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An Investigation of the Impact of Social Media Electronic Word-Of-Mouth on Consumer Purchase Decisions Module: Student Name: Student Number: An Investigation of the Impact of Social Media Electronic Word-Of-Mouth on Consumer Purchase Decisions Dissertation Subject Area The proposed dissertation shall focus on marketing, Marketing is a core management function that influences the success of a business. This subject area comprises of the process that a business uses to communicate the value in its products and/or services. Through marketing, a business creates awareness, persuades consumers to buy, creates a brand image, creates customer loyalty, and encourages repeat patronage. Therefore, marketing is a key management function that has a significant impact on corporate performance. Table of Contents An Investigation of the Impact of Social Media Electronic Word-Of-Mouth on Consumer Purchase Decisions Dissertation Subject Area…………………………………………………………………………………… P.2 Table of Contents………………………………………………………………………………………………P.3 Introduction …………………………………………………………………………………………………. P.4 Part One: Research Context…………………………………………………………………………………P.4 Context of the Study…………………………………………………………………………………P.4Research Questions…………………………………………………………………………………. P.5Aim …………………………………………………………………………………………………. P.6Objectives……………………………………………………………………………………………P.6Research Limitations and Foreseen Potential Issues………………………………………………P.6Significance of the Research…………………………………………………………………………P.7 Part Two: Literature Review…………………………………………………………………………………P.7 Part Three: Research Design…………………………………………………………………………………P.9 Quantitative or Qualitative Research Approach …………………………………………………P.9Research Strategy……………………………………………………………………………………P.10Data Collection Method ……………………………………………………………………………P.11Sampling……………………………………………………………………………………………. P.11Ethical Considerations ……………………………………………………………………………P.12 Part Four: Data ……………………………………………………………………………………………… P.12 Data Type…………………………………………………………………………………………… P.12Data Analysis and Presentation……………………………………………………………………P.13 Part Five: Research Planning…………………………………………………………………………………P.13 Part Six: Conclusions ………………………………………………………………………………………… P.14 Bibliography…………………………………………………………………………………………………. P.15 Introduction The proposed study seeks to explore how social media electronic word of mouth (eWOM) influences consumer behaviour. The emergence and growing adoption of social media created new channels for businesses to communicate to customers. However, the information about a brand available on social media is not exclusively company generated. Rather, there is a large amount of consumer reviews posted by actual consumers. The current study shall explore how these customer reviews and other customer generated information on social media influences consumer perception of brand and, subsequently, their purchase decisions. Part One: Research Context Context of the Study The emergence and advancement of social media has created platforms where consumers can share their service/product consumption advice and experiences[ CITATION BSc14 l 1033 ]. With the expansion of social sharing technology adoption, consumer generated reviews have increased online and have had a revolutionizing impact on ecommerce. Nielson (2008) estimated that at least 85% of the global population of people with internet access have shopped online. Further, Bond et al (2019) found that about 77% of US online shoppers rely on consumer reviews to make purchase decisions. Therefore, eWOM is an emerging marketing concept whereby consumers exchange consumption experiences and advice on a virtual platform. The increase in consumer generated media on social sharing sites has increased the accessibility of service and product information. This information generally includes positive and negative consumer reviews and consumption advice[ CITATION BSc14 l 1033 ]. Both positive and negative reviews influence consumer purchase intentions and decisions. Generally, consumers are more likely to purchase a product when they encounter positive eWOM[ CITATION Che09 l 1033 ]. As a result, positive eWOM can contribute to the success of a brand. As a marketing concept, social media eWOM is a relatively new concept. Past studies [ CITATION BTa16 l 1033 m BSc14] have focused on studying social media as a channel for disseminating marketer generated promotional information. Other researchers have studied the impact of eWOM using data obtained from corporate webpages including consumer comments and ratings[ CITATION Lin13 l 1033 m IBo17]. Little research attention has been given to how eWOM occurring on other platforms influences consumer behaviour. Over the last decade, the internet has become increasingly proliferated with consumer generated media[ CITATION Sam19 l 1033 ]. In recognition of this, the proposed research shall investigate how social media eWOM affects consumer behaviour. 1.2 Research Questions The proposed study shall be concerned with solving the question: How does social media eWOM influence the purchase decisions by a target consumer? Specifically, the study shall seek answers to the following questions: How does social media eWOM affect the perceived brand image and reputation?Does positive social media eWOM affect how consumers shop? In what ways?How does negative social media eWOM affect how people shop?How do eWOM and the traditional WOM communication differ regarding to the impact on consumer purchase intentions? 