Globalization and radical progresses in technology like evolution of social networking sites around the world has transformed the style of living, social media is counted as the most effective means of marketing in the 21st century. Additionally, Internet has nowadays become a very substantial part of our daily life that has changed the way individuals communicate with each other. The internet has likewise imposed noteworthy changes for corporations, discussions now happen among people, not vendors (Levin et al., 2009). Word of mouth is the unwritten and oral communication that has a significant influence on the consumer buying behaviour. This oral communication can be about a corporation’s brands or their products or services. WOM is an effective source of communicating a message transmission (Sen ; Lerman, 2007). The broad reach of the internet, its openness, and availability given a new meaning to WOM concept, and this has increased the marketers interest and involvement in WOM activities (Kozinets et al., 2010). Irrespective of the buzz, rumours and thrill, neighbouring bogus online business reviews and assessments, consumers still read individuals posts regarding their experiences and opinions about various firms. The accelerating usage of companies’ social networking sites (SNSs) gives the clients a high chance to start searching for more reliable report about the products, and allows the consumers to deliver their own know-how with the products. Several marketers understand that the purchaser’s experience is an important element for defining the marketing policies and approaches (Chattopadhyay ;Laborie 2005). The product experience arises when buyer explores for the brand, intermingle with the brand, assess it and then choose to obtain (Hoch 2002). The customers initially look for data regarding the brand before purchasing to make healthier purchasing decisions (Darley ; Smith, 1995). Corresponding to the previous writings and literatures, the impact of eWOM communication has been categorised into two stages: (1) Market-level analysis and (2) Individual-level analysis (Lee ; Lee, 2009).On the market-level analysis, researchers were very attentive towards the market constraints like sales volume and in the second level; the researchers presumed eWOM as a personal influence procedure, in which interactions among a correspondent(sender) and a recipient can transform the receiver’s mindset and opinions toward purchasing choice (Park & Lee, 2008, Cheung, Lee, & Thadani, 2009).
As an outcome, this study will aim to focus on the individual-level of eWOM. Its known that the university students and employees have a high involvement in purchasing products online.
Pakistan, is thought to be a late participant to world of e-commerce but it has eventually developed a sufficient growth in online shopping trends and other e-commerce businesses. Pakistan’s internet empowered population is about approximately 30 million users currently. This is still is likely to increase up to 56 million users by 2019. Around the next 5 years, 28 per cent of the country’s population is predictable to have an internet access. With fuelled availability of the internet and social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, marketing trends are also drastically shifting and renovating the way ideas, views and thoughts are now being shaped.This is not simply transforming the purchasing trends but also visibly effecting additional e-commerce grounds like online job etc. People are now often searching for the products online before purchasing it or use online reviews to help make purchasing decisions for most of the products. An online marketplace in Pakistan Daraz now boosts up customers to post reviews of the products they have ordered so they can display it on the seller’s operational performance to the customers on the product page, exposing complete transparency. In exploring the area of marketing, advertising and selling, it cannot be doubtful that a purchase intention arises at the phase of decision-making process where the customer has established a final willingness to proceed to a product or brand (Dodds, Monroe, ; Grewal, 1991; Wells, Valacich, ; Hess, 2011) Intention is the behaviour that encourages person perception to perform behaviour (Rezvani et al., 2012).
The advancement of social connectivity websites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube has given the customer amazing opportunities to broadcast and circulate info about the brands and goods or services they have experienced. As an outcome, Individuals in Pakistan are becoming conscious about gaining information on product qualities before making any purchase (Ahmed ; Zahid, 2014).Customers are aware of the importance of Web 2.0 tools in exchanging opinions, posting of comments, reviews, and assessments on the digital platform. The internet platform consists of weblogs, newsgroups, discussion forums, social network websites, review websites, and online newspaper columns. Word of mouth has discovered a new way to maintain its worth to product marketing in advanced forms of communication. EWOM also consists of commentaries posted by people who have used and purchased the products by paying money for it. It is a reliable source of customer awareness and different firms can also take help from this content to make corrective or enhancement measures on their products and services. Buyers usually prefer to take a review of other individual’s experiences, comments and recommendations before buying something. A number of potential consumers wait for the comments of other’s customers to minimize the risk of making a mistake. Electronic WOM communications form a real and exciting part of research. There has been a significant growth in eWOM communities in the 21st century, but, there is a visible deficiency of research on this phenomenon in Pakistan. There are inadequate publications regarding this subject and with reference to the influence that online posts, comments and reviews have on online buyer’s decisions in Pakistan. This paper focuses on the impact of eWOM on purchasing decisions in Pakistan. It looks at the impact that eWOM have on consumer purchasing decisions taking into consideration the eWOM quality, quantity and credibility. From a scholarly point of view, the research is geared at providing a deep insight on ways of improving our understanding of the impact of online reviews on online shoppers purchasing decisions in the context of Pakistan as one major developing country in the Middle East. The “wide range of internet based services and mobile services that allow users to participate in online exchanges, contribute to user created contents, or join online communities” including blogs (e.g., Tumblr), wikis (e.g., Wikipedia), social bookmarking (e.g., Digg), social networking sites (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) and media sharing sites (e.g., YouTube, Instagram). This definition is proposed by Dewing (2012, p. 1).
