online purchasing intent. Therefore, the
selected participants were from the researchers’ personal networks. Some of the interviews
were conducted in the mother tongue of the interviewees, while others were in English. The
researchers, when needed, provided clarifications to the questions in order to avoid possible
misinterpretation and language barrier.
Part of the interviews were carried out in person in Västerås, Sweden, in various locations. The
other part of the interviews was conducted via telephone and Skype due to geographical
Each interview lasted between 20 and 30 minutes. All interviews were recorded after initial
agreement with the participants, as well notes were taken during the interview process, in line
with Lee and Lings (2008). After the interviews, the researchers transcribed the data and added
comments to ensure no information is lost, and to enable them to return and look for information
at any time if needed (Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2012).
The pre-study established the foundation for the conceptual framework of the main study, which
was the focus groups interviews.
Two focus group interviews were conducted during April and May, 2017 and comprised of five
to seven members. The participants in these groups were from both genders, male and female,
and from various countries: Sweden, Denmark, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Mexico,
Spain, Pakistan, and Jordan. They were selected based on the sample criteria and the personal
network of the researchers, who contacted those using private conversations, Facebook
Messenger, and e-mails. The focus group interviews were conducted again in Västerås, Sweden,
on the premises of Mälardalen University as it was the most convenient place for both the
participants and the interviewers.
Each session lasted for around an hour, and were held in English as the common spoken
language for everyone. The participants were informed beforehand about the approximate
expected longevity. They were welcomed by the moderators and offered some snacks before
the start of each session. At the beginning of the interview the participants were informed about
the topic under study, as well about their right not to answer questions they view as intrusive,
and the right to withdraw at any time. Furthermore, their informed consent was taken for
recording the interviews. They were also notified that their identities will be kept anonymous
in the thesis, to avoid any negative consequences and to motivate them to motivate them to give
more open, honest and full answers.
The focus group interviews included ten structured questions, starting with three general
questions to break the ice, followed by seven topic related questions. Depending on the flow of
the discussion, additional unstructured questions were covered. Topic discussions for the focus
groups were based on two levels. The first was to identify influencer marketing phenomenon,
then elaborate on influencers’ features and see how it affects the followers’ online purchasing
intent. Moreover, during sessions the discussion covered factors that alleged to influence online
purchasing intention such as the website ease of use and its usefulness, the consumer attitudes
and the personal subjective norms. The researchers took notes during the interviews to prevent
any data loss.
After gathering the data from the focus groups, the recordings were transcribed in a written
form in line with the guidelines by Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2012). In order to analyze
the data, it needs to be summarized, categorized, and structured so that the researchers are able
to recognize relationships, investigate propositions and build up conclusions that are
reasonable. The responses from the focus groups were analyzed and afterwards compared to
the literature review and theoretical framework with the goal to search for patterns and possible
3.8. Validity and reliability
In order for a qualitative research and the interviews to be trustworthy, there are different
aspects that need to be taken into account (Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2009).
Reliability and validity are important criteria in establishing and assessing the research quality
and its contribution to the knowledge field (Bryman & Bell, 2015). Reliability refers to the
degree to which a research method produces consistent results. Meaning, whether the
researcher's data collection techniques and analytic procedures would produce consistent
results, if they were repeated on another occasion or they were replicated by another researcher
(Golafshani, 2003). The results collected via a research method are not fundamentally intended
to be recurrent because of the time reality they were obtained in, and the particular situation
that might change over time and is influenced by different factors (Marshall & Rossman, 1999).
It is suggested to take notes about the design of the research in order to support the methods’
and strategy selection, and it will be helpful for other researchers to understand the used process
and the findings and to analyze the collected data again.
Nonetheless, the purpose of the research needs to stay the same despite any possible changes in
the circumstances or environment. Since the research phenomenon in this paper is rather new
and not addressed adequately in previous literature, the approach chosen here is supported by
extensive literature review that is in compliance with the used method, thus allowing other
researchers to comprehend our point of view. Correspondingly, it is important to document the
whole process as it enhances the reliability of this study, as the researchers have reached
saturation making them feel the findings are reliable.
