The impact of blog on consumer decision making from the perspective of word of mouth

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Chapter 1: Introduction

1.1 The Background of Research

Along with the advent of internet, consumers are surrounded by the inflow of information from internet. On the one hand, consumers can facilitate the ability to make a better consumer decision from the information of internet. On the other hand, the considerable information can further make consumers not evaluate the quality of the information. Blog, as the aspect of the implication of internet, becomes the increasingly significant source of word of mouth on online. Referring to the question of why and how word of mouth from blog can influence consumer decision making, from the perspective of literature review, word of mouth from blog can have the positive influence on every stages of consumer decision making including need cognition, information search, alternative evaluation, purchase decision and post purchase behavior. This dissertation will further evaluate this question through the survey in China.

1.2 The Meanings of Research

This dissertation will attach increasing importance to the relationship between word of mouth from blog and consumer decision making. Word of mouth from blog is considered as the most influential interpersonal communication for information sharing and exchange. In terms of previous experienced scholars' research,such as Bloch et al. (1986), Richins and Root-Shaffer (1988), and Blackwell et al. (2001), word of mouth can be regarded as the increasingly important source for consumers to make a felicitous decision. Furthermore, based on the communication platform of blog, word of mouth exerts considerable influence to make consumers recognize the credible information of word of mouth from blog. However, most papers inclined to make comparison between the platform of blog and others platform of corporate web blog, newspaper, and TV. The Nature of the relationship between word of mouth from blog and consumer decision making is not given within the proper situation.

This dissertation will further focus on the impact of word of mouth from blog on consumer decision making. From the research of this dissertation, word of mouth from blog cannot give the same positive influence on the five stages of consumer decision making. According to the understanding of the relationship, it may make the marketing practitioner and managers pay attention to the application of word of mouth from blog on the stages of consumer decision making. Furthermore, it is important that prosing and solving the problems of the reasons for why word of mouth from blog exerts the negative influence on need cognition and information search in China marketplace.

1.3 The Aim and Objectives of This Dissertation

The main purpose of this dissertation is to explore and evaluate the relationship between word of mouth from blog and consumer decision making through conducting the survey in China marketplace. Furthermore,

Simultaneously, there are some objectives of this dissertation as follows.

  1. To interpret the question of how word of mouth from blog influence consumers in China to make a better decision from the perspective of the stages of consumer decision-making process.
  2. To evaluate the Chinese consumer attitudes toward the impact of word of mouth from blog on consumer decision making.

1.4 The Structure of This Dissertation

This part will explain the structure of this dissertation with the arrangement of table of contents. Firstly, the part of literature review of this dissertation will give some explanations of the relevant theories or items including word of mouth, the definition and situation of word of mouth, the causes and motives for word of mouth activities, blog, consumer decision making, the process of consumer decision making, reference groups, and word of mouth from blog and consumer decision making. Subsequently, the section of research methodology will contain research question and objectives, the justification of research method, research process, method design including research framework, survey questionnaire and data collection, research environment and sampling design and data analysis and validity and reliability, and limitation. Then, the section of data analysis and discussion will offer some items including the general information of this survey, and descriptive statistic and data analysis. Finally, the conclusion of this dissertation will be given.

Chapter 2: Literature Review

2.1 Introduction

This section will explain and critically evaluate some theories on the relevant topics, such as word-of-mouth, blog, online word of mouth, reference group and consumer decision making. Referring to word of mouth, this part will be relevant to the definition of word of mouth and the causes for word of mouth activities. Subsequently, the relevance of blog and consumer decision making will be covered. Furthermore, connecting these topics in the given circumstance will better interpret the question relating to the impact of blog on brand image and consumers' decision-making from the perspective of academic environment.

2.2 Word of Mouth

Word of mouth is derived from the interpersonal communication for information exchange. Based on the merits of word of mouth communication (the close relationship between the decision makers and the communicators), word of mouth communication becomes the most influential source for the consumers to make a better purchase decision (Bloch et al. 1986; Feick and Price 1987; Richins and Root-Shaffer 1988). Understanding the meanings and nature of word of mouth is essential for further grasping the influence of blog on consumer purchase decision.

2.2.1 The Definition and Situation of Word of Mouth

Word of mouth (WOM) is primarily considered as an important channel of communication wildly used by people (Alreck and Settle 1995; Blackshaw 2006; Bickart and Schindler 2001). In terms of Blackwell et al. (2001 p.404), word of mouth is defined as the exchange of information, comments, opinions and ideas among people (not including marketers, retailers, manufacturers, advertisers and so on) in private. This definition emphasizes on two focuses. Firstly, during the process of word of mouth communication, the receivers and the transmitters (senders) of information are just composed of consumers yet marketers from the aspect of marketing. Secondly, word of mouth is conducted in private or in informal conversation or transformation. Westbrook (1987, p. 261) argued that the nature of word of mouth communications is an informal communication supplying other decision makers with the information on usage, merits of products and services. Compared with these two definitions, there are two apparent differences between these two definitions. Firstly, the communicators from the aspect of Blackwell's definition concentrate on the non-commercial communicators, but the definition of Westbrook do not focus on the communicators of recommendation sources. Secondly, Blackwell and his partners considered the communication as the two-ways exchange of information. Westbrook attaches less attention to the two-ways exchange, and inclines to view word of mouth communication as the suppliers of the relevant information. The common focus from these two definitions is that word of mouth communication is considered as the informal communication. From the perspective of this dissertation, word of mouth not only focuses on the sharing and exchange of relevant information, but also pays attention to the two-ways communication yet single way.

