The Growing Influence of Online Consumer Reviews – An Evolutionary Story

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Paper


Word-of- Mouth is not an abstract or theoretical construct; it is part of everyday life for most of us. Whether it is a friend raving about his fabulous new sneakers or your Grandmother ranting about her new hoover. When the first literature about of Word-of- Mouth (WOM) appeared in the 1960s, marketing practitioners, theorists but also ordinary citizens had already assumed its impact on purchase-intention long before the academic evidence. As Arndt (1967) conducted a study about the influences of WOM on consumer behaviour he defined WOM as an oral, person-to-person communication regarding a brand, product or service. Beside its influences on buying behaviour, WOM is said to shape consumers’ expectations as well as their pre- and post-usage perceptions. As it covers different stages of consumer decision making it appears to be a very powerful concept which influences up to 50% of all consumer goods sales and up to 69% of service-related goods as outlined by American Marketing Association in 2006.

But as the digital revolution since the 1990s created new forms of communication like text-messages, emails or social-media, WOM also found a way to evolve and expand – it became electronic Word-of- Mouth (eWOM). eWOM was not restricted to face-to- face or phone communication anymore. It used many new channels in order to deliver its opinion about a product and evolved a stunning new strength: it was not restricted to one recipient anymore. Emails can be sent to hundreds of people at once and Twitter-posts can be received by even hundreds of thousands of users. Some problems regarding credibility arose but as various studies outlined it is still a powerful marketing-tool.

Similar to biological systems the evolutionary process does not stop. While numerous online-shops rose in the late 1990s, a new species of (e)WOM evolved: Online Consumer Reviews (OCR). This new form involves statements about products or services made by consumers but published on a company or third-party website. It can appear in form of blog entries, Youtube-videos or as online-shopping reviews. This new species again evolved an exciting new feature: This kind of message does not target a special recipient or recipient-group – it just shares its information to everybody who is actively or passively searching for it. Several scholars have investigated its influence on purchase-intention and mostly found a positive link – just like its ancestors WOM and eWOM.

As the research field of OCRs is rather young, many research gaps exist. In my upcoming PhD dissertation I plan to investigate how cultural behaviour influences the impact of OCR on purchase intention. However, some problems and risks for consumers also exist and should not be ignored. The current state but also future developments of OCRs remains an exciting topic. Especially since the use of internet bots (automated programs which mimic real people) influenced a main presidential election, the influence of automated posts suddenly became apparent.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jul 2017
EventDurham University Castle Conference - University of Durham, Durham, United Kingdom
Duration: 26 Jul 201727 Jul 2017


ConferenceDurham University Castle Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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