While validity in the qualitative research pertains to the credibility and trustworthiness of
interpretations. In other words, researchers need to persuade themselves and their readers that
their findings are genuinely based on pivotal examinations of all their data and do not depend
upon a few well-chosen examples (Brink, 1993). Nevertheless, there is the possibility while
conducting interviews to lose some information being it during transcribing or due to language
barrier (Kuzmani, 2009). Therefore, to prevent data loss the researchers of this paper used a
triangulation of research methodologies by recording all interviews and taking notes separately
and reviewing them together in tandem team (Priem, Lyon & Dess, 1999). Further,
transforming body language and any expressed emotions observed during the interview process
is not possible, therefore it is important to pay attention to them (Kuzmani, 2009). Performing
face-to-face interviews ensures high validity, as well being very highly prepared and focused
on in-depth understanding of the theory related to the questions in the interview and the research
This chapter presents the empirical findings from the data collected via the focus groups
4.1. Focus groups interviews
4.1.1. Influencers and features of the influencers
The interviewees follow the influencers for entertainment and inspiration. The influencers also
serve as motivators. As one participant explained:
‘It is nice to follow these people so you can learn about their life and how they are living’.
Another one added:
‘I follow them (the influencers) as I like their pictures and I use them for inspiration for what I
want to do, or for some places I want to go and visit’.
Another reason to follow influencers is because of the content they produce:
‘I just watch it and I enjoy the product they produce- the content’;
‘I follow some because they are interesting to me, and their lifestyle encourages me to keep up’.
All participants stated listening to a recommendation from an influencer helps them in a way
with uncertainty avoidance. Some of them said again it is the personality of the influencer that
has an impact on the uncertainty:
‘…here it comes down again to the personality of the person in general and how long you’ve
been following him/her’;
‘Even though sometimes they officially state this review is sponsored by X brand you can still
feel it from what they wrote if the influencer shows an honest and genuine opinion that comes
from their own thoughts; compare to if it is very obvious it's a marketing material that they
have been handed’.
The reputation of the influencer is what the majority of the participants agreed to be more
important than the popularity of the referential:
‘If the brand uses somebody who is a controversial person, or their image is super extreme this
would totally turn me away from this brand and I will never buy it’;
Besides, one interviewee stated that popularity changes over time:
‘…the more popular you become the more you tend to change, and your legitimacy might go
down due to sponsors offering you more money’.
The participants in the focus groups appreciate the honesty of the influencers. They want to
know when a product is provided for a review, or see a disclaimer posted:
‘…they have to have the disclaimer sponsored so you have to always know this’;
‘… in the description on YouTube it must be stated that he is sponsored or in his blog -they
have to be honest about it’.
Being open and honest that a product is advertised, or how much is paid for a review makes the
consumers perceive the influencers as more trustworthy:
‘…he's actually talking about the terms of the contract and what they have to do with the brand-
this makes me trust the person more‘.
‘The first thing that comes to my mind when I see an influencer recommending a product or
brand is how much money have they got from a sponsor of this brand or product. Even though
this doesn’t really affect me but I want to know what is their reasoning behind’.
The majority of the interviewees agreed that when they listen to a recommendation by an
influencer they do as they perceive them to be credible and trustworthy, and the level to which
one is familiar with the influencer:
‘When I listen to the recommendation given by the influencer, I would say I would do that
because I perceived them as a credible and trustworthy’;
‘ if it an influencer that you follow for one or two weeks then you might find it a bit sketchy;
while if you follow someone for a long time (like 2 to 3 years) or so you tend to listen more to
them than the person that you follow for the short-term’.
The trustworthiness and credibility of the influencer depends on the relevance of the
recommended product to their personality, according to the interviewees:
‘One day she started promoting a product of no relevance to her image; so that's was like sort
of questioning what is the connection - this would make me question her authenticity’.