During the process of communication, Fill (1999 p.5) argued that both senders and receivers could obtain benefits from word of mouth communication. The content and information involved in the communication process of word of mouth concentrate on some aspects, such as status, performance and experience and so on (Blackwell et al. 2001). From the perspective of empirical research on word of mouth, Katz and Lazarsfeld (1955 p.93) demonstrated that word of mouth became a significant information source of the information for making purchase decision of certain household and food products. During the process of gathering information on household and food products, word of mouth is considered as the most credible source more effective than other sources, such as newspaper, magazines, advertising and marketers' sources. Moreover, Engel et al. (1969) argued that approximately 60 percent of the respondents considered that word of mouth was the most influential source. Consumers are more likely to appreciate the interpersonal communications to make a better purchase decision, especially in the service circumstance (Murray 1991; Zeithaml et al. 1993).

According to Harris Interactive Survey, interpreting word of mouth practice and usage can further comprehend consumer attitudes toward various word of mouth communications and the differences of different word of mouth communications. As Table 1 mentioned, recommendable information derived from colleagues, peers, family, friends, online newspaper, online magazines, blog, online community, and video website and satellite radio accounts for most part of recommendation sources on word of mouth. According to the fact that whether the recommendation source online, these detailed sources can be classified as two catalogs including recommendation source offline (e.g., friend, peers) and recommendation source online (e.g., newspaper online, magazines online, blog). However, this dimension of recommendation source cannot further indicate the closeness of the relationship between the receivers of sources and the advisers of sources. In terms of the closeness of the relationship between the receivers and the advisers of recommendation sources, these sources are conveniently categorized under two dimensions consisting of the strong-tie sources (e.g., friends, colleagues, family) and the weak-tie sources (e.g., blog, radio, newspaper online) (Duhan et al, 1997). In most situations, the strong-tie sources become the most credible sources for consumers needing information on the lack of knowledge and advice of products and services. Nevertheless, Brown and Reingen (1987) indicated that the weak-tie sources might contain some credible and better information from experts without the limitations of the social circle of the decision makers. Here are to some extent no better recommendation sources (the strong-tie sources and the weak-tie sources) for the decision makers.

Table 2.1: New Media Usage

Please Indicate How Frequently You Perform the Following Activities

Percent “Very Frequently” or “Frequently”

Forward information found on the internet to colleagues, peers, family, or friends

59%

Read newspaper online

48%

Read magazines online

25%

Read a blog

24%

Listen to radio feeds via the internet

23%

Participate in an online community, such as myspace.com or friendster.com

22%

Use PVR technology, such a TiVo or DVR

22%

View or post videos on a website, such as youtube.com

17%

Listen to satellite radio

16%

Create or participate in a blog

13%

Subscribe to a podcast

6%

Create a podcast

2%

Source: Harris Interactive Annual RQSM. Base= 6, 205 U.S. adults (18+) familiar with one or more of the 10 “most visible” U.S. companies. p.7.

Furthermore, the survey on credible information source from Table 2.3 shows word of mouth becomes the second most influential source. The first credible source is own personal experience. Another important source is opinions of the company's employees.

Table 2. 2: Credible Information Source

Information Source

My Perceptions are Influenced to a Positive Extent by This Source

This is a Very Credible Source

WOM

81%

34%

Advertising for the company

77%

16%

Company public relations activities

67%

15%

My own personal experience with the company

85%

70%

Opinions of the company's employees

66%

33%

Media stories about the company

68%

15%

Source: Harris Interactive Annual RQSM. Online survey conducted September 21-October 23, 2006. Base = 6,205 U.S. adults who rated the top 10 companies. p.4.

However, confronted with the lack of the relevant knowledge on products and services, the consumers readily making purchase decision incline to gather the relevant information from friends, colleagues, and family in terms of Table 1. Newspaper online becomes the second important source for the decision makers needing information. One of the most significant reasons for why newspaper online become the second important recommendation source is because consumers will find information processed by the exporters on newspaper online. According to Keller and Berry (2006), the conducted research argued that most word of mouth conversations were conducted with face to face and phone yet online. Face to face and phone word of mouth conversations account for the majority of word of mouth (90%). Furthermore, less than 10% of word of mouth conversations are conducted with online, blog, chat room, and other online channels. According to the survey of Jupiter Communications (1999), 57% of people visited web sites to view the other people's recommendations.

Faced these research, however, online channels, such as blog, websites, are the important part of word of mouth. There is no denying the fact that along with the advent of internet and advanced communication technologies, electronic word of mouth makes the credible and valuable information is available for consumers. Understanding the nature of word of mouth thoroughly can further interpret the influence of word of mouth from blog. The following will explain the causes and motives for word of mouth activities.