In 2009, it was noted that about 53 per cent of social media users were identified as active social media observers/followers instead of active contributors who contribute to the contents on social media. This phenomenon, however, has changed over time with many users becoming active consumers and active contributors (Ngai et al., 2015).
Brand image can be expressed as consumer’s thoughts and feelings regarding a brand (Roy and Banerjee, 2007). Pakistan is a developing country and many people are deprived of even the basic needs of life. They do not have food to eat and the dress to wear. But still our society is very much conscious about brands they use and wear.Brand Consciousness among the individuals of Pakistan is growing day by day. Particularly in the youngsters and among the lower middle class. This trend is increasing radically because of the frequent use and easy access to the social media Youth is becoming very sensitive about the brands as they assume that they look fascinating, up to date and trendier in a trademark. Employees use trademarked clothes so that they appear to be more decent and charming, trying to put a better impression on others. The well-known brand tags in footwear, garments and edibles please their conscious consumers.Now a days People are very determined to follow the brand race as it feel like it generates a sense of satisfaction among a huge figure of individuals in our society. Corresponding to (Park et al 2008) creating a good brand image is a chief marketing function as it sometimes directly related to sales of a company. Brand image does not only express the brand’s goodwill but also indirectly convinces its customers to purchase the products again and again from that brand. Furthermore, (Dobni et al 1990) said that there is a very significant role of brand image in the buying behaviour of its consumers because people of modern era give a vital position to this specific factor. People not only purchase the brand for its physical goods or attributes but behind the picture there is self-esteem and worth bought by them. (Ginner et al 1999) also stated that sponsoring an event give a big breakthrough and development to the brand image of a firm because the brand gets a vast frequency of attention in a very short-time frame. It can also be done by doing CSR activities of arranging an event for a social cause this helps the brand to get a soft corner in the hearts of the customers hence increasing good will.
So, in a society where people are becoming brand conscious it is very important for the firms to create a good brand image among its customers so that they trust and buy products from them.
1.2 Broad problem area / Contextual Analysis
This thesis focusses on reviewing the effect of eWOM on consumers’ purchase intention towards different products. As the eWOM involves a broad range of platforms and context, this study aims to exactly focus towards individuals having an active social media account and those who have already got an online purchase experience. As a regular customer who makes use of Internet in general and reads other’s reviews, and posts before buying products online, I find myself deeply attracted towards this topic. I trust that the result of the research is helpful for any company in identifying the consequence of online reviews and electronic word – of – mouth communication to customers purchase intention. Besides, companies could effectively observe, control as well as reassure positive engagements with consumers. The result is also an effective basis to analyse the significance and genuine effects of consumers reviews on social networking sites. These days, consumers are not only directly affected by brand’s advertisements but also aggressively explore for evaluation in the form of blogs, vlogs, reviews, posts etc from other former customers. Amongst the record 10 common interests of adult Internet users, the use of search engines to explore info and a positive evidence about a product/service before making purchase are all on the list with a very high rank. A recent has verified that word – of – mouth content sources have three times more influence than traditional marketing networks – which are utilised strongly by the marketers. (Kotler ; Armstrong, 2010, 153).
In Pakistan people are becoming aware of the importance of reading product reviews before purchasing it. Individuals have started using mobile devices to get a quick access the opinions and posts of their peers about different products. Buyers check their phones before buying products, they check product pages to have a quick review of the product information before purchasing it.
An online survey was organized by The Express Tribune and Express Urdu. These websites intended to attain a snapshot of the local internet user’s perspective.