The legitimacy of the influencers is a factor the majority of the participants stated plays a role,
and is linked with trustworthiness and credibility:
‘I would think about legitimacy which plays a big part of this, and I think this is a problem with
most (influencers) as I don't see them legitimate, they are there to get the money and then leave
out of the business’.
Legitimacy is defined here by the participants as:’ they take a sponsorship or use a product for
the genuine use of it - not for the money they take’. Hence, it is for the product value itself rather
than the monetary value’.
Moreover, the respondents linked the reputation of the influencers to authenticity and
‘…someone can have thousands followers and be not with a good reputation, while another
might have a few followers and be with a good reputation, so I think they both (authenticity and
reputation) go hand in hand as well’.
4.1.2. Purchase intent and factors, influencing the purchase intent
Some of the participants get more influenced by the opinions of the influencers whenever it is
related to their interest in the product and the budget they have:
‘…I look it up then and I find it interesting for some future trips - for when I am more financially
‘…but most of the time the products are really expensive and right now I'm a student and I don't
really have the budget’.
Another reason to get influenced to some extent is when the influencers provide a proof for
using the products: ‘…they provide a living proof of how things happened in a way…’.
The level of influence also depends on the product itself and the interest the person has in the
‘Certain bloggers affect me more than others, especially when they offer a product that matches
my interest, so I value more what they are doing and can relate to it better’;
‘…It is also more about what purpose you seek behind it, for example if it is more about
inspiration and motivation like in lifestyle blogs you would be more interested or affected by
When purchasing online, the interviewees were driven by the need of the product- this was a
‘…the most important one is if I really do need that product. If I really need it then I would buy
it from any website’.
One interviewee said that it starts with the need but then other factors might occur:
‘…as the features of the website, the impression of the product and website; the place is also
factor, as well as the price, and the product itself being offered by the company’.
The quality of the website and its ease of use are sometimes factors influencing the online
purchase and purchase intent:
‘…if you really need the product the website doesn't matter a lot, while if you're still wondering
about the product - then the website might matter.’
For another participant it is the attitude towards the retailer or the brand that actually matter:
‘If you have a negative perception about the retailer you would go and seek substitutes or other
Interestingly, one participant said: ‘My perception of the brand won’t change if a bad site is
selling it; it will turn me away from buying from this particular website only ‘.
Another one added: ‘Sometimes when the website looks bad I still buy the product because they
have the best price but then I know what I pay for. It is kind of like a trade-off ‘.
Social norms have an impact on the purchase intent. The majority of the participants claimed
they get affected by the social norms and values of the society. They try to stick to them and
look for social proof.
‘I'm the kind of person who is affected by the social norms of the people- the people surrounding
me, and what they do think about me.’ Another participant added: ‘…it depends on the
perception of how others look at you, and it depends on the person himself or herself ‘;
‘It depends on how often you use the product and whether people will see you using it. For
example, clothes and personal appearance might matter more when it comes to social proof,
as people would see you wearing them. But for products you use in private that no one will
really see you it doesn’t require social proof’.
Price of the product is a factor that impacts the purchase intent. The interviewees consider the
price of the product affects their willingness to buy it and the amount of influence. One
‘If the product is cheap and I really like it I will just take the leap of faith’.
The majority of the participants in this focus group agreed with that statement- cheap price with
affection for the product is what drives the desire to buy a product. Meanwhile, another
respondent included the option of how frequently one uses the product:
‘If it is going to be a product I will just use once and not use it again, and it is not very expensive
then I will give it a chance and try it…’
Product necessity and price are interconnected, with four participants agreeing on that
‘The higher the price gets the more the necessity of the product becomes also a factor. If it
becomes more expensive you tend to rethink and say ‘Do I really need that product?’, whereas
a product that is priced low you say ‘I can just try it and see if it fits me in the long term’.’