2.2.2 The Causes and Motives for Word of Mouth Activities

Referring to the cause resulting in word of mouth activities, this can better understand the nature of word of mouth communication and the influence of word of mouth. This section will interpret the causes of word of mouth from the previous research.

When discussing the topic of the motives for word of mouth communication, there are many antecedents and motives to interpret the question for why word of mouth communication can take place. Chatterjee (2001) argued that research offering much evidence and empirical research demonstrated that customers meeting their needs would share their experience with other customers. Simultaneously, dissatisfied consumers may tell others failed experience as much as possible. However, the significant factor for completing the word of mouth communication between consumers is that word of mouth communication to some extent can further reduce the risk of purchasing and finance and others. Word of mouth, as an important recommendation resource, can further reduce the amount of information readily processed by consumers to make a proper decision (Olshavsky and Granbois, 1979).

In terms of Hennig-Thurau et al. (2004), Table 2.2 concluded the important motives for word of mouth communication behavior identified in the literature. Dichter (1966) proposed four dominated motives including product involvement, self-involvement, other involvement and message involvement to motivate consumers to implement the positive word of mouth communication. These four factors emphasize on the positive word of mouth communication and give more detailed information on the development of these factors. Based on the work of Engel, Blackwell and Miniard (1993 p.84), dissonance reduction was added to the four motives of Dichter et al.(1998) further attached importance to altruism, vengeance and advice seeking. Furthermore, altruism may make most consumers be involved in negative word of mouth communication.

Table 2. 3: Motives for Word of Mouth Communication Behavior Identified

Author(s)

Motive

Description

Dichter (1966)

Product-involvement

a customer feels so strongly about the product that a pressure builds up in wanting to do something about it; recommending the product to others reduces the tension caused by the consumption experience

Self-involvement

The product serves as a means through which the speaker can gratify certain emotional needs

Other-involvement

word of mouth activity addresses the need to give something to the receiver

Message-involvement

refers to discussion which is stimulated by advertisements, commercials, or public relations

Engel, Blackwell, & Miniard (1993)

Involvement

level of interest or involvement in the topic under consideration serves to stimulate discussion

Self-enhancement

Recommendations allow person to gain attention, show connoisseurship, suggest status, give the impression of possessing inside information, and assert superiority

Concern for others

a genuine desire to help a friend or relative make a better purchase decision

Message intrigue

Entertainment resulting from talking about certain ads or selling appeals

Dissonance reduction

Reduces cognitive dissonance (doubts) following a major purchase decision

Sundaram, Mitra, & Wbster (1998)

Altruism (positive WOM)

the act of doing something for others without anticipating any reward in retuen

Product involvement

Personal interest in the product, excitement resulting from product ownership and product use

Self-enhancement

Enhancing images among other consumers by projecting themselves as intelligent shoppers

Helping the company

Desire to help the company

Altruism (negative WOM)

Easing anger, anxiety, and frustration

Vengeance

To retaliate against the company associated with a negative consumption experience

Advice seeking

obtaining advice on how to resolve problems

Source: Motives for Word of Mouth Communication Behavior Identified in the Literature, from Electronic Word of Mouth via Consumer-Opinion Platforms: What Motivates Consumers to Articulate Themselves on the Internet? Hennig-Thurau et al. (2004). p.41.

In terms of Mittal et al. (1999), Oliver (1980) and Swan and Oliver (1989), word of mouth is merely considered as the behavioral consequences of some aspects including satisfaction, perceived value, and commitment. Mazzarol et al. (2007, p. 1478), however, argued that little research would emphasize on the antecedents of word of mouth fully. Recognizing the antecedents of word of mouth communication is to a great extent essential for better the meaning of the word of mouth communication in the marketing context.

In terms of Matos and Rossi (2008), their work paid attention to the antecedents and moderators of word of mouth activity and developed the conceptual framework of the antecedents and moderators of word of mouth activity. Some antecedents, such as satisfaction, loyalty, quality, commitment, trust and perceived value, can motivate consumers to implement word of mouth. During the process of consumer decision making, consumers exposed to word of mouth on blog will focus on some communicators' aspects including the previous antecedents. In most situation, consumers not only attach importance to the recommendation information on the products and service, but also obverse the communicators' attitudes, satisfaction and others.

Along with the widespread implementation of internet and telecommunications technologies and the improvement of business environment, electronic word of mouth has been viewed as one of the most important sources of information referring to the companies and their products and services. Blog, as the application of internet innovation, has exert its significant influence to make most consumers express their feeling, attitudes, features on particular products and services and gather and share information effectively.

2.3 Blog

Blog offers the significant opportunity for most consumers. In terms of Wright (2006), blog is defined as a web page consisting of posted inlays arranged in chronological order. These inlays may refer to information on dairy, felling, and others covering anything people experienced in the everyday life. Text, photographs, video and audio files are the most common elements of blog (Korica et al. 2006). The blog initially launched by personal interesting and preference accounts for most part of the blog on the internet. Moreover, the important cause for the rapid development of blog is based on the need of the interaction between the readers and the writers. Understanding the situation of Blog development can further grasp the consumer attitude toward blog and the meanings of the blogs.