1.3 Aim The proposed study aims to study how consumer shopping behaviour is affected by eWOM spread via social media. Advancements and high adoption of social media communication have led to the increasing proliferation of consumer generated product and service information in different forms (eWOM). This study seeks to establish how the brand reviews and information posted in social media circles by consumers influence the purchase intentions of other members of the social media circles. 1.4. Objectives To achieve the stated aim, the research seeks to achieve the following objectives: To explore how social media eWOM affects brand perceptions and reputation among consumers.To determine how positive social media eWOM affects how people shop.To determine how negative social media eWOM affects consumer shopping habits and choices.To investigate the differences between WOM and eWOM. 1.5 Research Limitations and Foreseen Potential Issues The proposed study shall rely on quantitative data and analysis almost entirely. The process of collecting and analysing data for a primary research study is time consuming and requires financial investment. As a result, the time and resource constraints associated with the scope of the current study as a school assignment, may limit the depth and breadth of the data collected and data analysis. In addition to this, primary data collection requires significantly higher ethical standards in research. Therefore, the process requires much more vigilance than secondary data collection and analysis. 1.6 Significance of the Research The proposed research shall provide insights regarding how consumer purchase decisions are shaped by social media eWOM. The findings from this study will find application in product and service marketing in todays business environment where online marketing is increasingly important. By understanding how eWOM influences purchase intentions, marketers can improve sales by finding ways to enhance the spread of beneficial eWOM. Part Two: Literature Review Word-of-mouth (WOM) communications was first described as a marketing concept by Arndt (1967). In literature, WOM is understood as the unmediated consumer to consumer exchange of product or service evaluation in a face to face setting (Baka 2016). Due to its nature, WOM communication typically occurs between a consumer and his/her family and close contacts. As a result of the relationships between the people engaged in WOM, product/service recommendations given are considered more credible than promotional information acquired from other sources of marketing information (Sweeny et al., 2014; Harrison-Walker, 2001). According to Gvili & Levy (2016), WOM can influence consumer purchase intentions more than personal selling and other forms of advertising. The idea of eWOM has become an increasingly important marketing concept (Bore et al., 2017). In marketing literature, any comment about a product or service made on an online platform counts as eWOM (Bore et al., 2017). Given this definition, eWOM takes the form of any statements regarding a brand, product or service made in online blogs, social media sites, wikis, product review sites, newsgroups, bulleting boards, and discussion forums among others (Benckendorff et al., 2014). eWOM does not replace the role of WOM in marketing. Rather, it is a different marketing information dissemination channel characterised by greater scale, durability of information, anonymity and variety of reviews than traditional WOM. A number of recent researchers have studied how eWOM affects corporate performance. There is a general consensus that positive eWOM improves sales (Bond, et al., 2019; Lin, et al., 2013). Some researchers have concluded that adverse eWOM does not reduce sales always. However, high levels of inconsistency between negative and positive eWOM has been shown to reduce sales. Rosario et al (2018) reviewed 96 studies on eWOM. The study concluded that researchers agree on the effects of eWOM on corporate outcomes (sales, profitability and brand image). However, there were marked differences in the effectiveness of eWOM with the product characteristics, the platform and the eWOM metric factors. For instance, Rosario et al (2016) found evidence to prove that eWOM has a greater influence on purchase behaviour on social media platforms when the message recipient can perceive some form of similarity between him and the sender. This mediating relationship is not observed with other platforms where eWOM is disseminated such as product web sites and product review sites. Most of the previous empirical studies have investigated the effect of eWOM on organizational performance using online reviews and ratings as the primary measure of eWOM. These reviews and ratings are typically left on product websites, online shops and product review sites. Since these websites are publicly available, it is easy to collect the data and compare it with organizational performance measures such as sales and profit. Given the mediating effect of the online platform on the effect of eWOM identified by Rosario et al (2016) the findings based on data obtained from public platforms cannot be generalised over relatively more private platforms such as social media. In light of this, the current study focusses on studying how social media eWOM affects consumer buying intentions. Consumer purchase intentions influence corporate outcomes including sales, profits and sustainability. Part Three: Research Design Quantitative or Qualitative Research Approach  There are two commonly used approaches to conducting primary research namely quantitative and qualitative approaches. In quantitative studies, numerical data is collected and