One participant connected her willingness to buy a product with its quality:
‘It is more about the perceived product quality than the monetary value. Again, the higher the
price the more factors you need to consider’.
On one hand, the participants will buy products recommended by influencers depending on
various factors, even when sometimes they don’t like the advertised brand. The purpose of the
product and the need for it are essential:
’… if it fits my purposes then sure, I would buy it; and also if I have the need for it and have the
money to buy it’.
If the product has an added value then it is a driver that makes the consumer to be influenced
and buy the product recommended by an influencer:
‘If I believe that the product they’re recommending would add value to me then I would consider
buying it even if I don’t like the brand, so here as if I would give the brand a second chance
Repeated usage of the product (being it used and reviewed not only once) and detailed review
from the influencer are amongst the main factors that will influence the consumers’ intentions
to buy it. As one interviewee explained:
‘…for me it's all about presenting the stuff. Then producing a good content if they use all of
the products – and saying they use it because it's a good product and not" Oh, here I got that
wonderful product" but they do nothing with it. It feels like teleshopping’.
Another participant included the personality of the influencer to this:
‘It's also about the personality of influencers in general, because most of the people who follow
influencers on a day-to-day basis start to get to know the person to some extent; in a way they
start to know their personality, if they’re money-hungry or showing honest opinion’.
Further, one interviewee added:
‘When they tell a good story and really explain why the shoes are good then it's like ‘Yeah,
probably they are sponsored’. But when they are engaged with the products and also show
negative part (because nothing can’t be all good) …they also show they have these problems,
etc.… ‘but you can fix it with this and this’ Then I feel it's more comprehensive what they show’.
When the product represents the lifestyle of the influencer, and fits to it then to the interviewees
it appeals more:
‘… it fits their lifestyle and you don't have the impression that they push it too much’.
On the other hand, the interviewees see themselves as strong opinionated people with their own
will, and consequently claiming they will not buy a product just because it is recommended to
‘… just because someone tells me I should buy this I wouldn't do it- I stick to my own values
and beliefs. If somebody's actively saying ‘Buy this!’- I wouldn't do it’.
This is supported further:
‘I value my own experience higher than these of the influencers. Of course I might be affected
but I wouldn't just buy because they tell me to!’
Almost all the participants in both focus groups were prone to agree on trusting
recommendations over the advertisements they see. They listen to a recommendation as they
perceive it as something more personal rather than a general statement:
‘I trust them (the recommendations from friends) because they're close to me and they wouldn't
lie to me so I trust them. But if someone on the TV just said something is very good I wouldn't
trust them- they say this to 1000 people...’
But then one of them expressed her different view, which she later adjusted to the general
‘Then there are ads that I do really like and make me get interested in the company or the
product, especially when the ads are smartly-made or are really different in a way. But I still
need the recommendations’.
Some of the participants also said that trusting ads or recommendations is again price related-
if the product is cheap they might buy it because of the advertisement, and not listen to
recommendation: ‘…if it's something cheap and I just saw a commercial about it I will buy it’.
Meanwhile the consumers in the face of our participants do not also blindly trust the
recommendations of influencers just because they like these influencers a lot. They claim
objectivity of the influencer is what will make them trust more:
‘…if somebody is reviewing product and pointing the good and the bad sides- then I'm okay
with it. But if they are stating only the positive sides then I think there's something fishy about
Expertise of the influencers was brought up by the respondents as a factor affecting trust: ‘It
really comes down to who gives the recommendation. If it is a friend who is knowledgeable
about a certain product, then I would trust them more. So it is about the level of expertise they
For the majority of the interviewees trusting blindly is not an option, there is always a need for
some rationalization, and they connect it with the digitalization nowadays:
‘…there's so much information available for anyone, so you can't really just go to a friend and
say ‘Oh, you should really buy this one because it's really good!’. You can go and find out if
it's really good just simply looking at the information over the internet’.
