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Home arrow Engineering arrow Measuring Electronic Word-of-Mouth Effectiveness: Developing and Applying the eWOM Trust Scale

Objectives of the Research

The research described in this thesis contributes by developing and validating an instrument to quantitatively measure generalized trust in eWOM-conveyed information (i.e., the eWOM trust scale or eWT-S). Additionally, this dissertation applies the scale by investigating the concept’s role for segmenting online shoppers. More specifically, the objectives of the research at hand are:

  • 1. To clarify and advance the theoretical conceptualization of eWOM trust by investigating the construct’s conceptual meaning as well as scope and to provide evidence on the unique characteristics of the construct which distinguishes it from other eWOM concepts.
  • 2. To introduce a reliable as well as valid multi-item scale that quantitatively captures trust in eWOM by applying a rigid measurement development process.
  • 3. To investigate the role of eWOM trust in an e-commerce/trust framework by evaluating the concept’s antecedents, correlates, and consequences and to characterize eWOM trusters.
  • 4. To apply the new scale to segment online consumers in accordance with their generalized trust in C2C (eWOMTmst) as well as B2C communication (oADTrust) and describe the segments in terms of attitudinal, perceptual and habitual characteristics.

In order to satisfy the aforementioned objectives, a multi-stage research design was followed which meets both the demands of classical test theory and traditional scale development standards - advanced, for example, by Churchill (1979) as well as Netemeyer et al. (2003). Such an approach is justified due to the nature, and this thesis’ conceptualization, of the discussed construct. Based on synthesizing previous trust research of various intellectual disciplines, this work advanced a preliminary definition of eWOM trust by describing it as a consumer’s general confidence that the information conveyed in online customer reviews is reliable. More specifically, eWOM trust was formally defined as a five-dimensional, second- order construct capturing the extent to which a consumer has the belief that information given in online customer reviews is (a) honest, (b) useful, and (c) benevolent; (d) has a favourable attitude towards this kind of market information; and (e) is willing to rely on online customer reviews in general. This definition built the reference of this research’s identification stage (stage one). As described in Chapter 3, the definition covers the nature of eWOM trust as it includes the three underlying elements that are critical for the formation of consumer trust (i.e., cognitive, affective, and behavioural elements), as well as the distinct dimensions of trust. The preliminary trust definition and an initial pool of items were evaluated for conceptual correctness and translation validity by means of various consumer and expert interviews.

During the reliability stage (stage two), a student survey in two universities was conducted in order to verify the construct’s dimensionality. Here, the survey data was split into two data sets, of which one half of the sample was analysed by applying exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and internal consistency analysis in order to select the items most representative of its intended domain. Then, a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was applied. The same procedure was also applied to the second half of the sample (the holdout sample) in order to verify and validate the structure of the items resulting from the first data set. Following this, new representative data sets were collected by surveying Internet users from Austria and Germany and analysed to examine diverse issues of construct validity in the validity stage (stage three). This process also led to a refinement of the original definition.

By using additional fresh samples, additional reliability (e.g., generalizability of the scale to different cultural/language contexts) as well as validity checks (e.g., known-group validity, predictive validity, nomological validity) were achieved. The third and fourth stage (i.e., application stage) also offered empirically-based insights into the characteristics of eWOM trusters by (i) describing eWOM trusters in terms of consumption-relevant characteristics (e.g., susceptibility to informational and normative influence) ; (ii) exploring the impact of eWOM trust on consumers’ usage of reviewers’ opinions for their own purchase decisions and on active engagement in offline/online WOM; and (iii) providing a new typology of eWOM/Ad trusters by means of cluster analysis and profiling the identified segments. The details on the research methodology are presented in Chapters 4 and 5.

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