It claimed that over 20 million Pakistanis are now online and this number is drastically increasing – there is very minor documentation or research on the usage of internet in Pakistan. overall 1,100 people responded to the survey. The age of half of the respondents was 18-25 year which were over half of total respondents, followed by 25-35-year-old. Maximum respondents (94%) belonged to city areas, led by Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. Most of respondents (97%) had high speed internet connections. Dial-up internet use is minimal. More than half of the respondents (60%) give Rs1,500 or less per month for the internet connections they use.Most respondents spend time on the internet over 5 hours day, tailed by those who use the internet 4-5 hours a day. Social interactions/chit chat is found to be one of the favoured interest for respondents. Shopping online was recorded minimal with respondents. Almost all the respondents had an account Facebook. Twitter and LinkedIn both were used by at least half of the respondents. More than half of the respondents had made an online purchase. A larger number of respondents (56%) had purchased something online, as compared to selling products online (26%).individuals aged 18-25 and 25-35 specified that they had made an online purchase more than those over 35and under 18. 65% of those 25-35 have made a purchase online, while 51% of those 18-25 had obtained something online. 37% of the respondents have written a blog or a review online. So, in Pakistan where the trend of going through other’s reviews is increasing it is very important for the firms to monitor and control eWOM regarding their brands.
The aim of this study is to detect the factors that are influencing consumers purchase intensions regarding different products in Pakistan. The research will help to find out the impact of perceived eWOM, brand image on consumers purchase intensions in Pakistan because there is a very little documentation and research related to this field.
1.3 Problem Statement
Do factors eWOM quality, eWOM quality and eWOM credibility are affecting purchase intention while purchasing something in a store or online? How does the customers purchase decision based on eWOM quality, eWOM quality and eWOM credibility and brand image? There are several other aspects that influence the purchase intention about a product but these factors are thought to be the key elements while purchasing something after having an online review of the products.
1.4 Aim of study
Word-of-mouth (WOM) is thought to be one of the most important resources of information transmission. Developments in I.T and the rise in the usage of the social networking sites has changed the way information is communicated. This phenomenon impacts customers purchase intensions directly as the information is very easily available. The purpose of this research is to investigate the extent to which e-WOM among customers can have an impact on brand image and purchase intention in the automobile industry.The research is based on the concept of purchase decision, what factor respondent notices for deciding while purchasing something online or in a store.So, the main aim of this study is to analyse the influence that eWOM and brand image can exert on the consumers purchase intensions.
1.5 Research Objectives
The main objectives of this research is to determine how the Pakistani customers react to the EWOM.The aims of the research are sketched as follows:
? To review the literature based upon the perceived, consumers purchase intention and brand image.
? To construct the theoretical models to describe the impact of perceived EWOM consumers’ purchase intentions taking brand image as a mediating variable.
? To deliberate the results and findings and place them within the existing EWOM literature.
? To draw theoretical contributions and managerial implications for researchers and practitioners regarding the influence of EWOM impact on consumers’ purchase intentions.
? To empirically evaluate the relationships hypothesized in the theoretical models to answer research questions.
? To review the results and findings and place them within the existing eWOM literature.
? To get the first-hand information about other’s ideas and opinions have power to change anyone perception about using products.
1.6 Research Questions
The aim of this research is to determine how the Pakistani consumers view and react to the eWOM. We will be looking to answer some of the following questions:
RQ1. Do eWOM affect the general consumer’s purchasing intension?
RQ2. Do characteristics of eWOM such as eWOM quality, eWOM quantity, and eWOM credibility and brand image impact the consumer’s purchasing decision?
RQ3. Does the brand image mediate the relationship between perceived eWOM and purchase intention of different products?
1.7 Delimitations of the study
This research has some limitations. The sample of this research comprised only for a group of consumers as this project was targeted for the students and employees of universities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. This condition restricts the generalizability of the results. Upcoming studies are suggested to explore the issue with specific products and different groups of consumers. More diversity, more universities, more cities and even more age groups can be included in further researches, this would help to get a more clearer and better understanding of consumers perception towards online shopping in Pakistan. There were only four independent variables used for this research from the literature review, more variables can be further included to the research such like specific platforms of social media for the impacts of eWOM. The outcome of this research has presented beneficial feedbacks to the researchers. However, these outcomes were accompanied with some limitations. Cavana et al. (2001) have stated that cross-sectional data only reveals the net effect of predictor variable towards a criterion variable at a specific point of time. Due to the restriction of cross-sectional study, the outcomes and findings of the research are not able to “clarify why the observed patterns are there” (Easterly-Smith, Thorpe & Lowe, 2003). Moreover, the restriction of convenience sampling techniques has specified that the outcomes of this research cannot be generalized.