Another participant further elaborated:
‘…because of the globalization and the advancements of Internet blind trust doesn't really
appear in society anymore’.
Furthermore, it was agreed that:’…trust is built with time and reputation’.
Some of the consumers stated that the commercialization in today’s world made them doubt
the sincerity of the recommendation:
‘…but at the same time people care about the money and sometimes they will say that a product
is good even if it's not good. Just because they want to take the money for it so they're sacrificing
their values just for the money’;
‘So they might not really like a product or the brand they promote but they do it for the paycheck
Furthermore, the participants in our focus groups see themselves as smart consumers, one who
are not fooled easily by recommendations. Especially those that have a marketing background:
‘I see myself as an enlightened consumer, especially since I study International Marketing’.
In this chapter the results will be discussed and analyzed in relation to the literature review
and the theoretical framework.
There are many reasons to why the participants follow influencers. The participants listed
inspiration, motivation, entertainment, keeping up with the latest news, or because of interest
in the products the influencers use and advertise, and the content produced, as well as the
potential future lifestyle that some consumers want to have and resemble to. Having in mind
what the definition of an influencer marketing is, inspiration and being up-to date align with
the purpose of this phenomenon, as expressed by Wong (2014) and Brown and Hayes (2007)-
influencers are seen as trusted advisors, and as people who are aiming and capable of building
relationships and influencing others.
The majority of the interviewees care about the values and the principles of the influencers, this
is a reason as to why they like them and follow them. Probably this is due to the fact that the
consumers want to follow people who resemble them, or who they might want to be in the
future, as they said are acting as inspiration. This is supported by Solis (2016)- influencers by
providing the feeling of being similar in a way to their peers, which in turn is actually increasing
the amount of influence they might attain. Moreover, that can be also linked to the level of
intimacy that the influencers are attempting to create with their followers via the para-social
communication (Chen, 2014).
The reputation of the influencer is usually prevailing over the popularity. A good reputation is
perhaps showing more influential and having more impact than popularity. Such finding is in
line with what Baer and Naslund (2011) argued- the number of followers, is actually an
indicator of popularity rather than a performance. Usually a good influencer will be in touch
with their followers/fans, keeping the communication alive and engaging in discussion
(Schaffer, 2013), as one of the respondents said:
‘If I have negative opinion about this influencer I wouldn't trust the brand that they're
associated with and I would not be wanting to be associated with this brand and supporting it.
I care more about reputation of the referential then their popularity’.
Hence, having good reputation also adds up to avoiding uncertainty for the consumers.
At the same time the respondents stated that for how long they know or follow the influencer
is of meaning for them. This is an interesting finding and factor the researchers have not come
across in the literature they reviewed. Probably getting to know an influencer online resembles
the social process of acquainting someone in real life- it is a long process, and trust is built over
time. Trust is earned, not given, as it is usually in relationships. To a degree such finding might
be related to the work of Abidin (2015), who claims that the micro-celebrities are giving the
impression of creating intimate interactions, or communicative intimacy via exposing
themselves on the social media in a more honest way time over time.
Both personal and focus group interviews revealed that online purchasing intent is influenced
by various factors. Whenever the influencer recommends a product that highly fits with the
consumer need, purpose and interest, the higher is the purchasing intention for buying that
product. That can be to a degree linked to consumers who are goal oriented- they carefully look
for information before making any purchase decision towards a specific product in order to
satisfy a particular need (Moe, 2003).
For the interviewees purchasing intent was found to be positively influenced by the perceived
value and quality. Especially when the product recommended by the influencer is perceived by
the consumers/followers as useful product that would add value to them. This coincides with
Zeithaml (1998) and Chi, Yeh and Tsai (2011) who all suggested that the higher perceived
value is, the higher is the purchase intention. Perceived quality was also found to have
connection with the product price:
“It is more about the perceived product quality than the monetary value. Again, the higher the
price the more factors you need to consider’”.
Nonetheless, price was addressed as significant factor that influences the consumer willingness
to buy online.