In terms of Technorati (2006), since October 2006, there were 57 million blogs on the internet. Furthermore, after 2005, most internet users emphasize on the blogs available for most users to express and share information, experience and others. As Figure 3.1 mentioned, during the period between March 2005 and March 2007, newly creating weblogs has experienced the most rapidly significant development. In March 2007, the volume of total weblogs increased to above 72,000,000. According to the data of Technorati (2007), the growth of the weblogs kept the increasing of 120k newly creating blogs every day.

Source: The Volume of Weblogs Cumulative: May 2003 - March 2007, from Technorati, The State of the Live Web.

In terms of Figure 3.2 and Figure 3.3, in the top 100 MSM and Blogs, there are only 18 blogs accounting for 18 % of the top 100 most popular sites. MSM (mainstream media) still dominate the formation of mass media on the internet. Nevertheless, according to the analysis of Technorati, during Q3 2006, there were 12 blogs in this top popular sites list.

Source: The Comparison between top 50 MSM and Blogs, from Technorati, The State of the Live Web.

Source: The Comparison between 21-100 MSM and Blogs, from Technorati, The State of the Live Web.

2.4 Consumer Decision Making

In the context of marketing, consumer decision models represent the choice process in the particular form (Dala and Klein, 1988; Papatla and Krishnamurthi, 1992; West et al. 1997). Consumer decision making theory has been developed within the disciplines including psychology, marketing, and consumer and organizational behavior. According to the different purpose and perspectives, there are three main decision making theories consisting of normative consumer decision making theory, behavior consumer decision making theory and naturalistic consumer decision making theory. The simple explanation and introduction of these three consumer decision making theories will be given as follows.

Normative decision making theory is derived from economic discipline (Beach, 1997 p.43). The nature of normative decision theory is to make decision for obtaining maximum utility (Fischoff et al. 1983; Beach and Mitchell 1998, p. 4). The hypothesis of normative decision making theory is based on the rational decision maker. The foundation of behavior decision making theory is to remove the assumptions of normative decision theory. Within the influence of consumer behavior, behavior decision making theory emphasizes on some aspects, such as the adaptation of decision makers (Luce et al. 1999; Payne et al. 1988), the close correlation between consumers' preference and person (Bettman and Park 1980; Coupey et al. 1998), context (Huber and Klein 1991; Tversky and Simonson 1993)and task-specific factors (Pieters et al. 1997; Svenson et al. 1990; Swait and Adamowicz 2001). Naturalistic decision making theory is involved in organizational behavior. Based on observing consumer decision behavior in natural environment, naturalistic decision making theory needs consumers making decision to considering the changing situation, information and learning and so on (Orasanu and Connolly 1993p. 57).

2.4.1 The Process of Consumer Decision Making

Referring to the process of consumer decision making, many researchers will agree with the five steps of consumer decision making process. These steps abound with need recognition, information search, alternative evaluation, purchase decision and post purchase behavior. Figure 2.4 shows a general description on the process of consumer decision making.

Source: Consumer Decision Making Process, from Laudon and Traver (2007 p.172),

Need Recognition

The first step of consumer decision making is need recognition. The meaning of need recognition is that consumers begin to recognize their actual need beyond the desired need. Recognizing the desired need truly is so important for consumers to take action for the next step. Furthermore, the actual need in this context is defined as the need consumers have abilities to meet. Since Statt (1997 p.13) demonstrated that the gap between the actual need and the desired need may influence the consumer behavior. In other words, to some extent, the higher degree of the gap between the actual need and the desired need can weaken the consumers' motivation for purchasing and the relevant behavior. Along with the changes of personal lifestyle and the surroundings, these factors will further affect the actual needs (Blackwell et al. 2001 p. 9).

Information Search

After the step of need recognition, information search can supply the relevant information for the others step. Information search is divided into two aspects including internal search (Wells and Prensky 1996 p.62; Statt 1997; Blackwell et al. 2001) and external search (Blackwell et al. 2001).

Internal search is based on consumer own purchase experience, and products and service knowledge from the post experience and learning (Wells and Prensky 1996). Faced with the need of new products and service, most consumers will recognize and understand these new products and service from the aspect of the comparison between the information on new products and service and their own experience and knowledge. When not processing and recognizing these new products and service, external search will be implemented and may play a significant role in the step of information search. According to Blackwell et al. (2001), when consumers do not understand the knowledge and information for making a better decision, external search will be conducted from the wider sphere. The sources of external search contain peers, families and friends, mass media, word of mouth and internet and so on. In this dissertation, it will mainly emphasize on blog considered as the source of external search.

Alternative Evaluation

Based on the understanding of information and knowledge on products and service, then consumers will narrow and evaluate their choices. Alternative evaluation often refers to personal preference and the criteria viewed as the most important elements. From the perspective of the most important criteria evaluating the choices and alternatives, the ultimate choices of various consumers will differentiate from one person to another. For this reason for the differences of the choices between consumers, this step will not be covered in this scope of this dissertation.

Purchase Decision

According to Blackwell et al. (2001), purchase decision not only covers the question whether to purchase or not, but also refers to some aspects consist of when, where, and how to purchase. In this aspects, Statt (1997) argued that the decision of how and where to purchase to a great extent affect the consumer purchase decision. Furthermore, the environment surrounding consumers including other consumers, government, policy and law, mass media and others can influence purchase decision. Environment protecting policy, for example, can make consumers reduce the volume of the purchase of the products and service polluting the environment.