1.8 Operational Definitions
Electronic Word of Mouth
eWOM is termed as an “unofficial, casual, person-to-person communication between a perceived non-commercial writer and a recipient related to a brand, an item, a corporation, or a service” (Harrison-walker,2001)
The eWOM credibility describes to the degree to which one perceives the approval from certain source whether person/organizations as authentic (Fogg et al., 2002)
The quantity of eWOM indicates the number of online reviews accessible for a product. When more reviews are accessible, consumers perceive the total information set from the reviews to be more informative (Petty and Cacioppo, 1984)
Quality of eWOM means the “convincing strength of opinions embedded in an informational message” (Bhattacherjee & Sanford, 2006, 811). It is also can be considered as the convincing power of information to the message recipients.
Keller (1993) described brand image as “perceptions regarding a brand as mirrored by the brand associations held in consumer memory”. Brand image consist of consumers’ experience and evaluations about the brand (Wang and Yang, 2010; Bian and Moutinho, 2011). Moreover, customer’s behaviour will be influenced and determined by brand image (Burmann et al., 2008).
Alford and Biswas (2000) said that purchase intention is customers likelihood behaviour of purchasing, higher purchase intention indicates that a customer has higher likelihood of purchase.
2.1 Concepts & Definitions
eWOM dimensions and antecedent
Within the scope of this thesis, the researcher only concentrates on two eWOM dimensions (quality and quantity) and one eWOM antecedent (source credibility). Furthermore, the research hypotheses concerning the effect of those eWOM variables to brand image and purchase intention are also projected.
Electronic Word-of-mouth can be defined as a means of communication that delivers information to customers regarding the sellers and use of products and services over internet based technologies (Westbrook, 1987). eWOM includes blogs, virtual communities, newsgroups, product reviews, fan clubs, e-mail, etc. Hennig (2004) said that electronic word-of-mouth is any positive or negative announcement formed by potential, actual, or former customers regarding a product or corporation, which is made accessible to variety of individuals and organizations through the Internet”.
eWOM credibility is described as the degree to which one perceives the recommendation as believable, correct, or accurate (Tseng S, Fogg BJ 1999). Credibility, from a receiver-oriented perspective, can be expressed as “the extent to which a person considers his or her perceptions to be an effective reflection of reality” (Newhagen & Nass, 1989, p. 278). Credibility is a correspondent or synonym of believability (Fogg, Marshall, Laraki, Osipovich, Varma, Fang, Paul, Rangnekar, Shon, Swani & Treinen, 2011. Fogg et al. (2011), when expressing credibility, say about the source credibility, with expertise and trustworthiness. But, credibility is a wider concept than source credibility. It is also related to the media and the information expressed over the media (Rieh & Danielson, 2007). Information credibility can forecast the behaviour of an individual online, as, if an opinion is perceived as credible, the likelihood of the individual to obey that advice is greater (McKnight & Kacmar, 2006). Credibility has a very important role in e-commerce, where online reviews are often anonymous. In detail, this anonymity created by the internet causes distrust and doubt between customers who read online recommendations (Luo et al., 2013).
Cheung et al., (2009, 10) studied that in the situation when customers perceive online reviews as reasonable, they will therefore form a positive attitude towards the brand, product or service mentioned in these reviews. It furthermore aims that information is perceived as trustworthy and credible. On the other hand, negative attitude will be created if consumers perceive the information as invalid. In the context of eWOM where communicators are anonymous on the Internet, customers do not trust and get influenced by online reviews without disbelieve if they are not revealing and deliver sufficient information.Syed Mehdi Jalali ManouchehrAghababaei (2014) conducted a research and confirms the relation of eWOM, brand image and purchase intention. In that research, the researcher included a new factor that affects eWOM, that is brand equity. Despite lots and lots of literature on the impacts of e-WOM on purchase intention, In Pakistan, the research into eWOM is very scarce.