A predominant view was found among all the interviewees in trusting recommendations over
advertisements and commercials. As they see recommendations reflect people’s actual
experiences in using the product and hence resembles their honest opinions. However, the
commercialization in today’s world make them sometimes doubt the sincerity of the
recommendation. Despite that, recommendations was still strongly favored in unanimity over
advertisements. Thus, consumers purchasing intentions is influenced either in a positive or
negative way by the electronic word of mouth and recommendations (Sa’ait, Kanyan & Nazrin,
2016; Pateli, 2013):
‘I value my own experience higher than these of the influencers. Of course I might be affected
but I wouldn't just buy because they tell me to!’
As mentioned in the literature review, purchase intention demonstrates that consumers will use
their experience, preference and external environment to gather information, evaluate
alternatives, and make their purchasing decisions (Chi, Yeh & Tsai, 2011). The interviewees
claimed that blind trust in influencers doesn't exist, due to the consumers’ need of
rationalization when making online purchasing decision, as well as the digitalization and the
internet advancement which provide a wide access to various information. To an extent this
finding about rational consumers aligns with what Herbert Simon (1955) stated- that the
decision-making process is ruled by bounded rationality, as the human behavior is intendedly
rational but limitedly so. The decisions and choices depend as well on the preferences and
tastes, as posited by March (1978), but the digitalization and internet availability might change
the picture as they provide the consumer with broader and wider access to information. It is
assumed that informed consumers make informed decisions and therefore informed purchases,
as our interviewees showed.
But at the same time website quality and its impression was identified among the respondents
as a factor that impact their purchasing intentions when shopping online. Our finding here
reconciles with previous studies indicating a positive relationship between website quality of
the online retailer and online purchasing intentions (Chang & Chen, 2008; McKnight,
Choudhury & Kacmar 2002; Chang, Kuo, Hsu & Cheng, 2014). Further, the respondents
claimed that the website features and its ease of use were other factors influencing online
purchasing intentions. This coincides with the one of the cognitive beliefs posited by TAM
(Davis, 1998) - intentions are determined by the person’s attitude toward the use of technology.
In line with the TRA (Fishben & Ajzen, 1975), the interviewees concluded in agreement that
societal values and subjective norms affect their purchasing intention as they try to stick to them
and look for social proof. This was also linked to how people would see them and think about
them, which is critical when consumers are using a product in public such as clothing.
“… just because someone tells me I should buy this I wouldn't do it- I stick to my own values
and beliefs. If somebody's actively saying ‘Buy this!’- I wouldn't do it”.
Furthermore, this quote from one of the interviewees: “If you have a negative perception about
the retailer you would go and seek substitutes or other retailers” shows the consumer attitude
towards the retailer and the brand/product are actually important and affect the purchasing
intentions, again confirming the TRA.
The purpose of this study was to research the features that an influencer possesses or should
possess and their impact on online purchase intent for consumers. The reason for this
exploration was to identify and gain understanding into how influencers are managing to affect
the online purchasing intent of the consumers. Therefore, this thesis by combining influencers
marketing and online purchase intent in one framework aims at answering the following
What are the main features of influencers that have an impact on consumers’ online purchase
Authenticity is amongst the most significant feature that has an impact on whether the
interviewees will listen to the influencers. The other features of significance are trustworthiness
and credibility, competence and expertise, legitimacy and honesty.
According to Guignon (2008) authenticity as stated by existential philosophers is living one’s
life honestly, coherently, sticking to the values of integrity. The respondents want the
influencers to be honest with them, to disclose when they are advertising a product, or put a
disclaimer, as it is required by some platforms:
‘…now on YouTube there's this kind of requirement that you have to state whether this
advertising by the influencer is sponsored, but to me- I don’t always believe because I know
that money speaks sometimes’.
