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Home arrow Engineering arrow Measuring Electronic Word-of-Mouth Effectiveness: Developing and Applying the eWOM Trust Scale
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Profiling Recipients of Online Market Communications

This research also alerts researchers as well as practitioners to carefully distinguish between segments of online consumers who rely on different kinds of market communication. The rationale of the segmentation is that specific groups of individuals can score low (high) on trust towards the two major forms of online communication - that is marketer-driven online advertising (oADTrust) and customer online reviews (eWOMTrust). Both orientations have to be included as segmentation bases in order to target specific audiences with adequate marketing communication instruments.

Pure review trusters (19% of respondents) are strongly oriented towards information given by other shoppers. More specifically, they have developed a high confidence in online customer reviews, while having no trust in online advertising messages at all. Such consumers appear to be females for the most part; office workers as well as unemployed persons who are not looking for a job are well represented in this segment and a major proportion is living in a relationship. Like most other segments, Pure review trusters typically reside in a suburban area. Unsurprisingly, this kind of online consumers is characterized by positive perceptions, attitudes as well as behaviours towards consumer-to-consumer communication, while having quite a negative stance towards online advertising in general. However, this segment does not hold the most positive attitude towards reviews - this is reserved to the High trusters cluster. Anyhow, Pure review trusters have a favourable stance towards reviews which is for the most part triggered by prior positive experiences with this information source and a positive disposition towards others. They are typically less critical towards reviews and think that their usage comes with very limited risk. Hence, they are much more likely to accept eWOM claims and recommendations. These persons passively consume and actively seek purchase-related information published by fellow shoppers and this information also largely impacts their own purchase decisions. Pure review trusters also are involved in contributing review postings and feel safe to forward recommendations and claims read to others. The segment holds a favourable attitude towards the Internet in general and shops online regularly. Its attitude to e- commerce is tremendously well developed and clearly the best of all segments. These consumers’ low trust in online advertising seems to be related to an intense feeling of consumer alienation, which guides this segment to have a relatively hostile attitude towards companies and the marketplace. Further, Pure review trusters are characterized by a high self-esteem and self-confidence - they especially think that they are able to make the right purchase decision. However, the normative influence of others is very limited compared to other segments.

The cluster of Non-trusters comprises consumers who put no trust in any form of online market information. With a cluster size of 10%, it is by far the smallest segment in which members seem to be quite non-responsive to regular market communication. These consumers appear to consult their own knowledge, as well as other external information sources (e.g., family members, magazines), during the purchase process. Non-trusters are slightly older than the members of the other segments which is also mirrored by a heightened rate of retirees. They benefit from a relatively high income. Naturally, this segment holds a relatively negative attitude towards reviews, as well as online advertising, and generally refrains from using these kinds of information in their purchasing decisions. Non-trusters do not have much affinity with the Internet and stand out from the other segments with unfavourable attitudes towards the Internet in general, and online shopping in specific. This also possibly explains their limited intentions to purchase online. They feel alienated by the companies, but not as much as pure review trusters. In parallel, they are sceptical in respect to the general price fairness on the market. This segment shows the smallest susceptibility towards normative as well as informative influence by others, which is accompanied by a slightly lower than the average extent of trust in others.

Moderately trusting consumers represent, with 41%, the biggest cluster. It shares some demographic characteristics with the Non-truster segment, but members are more likely to be found in rural areas. However, this segment demonstrates a more positive attitude and behaviours towards both online customer reviews, online advertising, as well as online activities. Their trust in eWOM as well as online advertising seems to be situation-specific, which highlights the importance of perceptual cues and contextual evaluations of the content, message, etc.

The segment High trusters (30% of respondents) is a grouping of consumers which is rich in contrast. Here, members have developed a high level of trust in both online reviews and advertising, which makes them open for both kinds of communication. It is the second largest segment. Its members are relatively young and live above-average in the urban area. Their attitude towards online reviews is more favourable than in the Pure review trusters segment. However, their scepticism towards this medium seems also to be more distinct, as they are more aware of the potential risks embedded and they also have a tendency to avoid reviews for some purchasing decisions. In contrast, High trusters source information given by fellow shoppers and belong to a segment of consumers that is most active in distributing this information to others. Members of the cluster possess by far the most favourable attitude towards online ads and regularly consult them while being online. The Internet in general seems to have an important role in their lives, as they can be regarded as “Internet literates”. Individuals of the Generation Y or the Digital natives cohort typically belong to this segment. Their online shopping behaviour is comparable to the characteristics of the Pure review trusters segment, while visiting online shops with customer reviews more often. High trusters have an open and favourable orientation towards companies and their business practices but also tend to accept given market prices. However, they are slightly more sceptical concerning product quality, which may cause them to collect additional information via various sources. They have a well developed self-esteem (which guides them to external information search), but their trust in the various forms of market communication seems to be triggered by a low self-confidence in making purchasing decisions on their own. As in the High trusters segment, members have confidence in their ability to identify misleading or false communication. Further, such consumers appear to be very susceptible to both normative as well as informative influence.

Hence, in the eyes of High trusters, they face the serious problem of being reliant on external information and advice in order to come up with a smart purchase decision. Here, both marketer- as well as consumer-driven communication are two valued sources to overcome this burden. However, when it comes to the edge, eWOM is more trusted than online advertising (as in the other segments). This influence parallels with the consumers’ strong tendency to generally rely on others. In a nutshell, this research indicates that a large body of online consumers is still open to online advertising. However, this coexists with a similar openness towards eWOM and, if it comes to the crunch, eWOM seems to be more influential.

 
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