Furthermore, in terms of Kotler et al. (2005), during the process between the purchase intention and the purchase decision, some factors will make consumers change the decision. Before interpreting the meaning of the previous, understanding the purchase intention is essential.

Purchase intention can be defined as a personal action is an individual's conscious to purchase products and service and a brand (Spears and Singh 2004; Bagozzi et al. 1979; Ostrom 1969). From the aspect of the motivation, Eagly and Chaiken (1993 p.163) defined purchase intention as the personal motivation to make an effort to employ a behavior. Purchase intention often is relating to the topic of attitude. From the perspective of the Theory of Planned Behavior (Ajzen, 1991), consumers' attitudes can be considered as the determinant element of intention to carry out a behavior. Moreover, purchase intention to some extent can predict the purchase behavior (Fishbein and Ajzen 1975; Chen et al. 2008).

From the changes from the purchase intention to purchase decision, attitudes may play an important role in this transformation. Furthermore, in this dissertation, consumer attitudes toward the products and service involved in the word of mouth communication will be covered and processed. The post satisfied purchase experience will increase the confidence of purchase decision. Labarbera and Mazursky (1983) demonstrated that purchase intention was straight affected by consumer satisfaction. Furthermore, satisfaction influences the forming of the purchase intention more than the quality of products and service (Cronin and Taylor 1994). The satisfaction of the post experience on word of mouth communication will play an important role in the process of purchase decision and the choosing of the source of external information search.

Post Purchase Behavior

Post purchase behavior refers to the experience and knowledge on products and service from the post own experience and other consumers. When needing to make a better decision, consumers will use the post experience and knowledge to serve this decision making process. In terms of Statt (1997) and Blackwell et al. (2001), when consumers' expectations are met, this positive experience will increase the volume of purchase and create positive word of mouth. In this dissertation, the focuses of post purchase behavior consist of the satisfaction of the word of mouth communication (blog), and the degree of trusting the information in the process of word of mouth (blog) and the question for whether to create word of mouth after purchasing.

2.4.2 Reference Groups

In the process of consumer decision making, reference group becomes one of the most important influential sources (Blackwell et al. 2001). Reference group is defined as an individual makes comparison with others or a group in the process of decision making (Blackwell et al. 2001; Antonides and van Raaij 1998 p.550). Along with the changes of the situations and different individual, the reference group will be changed and differentiate from one person to another (Wells and Prensky 1996). The status - the positive a individual within the given group can determine the influence of the reference group (Assael 1992 p. ). In other words, higher status will give more influence on the consumers' motivation. Virtual reference group will cover more persons than the traditional offline reference group. People on online will be more honest than people on the offline communication. The information involved in the online communication

In this dissertation, the survey of reference group refers to the influence of the reference group on blogs.

2.4.3 Online Word of Mouth and Consumer Decision Making

Blog, as the aspect of electronic word of mouth, also has the unique features of online word of mouth communication. Discussing the previous literature on the research of online word of mouth can further understand the impact of blog on consumer decision making. Bickart and Schindler (2001) argued that the word of mouth in online forums was considered as the more credible source from investigating the response of the students browsing the specific products on corporate web pages and online forums. Consumers inclined to trust the information on blog rather than corporate web pages. Furthermore, Bichart and Schindler (2005) conducted another survey on the consumer use of online word of mouth. The consumer use of online word of mouth is determined by the three motivations including gaining information and knowledge, obtaining support for making a better decision and get fun from searching information.

In the step of information search in the process of consumer decision making, consumers can gather and process information and knowledge from online word of mouth for decision making. During the process of gathering information on online word of mouth, the negative experience and information on the specific products and service are attached more importance to by most consumers. The significant role of positive word of mouth in service sector is well recognized by most researchers (George and Berry 1981; Hartline and Jones, 1996; Zeithaml et al. 1993). Positive word of mouth can make consumers recognize its influence on decision making. However, when a failure service or the unfavorable performance of the specific products takes place, consumers inclined to spread and express the negative word of mouth (Blodgett et al. 1993; Seiders and Berry 1998).

Furthermore, the use of online word of mouth can affect the every stage of consumer decision making (Bickart andSchindler 2001). In the stage of need recognition, when some consumers will mention some specific products and service with the positive word of mouth, other consumers reviewing this information will form the positive brand image or others to create new needs on these specific products and service. Alternative evaluation often refers to choose the most important criteria from the aspect of personal view. In some situation, the most significant criteria of the specific products and service will be neglected and not recognize by consumers. From the perspective of online word of mouth communication, consumers will well recognize the criteria neglected previously. In other words, dominated attributes on online word of mouth not concerned with by consumers may play an important role in the effective and performance of alternative evaluation. Online word of mouth will supply these criteria and attributes to facilitate the process of alternative evaluation. According to Statt (1997), online word of mouth information on purchase decision focuses on how and where to buy. Online word of mouth communication eliminating the barrier of geography can provide more information on products and service from the wider rang.