The participants wanted the influencers to be honest with them as this was the feature that would
help them with uncertainty avoidance. Honesty is helping them trust better, and this finding is
in line with the literature about the interconnection between uncertainty and trust, as in the
works of Dorfman and Howell (2008), Srite and Karahanna (2006), Safari (2014).
It is important to say here that we noticed that the respondents in a way seem to connect
authenticity with trustworthiness and credibility, as an expression of honesty, making the
classical definitions of all these terms blurred. Maslow (1971) defines authenticity as a
“phoniness towards the zero point” (p.183), and Lenton, Bruder, Slabu and Sedikides (2013)
state that external influences cannot affect the authentic self. Chu and Kamal (2008) connect
credibility with effectiveness, meaning that those influencers perceived as credible will actually
be more effective in selling a product. To an extent our findings show that the respondents are
willing to buy more if the influencer is credible, which aligns with Silvera and Austad (2003)
but at the same time they do not rely only on this- they want to trust. The interviewees might
buy a product if the influencer is trustworthy and honest (Cheong & Morison,2008).
Furthermore, an interesting feature appeared as to be very important for the second focus group
interviewees. They claimed authenticity, trustworthiness and credibility are actually depending
on legitimacy, and they gave a definition to what legitimacy is- according to them is when the
influencers will not sacrifice their values just because they are paid to advertise a product, they
will be honest about the negative sides as well as the positive ones. The definition of legitimacy
in the Cambridge Dictionary is two-fold: “1. the quality of being legal; 2. the quality of being
reasonable and acceptable”. Here the researchers observe again that the respondents’
perception of authenticity, trustworthiness, credibility, and legitimacy have similar to a certain
extent meaning. But the connecting link between these features is honesty. Thereafter, honesty
is associated with trust, as Willemsen, Neijens, Bronner and Ridder (2011) defined trust is: “the
degree of confidence that a source is motivated to communicate valid assertions” (p.17).
According to Cho & Jialin (2008) higher level of trust in online shopping leads to a more
positive attitude and higher intention to purchase.
Meanwhile, competence and the level of expertise are also found to affect the interviewees but
they perceive the experts to be more competent than the superstars or celebrities. Consumers’
purchasing intent increases whenever the influencers demonstrate having knowledge about the
product they promote, through providing objective detailed reviews and living proof for using
the product, as well as in showing a consistent repetitive usage pattern for the product. This in
turn increases the level of consumers’ trust in influencers which confirms to what previous
studies have found - when the people who endorse a product or brand have higher level of
expertise and knowledge about it, hence they are perceived with more trustworthiness, leading
the consumer's purchasing intent to increase (Fred, 2015; Pornpitakpan, 2004a). In general, very
few of the contemporary bloggers and influencers tend to show how they use a product multiple
times, by either making more than two reviews of it, or showing it repeatedly in posts without
being paid for it- this is where the requested by the interviewees concept or living proof and
repetitive usage tends to make a difference for them. And it is a finding the researchers did not
manage to find analogues to in the existing reviewed literature.
Influencers are important and they are able to impact the online purchase intent to a certain
extent but not that big of an impact as most of the brands and marketers think today. It will be
worth exploring the ROI (Return of Investment) index for advertising budgets, where
companies are strongly working and paying influencers to advertise. Furthermore, measuring
honesty is hard, as it is a cornerstone and a basis for authenticity, trustworthiness, and credibility
as our interviewees pointed out.
Naturally, only the features that an influencer possess are not enough to have a significant
impact and make a consumer buy a product without thinking or contemplating about it. But it
can be assumed that these features are a factor that might enhance or diminish the purchase
intent, when combined with other forces or depending on the environment and settings. What
works for one not always works for all, there is not one strategy that fits like a magic.
Furthermore, online purchase intent is found to be affected by a number of factors different than
the influencers’ features, including the need for the product, its price, the recommendations,
and some others, listed in the findings and discussion chapters.