analysed typically using statistical tests to make inferences. On the other hand, qualitative studies involve collecting data which is mainly descriptions. Typical data analysis approaches in qualitative studies include grounded theory, thematic, and analytical induction analyses[ CITATION Has16 l 1033 ]. The quantitative research method has a few advantages over qualitative research. Chief among this is the ability of the researcher to separate himself from the data collection process thereby eliminating personal bias. Unlike qualitative studies where the researcher is a part of the data collection process, a researcher is separate from the data collection process in quantitative studies. Further, data collection is typically faster in quantitative studies[ CITATION Moo16 l 1033 ]. Questionnaire survey administration which is typically used in quantitative data collection is quicker than interviewing which is commonly used in qualitative studies. Quantitative and qualitative approaches to research are not polar opposites. Rather, the methods are applicable to different studies depending on the nature of the research. In some cases, quantitative and qualitative approaches are used to complement each other in a single study. This approach is known as the mixed methods approach[ CITATION Has16 l 1033 ]. The current study seeks to investigate how eWOM spread through social media affects how consumers shop. The nature of this aim is such that the information needed to answer the question is known to the consumers who interact on social media. The study requires quantitative data to measure the extent to which eWOM spread through social media platforms influences how consumers shop. Therefore, the proposed research shall adopt a quantitative approach. 3.2 Research Strategy As mentioned in the previous subsection, the research shall use a quantitative approach. In quantitative studies, data is commonly collected through surveys. A questionnaire survey involves the preparation and administration of a questionnaire to a representative sample of the target population. Since multiple questionnaires can be administered at the same time, a questionnaire survey is faster than other data collection methods commonly used in qualitative studies[ CITATION NMa09 l 1033 ]. In addition to this, a questionnaire survey enhances objectivity in the data collection process. The target population for the current study comprises of University of Hertfordshire business school students at the researcher’s university. While the implications of the study are applicable to the entire population of people who have a social media presence on the internet, the smaller population of business school students is chosen to simplify the process of data collection. This choice is in line with the current project’s scope as a university assignment. Data Collection Method  From the previous subsection, data shall be collected using a questionnaire survey. The questionnaire is a document comprising of short closed ended questions covering the topic of interest[ CITATION SRo12 l 1033 ]. In this study, the questionnaire shall comprise of questions regarding the effects of eWOM spread via social media on consumer behaviour. The questionnaire shall be administered in the paper and pen format. While there are alternative administration methods such as via email or other online platforms[ CITATION NMa09 l 1033 ], the paper and pen method is considered easier given that most of the target population can be found concentrated within the premises of the business school. 3.4 Sampling The total population of the University of Hertfordshire business school is 4,300 students. Administering questionnaires to the entire population within the time allowed for the current study is not practical. In addition to the big number of potential respondents, finding all students and identifying who has or has not taken the survey is problematic especially since questionnaire surveys are completed anonymously. According to Fleming & Zigwaard (2018), the solution to these issues is to find a representative sample of respondents from whom the data collected and the resulting findings are representative of the target population. To arrive at a representative sample, the simple random sampling technique will be used in choosing respondents. The technique is a probabilistic method where every person in the population is equally likely to form the sample. As a result of the probabilistic nature of simple random sampling, the researcher’s personal bias and exaggeration bias are eliminated from the data collection process[ CITATION NMa09 l 1033 ]. In an ideal case, the simple random sampling method results in a fully representative sample of respondents. In this case, the study seeks to arrive at a sample of 206 respondents accounting for 5% of the target population of 4,300 students. 