The previous mentions that consumers inclined to express the negative word of mouth. The blog was viewed as the platform to express and spread the dissatisfaction and complainants on the specific products, service and firms. Moreover, the information on these dissatisfaction and complainants will make other consumers be careful with these products, service and firms. Constant et al. (1997) argued that weak-tie sources, such as mass media, blog, online newspaper, can make most consumers difficultly evaluate the word of mouth information. However, Duhan et al. (1997) proposed that weak-tie resource will provide some experts suggestions and the true information. There is no denying the fact that consumers will learn the new knowledge and gather the new information from online word of mouth.

2.5 Summary

This section will give the detailed explanation of the relevant theories on word of mouth, blog and consumer decision making. From the perspective of literature, word of mouth from blog can influence each stages of consumer decision making.

Chapter 3: Research Methodology

3.1Introduction

Proper research method will facilitate the validity of research and improve the performance of the dissertation. This section will propose the proper research method and clarify the research questions and research process. The aim and objectives of research method will be given in the context of this dissertation. Narrowing and choosing the proper sampling for the implementation of survey and questionnaire will further interpret the meanings of the impact of blog.

3.2 Research Question and Objectives

The question of this dissertation is based on the impact of blog on consumer decision making from the perspective of word of mouth. The questions of why and how blog influences consumer decision making will be fully understood and interpreted in this dissertation.

Simultaneously, the following objectives will be understood thoroughly.

  1. To interpret the question of how word of mouth from blog influence consumers to make a better decision from the perspective of the stages of consumer decision-making process.
  2. To evaluate the Chinese consumers' attitudes toward word of mouth from blog.

This two research objectives are closer with each other. Firstly, the question of how word of mouth from blog influence consumers to make a better decision makes this survey divided into five main dimensions covering every stages of consumer decision making. This implementation will give the survey of assessing consumer attitudes more detailed information. Secondly, the survey of evaluating consumer attitudes toward word of mouth from blog can help this dissertation understand the influence of word of mouth from blog on every stage of consumer decision making.

3.3 The Justification of Research Method

In terms of Bartunek and Seo (2002), method designed and implemented by researchers may influence the explanation and meanings of the phenomenon and the further findings of the same phenomena. In most situations, research methodology is divided into two categories including qualitative research method and quantitative research method. Orlikowsky and Baroudi (1991) argued that when faced with a quantifiable measure of variables, a quantitative research methodology would be a better method. Furthermore, Sutton and Rafaeli (1988) suggested that quantitative research methodology improves the ability of explanations and makes researchers obtain new findings on the same situation. Qualitative research method is appropriate for the situation on society in nature and non-quantification (Sutton and Rafaeli 1988; Saunders et al. 2003). Quantitative method has some merits, such as higher validity, easy to conduct. It becomes the dominated influential method in the field of social science (Bryman, 2004). Survey often is regarded as the main method of quantitative research.

From research experience of the previous researchers, survey becomes the most significant method for the study of word of mouth (Godes and Mayzlin, 2004). Some researcher, such as Brown and Reingen (1987), Richins (1983), and Reingen and Kernan (1986), conducted the proper survey to assess and evaluate the particular hypothesis. This purpose of this survey is to evaluate the Chinese consumers' attitudes toward word of mouth from blog. Based on the data on the Chinese consumers' attitudes toward word of mouth from blog, the five dimensions including the impact of blog on need recognition, the impact of blog on information search, the impact of blog on alternative evaluation, the impact of blog on purchase decision and the impact of blog on post purchase behavior will be interpreted and understood completely.

3.4 Research Process

This part will propose the proper research process. The following figure will show the research process of this dissertation.

3.5 Method Design

Designing method will refer to the detailed from survey question design to data analysis. This sector will cover research framework, survey questionnaire and data collection, research environment and sampling, data analysis, and validity and reliability.

3.5.1 Research Framework

This dissertation aims at the exploration of the impact of blog on consumer decision making. As the previous mentioned, word of mouth from blog may influence the every stage of consumer decision making process. The survey will cover each stage of consumer decision making process under the influence of blog.

3.5.2 Survey Questionnaire and Data Collection

In most situations, when performing quantitative research method for a specific research, the method of data collection will be so important for the validity and reliability of the research. The methods of gathering the first hand data from the sample or interviewees consist of three main method including experimental method, observation method and survey method. In these three methods, survey method will appropriate in the situation of evaluating interviewees' behavior, perception, attitude, motivation (Malhotra 2002 p.74).

Furthermore, the survey questionnaire will be arranged by Likert Scale. In terms of Likert (1932 p.3) proposed an accumulated scale for evaluating the survey respondents' attitudes, opinions, psychic and mental dispositions and preference. Furthermore, according to Waddington (2000) and Diener et al. (1985), Likert Scale is a better strategy to cope with the assessment of the attitudes and feeling of interviewees in the field of business administration.

In Likert Scale questionnaire, NO. 1 in the left side of scale indicates the “powerful disagree” of the respondents, and the NO. 7 in the right side of scale indicates the “powerful agree” of the respondents. For example, the sample will show as follow.

Consumers in China will view the word of mouth from blog as the recommendation resource of gathering information on products and service.