The perceived authenticity, together with the trustworthiness and credibility, the expertise of
the influencers and their honesty are the main features that have an impact on the consumers
and the online purchase intent. The consumers want to be treated fairly and honestly, they
connect the concept of honesty everywhere, and view it as the building grounds for a successful
marketing relationship- with both influencers and brands. In today’s commercialized world, the
consumers have access to multiple sources of information and are able to make informative
decisions and research thoroughly before actually buying. Therefore, they treat honesty as the
dice that is able to an extent to turn the tables in their decision-making process.
Authenticity, trustworthiness, credibility, expertise, legitimacy and honesty all add up to the
reputation. Having any of the above features will contribute conversely to the popularity of the
influencer, thus gaining them probably more endorsement deals in the future. But the
influencers should not forget that trust is hardly earned and the consumers are not stupid, despite
making decisions emotionally sometimes they still act rationally, especially since price and
need are of essence. Additionally, the consistency of being legitimate and preserving all these
features over time is essential.
6.1. Practical implications
Brands and marketers sometimes rely too heavily on endorsements with celebrities and
influencers to increase the sales of their products and services. Occasionally they overestimate
the knowledge that consumers nowadays have and have access to, making them not so easily
influenced in their purchasing decisions. Therefore, our thesis might shed some light and
probably doubt in the marketing managers about the actual amount of influence of the
influencers they engage with- how influential are the influencers?
Meanwhile, this thesis’ findings can force the attention of the marketing managers and brands’
marketing departments to switch towards finding and working with influencers who possess
the features described here. These features, in combination with other factors, might have a
positive effect on the consumers’ purchase intent. As a result, the products and services of such
companies who work with influencers with the above mentioned features will have better sales
and longer market life.
Furthermore, our thesis can be helpful to the influencers themselves. Adapting their strategy
and their exposure to fit better towards displaying they are authentic, trustworthy, credible,
having expertise, and are legitimate and honest might help them. Especially in the long run,
when their popularity grows, staying true to these values and features will be beneficial.
6.2. Limitations and suggestions for future research
This research has few limitations that need to be taken into consideration. Due to the short
timeline was given for completing this research which consisted of only a ten weeks period, we
were restricted in terms of the number of focus group interviews employed and the research
scope. A longer research timeline could have allowed conducting more focus group interviews
or perhaps interviewing influencers to include their perspective in a comparative study.
Also, the generalizability of the findings for this study is limited due to the qualitative research
nature, in which the participants in the study sample are usually selected based on certain
criteria. Unlike the random sampling used in quantitative research, where the study sample is
likely to be statistically representative of the larger population of interest, the results from such
findings can be extrapolated to that population. A future research that employs mixed methods
would be beneficial to overcome this limitation as well as to enrich and broaden the gathered
data and consequently the empirical findings. Furthermore, another limitation relates to the
potential bias in the answers and interpretations provided by the focus groups’ interviewees.
This is a weakness associated with using focus group interviews where some respondents could
be affected by other participants during the discussions and they may not debate the issues in
the way they would do if they were interviewed in person. Moreover, a limitation might be the
language barrier, as English was the official language used in collecting the research data from
the respondents, who have different nationalities. The interviewees could have elaborated more
or expressed themselves better if they used their own language.
A future research can be done via a longitudinal study, spread over a couple of years. Such
study will possibly be affected by the continuous development of technology and social media
platforms and communication. Another interesting aspect for a future research can be to look
upon the different levels of social media involvement of the consumers, as different levels might
affect differently the purchase intent.
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1. Demographics data and social media involvement of the participants in the pre-study
and the focus groups interviews
Number of interviewees
25-50 years old
Social media presence
Follow someone on social media
Fan of someone /celebrity or influencer/
Bought a product/service online
Table 1. Demographics data and social media presence of the pre-study interviewees
Number of interviewees in total for the two
20- 43 years old
Social media presence
Follow someone on social media
Fan of someone /celebrity or influencer/
Bought a product/service online
Table 2. Demographics data and social media presence of the focus groups’ interviewees