3.5 Ethical Considerations  Like in most quantitative primary studies, there are a few salient ethical considerations that will factor into the design of the data collection and analysis process. These include respondent anonymity, right to stop participating and informed accord to participate[ CITATION Geo11 l 1033 ]. All participants shall be informed prior to the questionnaire administration that participation is not mandatory. Rather, each participant is asked to participate out of his or her own free will. In addition, participants will be assured of the right to stop their participation anytime without needing permission to do so. Finally, no participant will be asked to provide personal identification information[ CITATION NMa09 l 1033 ]. All responses provided shall be treated with confidentiality and will not be given to any third parties for whatever reason. Part Four: Data 4.1 Data Type Numerical data shall be collected for the purposes of the current study. Specifically, data from a random sample of students from the business school shall be collected through a questionnaire survey. The questionnaire shall contain questions about the effects of eWOM spread through social media on brand perceptions, how negative and positive eWOM influence the decisions made by consumers and how WOM and eWOM differ in their level of influence on purchase decisions. Data Analysis and Presentation Descriptive and inferential statistical tests shall be used to analyze the data. Descriptive analysis includes the calculation of descriptive statistics include mean, standard deviation, frequencies, percentages, medians and interquartile range to analyze data. On the other hand, tests such as correlation, ANOVA, Chi Square, and regression analyses are used to do inferential analysis. The important findings from the aforementioned analyses shall be presented in tables, graphs and other charts. This presentation shall make the discussion and interpretation of results easier. Part Five: Research Planning Part Six: Conclusions From the foregoing, the current study seeks to establish how social media eWOM affects consumer purchase behaviors. eWOM is an emerging marketing concept. As a result, it has not been studied extensively. Prior studies have concentrated on evaluating the impact of eWOM using data from online product reviews and ratings. The proposed research shall use the quantitative research approach. The target population for the survey is the population of students at the business school. The questionnaire shall be administered to a representative sample of 206 students selected using simple random sampling. Statistical methods including descriptive and inferential tests shall be used to analyze the resulting data. The findings shall be presented using charts, graphs and tables. Bibliography Arndt, J., 1967. Word-of-mouth advertising: A review of the literature. New York: Advertising Research Foundation. Baka, V., 2016. The becoming of user-generated reviews: Looking at the past to understand the future of managing reputation in the travel sector. Tourism Management , 53(1), pp. 148-162. Benckendorff, J., Sheldon, J. & Fesenmaier, R., 2014. Tourism Information Technology. s.l.:GoogleBooks. Bond, S. D., He, S. X. & Wen, W., 2019. Speaking for “Free”: Word of Mouth in Free- and Paid-Product Settings. Journal of Marketing Research, 56(2), pp. 276-290. Bore, I. et al., 2017. A Systematic Literature Review on eWOM in the hotel industry: Current trends and suggestions for future research. Hospitality & Society, 7(1), pp. 63-85. Cheung, C. M. K., Lee, M. K. O. & Thadani, D. R., 2009. The Impact of Positive Electronic Word-of-Mouth on Consumer Online Purchasing Decision. s.l., World Summit on Knowledge Society, pp. 501-510. Elkatawneh, H. H., 2016. Comparing Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. SSRN Electronic Journal. Fleming, J. & Zigwaard, K., 2018. Methodologies, methods and ethical considerations for conducting research in work-integrated learning. International Journal of Work-Integrated Learning , 19(3), pp. 205-213. Fouka, G. & Mantzorou, M., 2011. What are the Major Ethical Issues in Conducting Research?. Health Science Journal, 5(1), pp. 3-15. Gvili, Y. & Levy, S., 2016. Antecedents of attitudes toward eWOM communication: Differences across platforms. Internet Research , 26(5), pp. 1030-1051. Harrison-Walker, L., 2001. The measurement of word-of-mouth communication and an investigation of service quality and customer commitment as potential antecedents. Journal fo Service Research, 4(1), pp. 60-75. King, A., Racherla, P. & Bush, D., 2014. What we know and don’t know about online word-of-mouth: A review and synthesis of the literature. Journal of Interactive Marketing , 28(3), pp. 167-183. Lin, C., Wu, Y.-S. & Chen, J.-C. V., 2013. Electronic Word-of-Mouth: The Moderating Roles of Product Involvement and Brand Image. Phuket, TIIM. Mathers, N., Fox, A. & Hunn, N., 2009. Surveys and Questionnaires, Nottingham: National Institute for Health Research . Moore, F., 2016. Qualitative vs Quantitative Research, s.l.: North Central University. Nielson, C., 2008. Trends in Online Shopping a Global Nielsen Consumer Report, s.l.: Google Scholar. Roopa, S. & Satya, R., 2012. Questionnaire Desinging for a Survey. The Journal of Indian Orthodontic Society, 46(4), pp. 37-41. Rosario, A., Valck, K., Sotgiu, F. & Bijmolt, P., 2016. The Effect of Electronic Word of Mouth on Sales: A Meta-Analytic Review of Platform, Product, and Metric Factors. Journal of Marketing Research, pp. 13-25. Schivinski, B. & Dabrowski, D., 2014. The effect of social media communication on consumer perceptions. Journal of Marketing Communications , 22(2), pp. 1-26. Sweeney, J., Soutar, G. & Mazzarol, T., 2014. Factors enhancing word-of-mouth influence: positive and negative service-related messages. European Journal of Marketing , 48(1), pp. 336-359. Tatar, B. & Eren-Erdoğmuş, I., 2016. The effect of social media marketing on brand trust and brand loyalty for hotels. Inf Technol Tourism, Volume 249, pp. 16-21. Tsao, W., Hsieh, M., Shih, L. & Lin, T., 2015. Compliance with eWOM: The influence of hotel reviews on booking intention from the perspective of consumer conformity. International Journal of Hospitality Management , 46(1), pp. 99-111.

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