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“Powerful Disagree” “Powerful Agree”

This questionnaire will be composed of 5 dimensions including the consumer attitudes toward the impact of blog on need cognition, the consumer attitudes toward the impact of blog on information search, the consumer attitudes toward the impact of blog on alternative evaluation, the consumer attitudes toward the impact of blog on purchase decision and the consumer attitudes toward post purchase behavior.

The sample is from the users of www.taobao.com (The Most Influential Shopping Website in China). Based on the Instant Messaging (ALiWangWang Software), the respondents will be random chose and questioned.

3.5.3 Research Environment and Sampling Design

Understanding the research environment will further improve the explanation of the purpose. This dissertation will choose the consumers in China as the survey sample. Experiencing the economic reform in China, this reform makes market in China differentiate from market in others. The detailed reasons will be given as follows.

In 1979, economic reform, the open-door policy, has been implemented in China. During the preceding three decades, China has experienced the dramatic economic development and the improvement of society. The following table will show the economic development of each sector in China.

As Table 3.1 shown, during these three periods, the growth of GDP growth has increased from 0.6% to 7.9%. Furthermore, each sector in China has experienced the rapid growth from 1890-1950 to 1978-2003. However, service sectors, such as commerce & restaurants, transport & communication, have increased more than other sectors including farming, fishing & forestry, industry and construction. With the advent of economic globalization and WTO, market in China is given more and more attention by other countries, especially foreign direct investment source countries. The needs of consumers in China differentiated from one to another.

Table 3. 1: The Growth of GDP by Sector in China 1890-2003

(Annual Average Compound Growth Rates)

1890-1950

1952-1978

1978-2003

Farming, Fishing & Forestry

0.3

2.2

4.5

Industry

1.7

10.1

9.8

Construction

1.6

7.8

9.8

Transport & Communication

0.9

6.0

10.8

Commerce & Restaurants

0.8

3.3

9.9

Other Services

1.1

4.2

5.6

GDP

0.6

4.4

7.9

Per Capita GDP

*

2.3

6.6

GDP Per Person Employed

*

1.8

5.8

Source: The Growth of GDP by Sector in China 1890-2003, from Maddison, A. (2007), China Economic Performance in the Long Run, 2rd Edition. p.14.

Consumer decision making also is influenced by the outside environment. Understanding the impact of blog on consumer decision making thoroughly will further interpret consumer behavior in China.

Since the target research objective often covers large population in the wider geography, this will consume more and more source to implement the survey. The sample will indicate the features of the target population. This dissertation will consider the users of www.taobao.com as the sample in this context. Taobao.com is viewed as the most important online shopping website in China. The users exposed to the influence of word of mouth from blog may be the best sample of this dissertation.

3.5.4 Data Analysis

Quantitative analysis is an appropriate technique for the analysis of data gathered from the questionnaire. Statistical analysis is the dominated method in the methods of quantitative analysis. Statistics Package for the Social Science (SPSS) is well known statistical software for social and science researchers to process and cope with the data on quantitative research.

When discussing how to analyze data on Likert Scale, according to Göb et al. (2007), there is no common standard to analyze this data from the aspect of the scientific community. In terms of Clason and Dormody (1994), through researching 95 articles on Likert Scales from the Journal of Agricultural Education, 51 articles just use the descriptive statistics. In the field of business administration, descriptive statistics incline to become the important statistics analysis measure. There is no denying the fact that other method will analyze the data on Likert Scale well. In this dissertation, giving the explanation for the impact of blog on consumer decision making yet discussing the relationships between all stages of consumer decision making is the most important focus.

3.5.5 Validity and Reliability

Validity and reliability are the two essential aspects for ensuring the quality of quantitative research method. In terms of Wainer and Braun (198 p.2), validity relative to the level of truth measurement is based on the two aspects including the content and the measurement of gathering data. Reliability in quantitative research refers to three dimensions containing the degree of the consistency, constancy and resemblance of the measurement within a given period (Kirk and Miller 1986 p.107). This dissertation will explain the impact of blog on consumer decision making yet test. Furthermore, this questionnaire divided into five aspects will improve the validity and reliability of the total survey.

3.6 Limitation

The sample chose by this survey refers to the respondents often purchasing online. On the one hand, these respondents to some extent are susceptible to the influence of word of mouth from blog. This feature will suitable for the assessment of the impact of blog. On the other hand, this sample will poorly indicate that the situation of the impact of blog on consumers in China. From the perspective of the explanation, questioning this sample will fully understand the impact of blog on consumer decision making.

3.7 Summary

As the above demonstrated, the detailed information on research method will be given in this sector. This aspect will direct the survey and improve the performance of this survey.

Chapter 4: Data Analysis and Discussion

4.1 Introduction

This sector will analyze the data collected from the respondents in China and explain the phenomena. This sector will be composed of the general information of this survey, the descriptive statistic and data analysis, and discussion. The general information of this survey will give the big picture of the survey and information of the respondents in China. Subsequently, data analysis can further interpret the meanings of the respondents' attitudes toward the impact of blog on consumer decision making. Finally, it will discuss the differentiated meanings beyond the expectation.

4.2 The General Information of This Survey

Given the general information of this survey, it to some extent can facilitate the ability to explain the meanings of the impact of blog on consumer decision making. The following will describe the general of personal information.