The second eWOM dimension that is reviewed is eWOM quality, or information/message quality. It is expresses as “the quality of the content of a customer review from the viewpoint of information characteristics” (Park, et al., 2007, 107). Some researchers mention it as “the influential strength of arguments embedded in an informational message” (Bhattacherjee & Sanford, 2006, 811). There is no typical setup for customers to forward and communicate their views on the Internet, still, there are normally two kinds of reviews. Some of them are those which are based on a person’s experience ad feelings but the lack logical arguments, statistics, etc. And the other type of reviews are understandable, clear and have statically reasonings. Message recipientsfavour to read and rank the effectiveness higher for clear and objective reviews. This leads also to a more consumers’ satisfaction, favourable attitude and purchase intention. (Petty & Cacioppo, 1984, 71; Park et al., 2007, 128) . eWOM quality is a phenomenon that requires more clear dimensions to be thoroughly approached. The conceptualization of information quality in eWOM differs critically amongst different studies. In the study conducted by Delone and McLean (2003, 14), Information quality is clarified in terms of strength, comprehensiveness, accuracy, timeless and relevance. In this study, the researcher chooses to review the eWOM quality in terms of comprehensiveness, accuracy, timeliness and relevance. These measurements have been featured in the research by Teng et al. (2014, 748) and Cheung et al. (2008, 232). Comprehensiveness is concerned to the coherence, and thoroughness. The accurateness of message denotes the recipients’ perception whether it is truthful or not. Timeliness involves the extent of up-to-date position of the message. Relevance describes the effectiveness of the information to the customers’ requirement, satisfy their expectancy and valid. All these dimensions are frequently used in describing the quality of information in eWOM. The eWOM quality plays a vital task as the factor for the message receivers to judge the convincing power of the information. The eWOM quality has been found to extremelyinfluence the attitude of information receivers. Good content quality furthermore improves the customers’ will to trust eWOM and its influence on them. Therefore, persuasive reviews have a higher positive after-effect on customers’ brand attitude and purchase intention. (Ratchford et al., 2001, 8). Customers’ choice, attitude and purchase decision can be developed on the standards that perceive their needs and gratify their interest. Information quality has been specified to be the major predominant and significant determinant feature of convincing eWOM message in terms of create ng positive attitudes. (Filieri, 2014, 1266)
The quantity of eWOM specifies the amount of online reviews accessible for a product. When more reviews are available, consumers notice the total information set from the reviews to be more informative (Petty and Cacioppo, 1984). The number of eWOM is superior than traditional WOM because online reviews accumulate over time and are all protected in internet forums (Chen and Xie, 2005). When the customers can read many reviews, it supports them to decrease the doubt and perceived risks related to intangible, experiential travel related services. When the online reviews are searched by a customer, the quantity of eWOM makes the reviews more noticeable (Cheung ; Thadani, 2010); that is, the volume of eWOM signifies a products popularity. when making a buying decision the nervousness of a consumer is lessened by reading several reviews by others because consumers aim that many others have also purchased the product (Chatterjee, 2001). Empirical studies by (Park et al., 2007; Sher ; Lee 2009) showed that eWOM quantity has a positive impact on the consumer-perceived credibility of eWOM.
When (Jumin Lee, Park, ; Han,2008 ) considered the quantity of data individuals post online ,he realized that the amount of information consumers received impacted on consumers’ decision making process s for buying products and services. Moreover, on product review websites, consumers tended to believe negative comments more than the positive ones.If There is a larger quantity of electronic word-of-mouth, there is more probability that consumers are to know the information. In conducting a research about the impact of eWOM on movie consumer decision making, (Liu 2006) took the example as YAHOO, it was observed that the number of electronic word-of-mouth has important explanatory power for the box office. (Chatterjee 2001) proposed that consumers lessen the uneasiness of purchasing decisions after going through a lot of other individual’s explanations because it is believed that many other customers have also purchased the same products
Kotler (2000) states that brand is a name, term, symbol, design or all the above, and is used to differentiate one’s products and services from competitors. Brand image includes the attributes and benefits linked with a brand that make the brand unique, thus differentiating the ?rm’s offer from competition (Webster and Keller, 2004). Attributes are those explanatory features that depicts a brand, such as what a customer feels the brand is or has and what is included with its purchase or consumption. Bene?ts are the personal value that customers connect to the brand attributes, that is, what customers imagine the brand can do for them (Keller, 1993, 1998). Keller (1998) theorized brand image as a perception of customers when they see a brand and reflected by brand associations in their mind. And these associations of brand image are multidimensional and comprise the emotional dimension or the attitudes about the brand and the perceived quality dimension. From customers’ general representation of their experiences, brand image is vital because by this method, brand image will generate the customer’s cognitive, emotional, and behavioural responses as a result (Padgett and Allen, 1997). Moore (1981) claimed that image is a mental estimation of an over-all level of satisfaction from an organization’s activities and performances. And by means of image investigation, planners will identify the attitudes that customers tend to their companies, indeed, how appropriately customers understand and what they desire of companies.