As Table 4.1 shown, the total number of the efficacious questionnaire is 300. The numbpondents is aire ality er of the male respondents is 115. 185 female respondents account for 61.67% of the total number. Furthermore, the respondents of online shopping between 19 years and 49 years constituting 84.67% of the total respondents. Female respondents between 19 years and 49 years compose most part of the respondents. From the perspective of personal finance, the respondents with monthly income 3001 ¥ to 5000 ¥ become the dominated target interviewees of this survey. According to the education background of the respondents, the respondents obtaining the undergraduate/bachelor degree constitute 43.0% of the total educated respondents. In the economic environment of China, the respondents with monthly income 3001 ¥ to 5000 ¥ are derived from the respondents with undergraduate/bachelor degree. This phenomenon to some extent indicates higher degree of the validity of this survey. In terms of the perspective of occupation, the respondents as manager/executive compose 46.47% of the total respondents. From the aspect of general information of personal information, understanding the situation of personal information will further facilitate the following explanation.

Table 4. 1: The General Information of Personal Information

Sample

Percent

Gender

Male

Female

115

185

38.33%

61.67%

Age

18 years or younger

19 to 34 years

35 to 49 years

50 years or more

10

138

116

36

3.33%

46.0%

38.67%

12.0%

Monthly Income

1000 ¥ or less

1001 ¥ to 3000 ¥

3001 ¥ to 5000 ¥

5001 ¥ to 8000 ¥

8001 ¥ or more

26

61

129

61

23

8.7%

20.3%

43.0%

20.3%

7.7%

Education

Senior High School

Undergraduate/Bachelor degree

Postgraduate/Master degree

38

168

94

12.67%

56.0%

31.33%

Occupation

Self-employed/Business owner

Professional

Manager/Executive

Administrator

Student

Housewife

Retired

Unemployed

Others

13

32

140

42

38

14

4

7

10

4.33%

10.67%

46.67%

14.0%

12.67%

4.67%

0.13%

0.23%

0.33%

After understanding the general information of personal information, giving the introduction of the information of respondents' experience on internet is essential. As Table 4.2 mentioned, 142 respondents with the internet use experience of 3 to less than 4 years constitute 47.33% of the respondents. Along with the richness of experience on using internet, the respondents will better give a credible judgment on blog and internet. Referring to the question of which source would you like in the situation of the lack of experience and knowledge on the special aspect, most respondents incline to choose families, friends and colleagues as the recommendation sources. Blog is considered as the third most important source for the respondents. Furthermore, these respondents have much experience on internet.

Table 4. 2: The Information of Respondents' Experience on Internet

Sample

Percent

How many years of experience on using internet you have?

Less than 6 months

6 to less than 12 months

1 to less than 2 years

2 to less than 3 years

3 to less than 4 years

4 years or more

4

13

34

23

142

84

0.13%

0.43%

11.33%

0.76%

47.33%

28.0%

When faced with the lack of experience and knowledge on the special aspect, which source would you like?

Families

Friends and Colleagues

Newspaper or Magazine

Blog

Companies or organizations

TV or other mass communication

Others

264

243

132

182

62

43

82

88.0%

81.0%

44.0%

60.67%

20.67%

14.33%

27.33%

4.3 Descriptive Statistic and Data Analysis

As Table 4.3 shown, when referring to the question of N 1 (the mean of N 1 is about 4.71), most respondents reading the blog to some extent cannot make them find their owner new needs for the products and service. From the response of N 2 (the mean of N2 is approximately 3.79), however, as the respondents found their new needs from other channels, such as families, friends and advertising, they will gather information on blog to recognize these new needs. There is one obvious reason for explaining the behavior of these respondents. Most respondents reading the blog incline to focus on the information they interested in. They are mostly familiar with this information. This information to great extent make them cognize the new needs. From the perspective of the mean of N 3, most respondents will not introduce the experience on recognizing new needs. It is important for this dissertation that when consumers found and recognize the new needs, most respondents inclined to use blog to recognize and grasp their new needs.

Table 4. 3: The Descriptive Statistics of the Impact of Blog on Need Cognition

Descriptive Statistics

N

Mean

Std. Deviation

Statistic

Statistic

Std. Error

Statistic

When you read the blog, do you think some information on blog will make you cognize the new needs for the special products and services? (N 1)

300

4.71

.091

1.580

When you find your new needs for the products and service, do you think blog will make you recognize your needs again? (N 2)

300

3.79

.099

1.722

When you succeeded in recognizing your new needs through blog, do you think you will share this experience with friends or others? (N 3)

300

4.35

.097

1.681

Valid N (listwise)

300

From the previous, consumers in China will consider the recognition of new needs as the important part of consumer decision making. Using information on blog to recognize and grasp the new needs is a rational process or thinking for consumption.

From the traditional consumer decision making, information search is considered as the important part susceptible to the influence of recommendation source. In the choosing of the recommendation source of information search, whether blog is a better choice of information search is a question.

Table 4. 4: The Descriptive Statistics of the Impact of Blog on Information Search

Descriptive Statistics

N

Mean

Std. Deviation

Statistic

Statistic

Std. Error

Statistic

When you need gathering informatio

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