Park, Jaworski, and Maclnnis (1986) progressed that brand image is one planned procedure with the objective of facilitating the concept of a brand to be accomplished by means of an exercise in brand management. The aim of the corporations is to form an auspicious and positive relation about the brand from which the result is a positive image of the brand. The customer may have more desire with one brand just because this brand has the distinct image from other opponent’s brands (Schiffman and Kanuk, 1994). Engel et al. (2001) signalled that customers will make the decision based on the prevailing and external information. When there is a clash between brand image and information content, customer’s decision will be tough to be formed.
Wang and Yang (2010) studied the influence of brand credibility on customers’ brand purchase intention concentrating on China’s automobile industry. They suggested that brand awareness and brand image act as a moderating role in this relationship. But, Bian and Moutinho (2011) studied the influence of perceived brand image, direct and indirect effects (mediator and moderator effects) of product involvement and product knowledge on customer purchase intention of counterfeits in this situation of non-deceptive counterfeiting. Their outcomes revealed that brand image is not a mediator of the effects of knowledge on purchase intention. Wu et al. (2011) also investigated the direct effects of store image and service quality on brand image and purchase intention for a private brand. Their study revealed that store image has a direct effect on brand image and purchase intention. Moreover, they explained that service quality has a direct and positive influence on brand image. Shukla (2010) specified that interpersonal in?uences and branding cues influence consumer luxury purchase intentions. The findings of his research proved that normative interpersonal in?uences were found to be signi?cant across nations, the role of informational interpersonal in?uences was signi?cant among consumers. Moreover, brand image was a signi?cant moderator among normative interpersonal in?uences and luxury purchase intentions. Davis et al. (2009) also proposed that brand awareness, brand image, and brand equity scales are effective and reliable in the context of logistics services.
Alford and Biswas (2000) said that purchase intention is customers possible behaviour of purchasing, greater purchase intention shows that a customer has greater probability of purchase. The word intention is a schedule to buying something in the near further (Peter & Olson, 2008). Purchase intention “is the only top predictor of real behaviour” (Peter and Olson, 2008). Corresponding to Richard, Loury & David (2013), purchase intention identified as the likelihood and will of customer to buy a specific good or service in future.Laroche et al. (1996) describe purchase intention is the person’s intention to buy a specific brand they selected after noteworthy assessment. Some scholars discovered that customer’s purchase intention depends on their previous experience, their inclination for the product and the external environment to gather info, assess the alternatives, and make purchase decision. (Dodds et al., 1991; Schiffman & Kanuk, 2000; Yang, 2009). Purchase intention can compute the likelihood of a customer to purchase a product, and the greater the purchase intention is, the higher a customer’s will be to buy a product (Dodds, et al., 1991; Schiffman ; Kanuk, 2000).
Intention to purchase has been tested by researchers in many different research contexts. As an example, Creyer (1997) studied the effect of organization behaviour on purchase intention; while Chang and Chen (2008) verified the influence of online store environment on purchase intention.The association among 3-D advertising and purchase intention was explored by Li et al. (2002); while Laroche et al.’s (1996) analysis concentrates on the connection among brand familiarity and purchase intention. Furthermore, researchers have previously found out some aspects that impacts consumers’ purchase intentions information quality (Lee and Shin, 2014; Park et al., 2007), information credibility (Nabi and Hendriks, 2003; Prendergast et al., 2010) and information usefulness (Lee and Koo, 2015). More particularly, Lee and Shin (2014) managed a web-based experiment to study in what way the quality of online product reviews impacts the applicants’ opinions. The outcomes exhibited that high-quality reviews directed participants to have greater purchase intentions (Lee and Shin, 2014). Prendergast et al. (2010) have examined the persuasiveness (credibility) of messages disclosed on online forums and because of this, a positiverelationship has been concluded among information credibility and consumers’ purchase intentions (Prendergast et al., 2010). Besides, Lee and Koo (2015) led an experiment on online reviews to examine the association among message usefulness and purchase intention.The consequences exposed that information usefulness is positively related with purchase intention (Lee and Koo, 2015).
Relationship of IVs with MVs
According to Lin et. al. (2013) and Bataineh (2015) eWOM carries various benefits for customers to acquire information and increase knowledge specifically in pre-stage of buying process. So, a comment of customers that originates from eWOM communities can develop a positive brand image (Torlak, Ozkara, Titay, Cengiz ; Dulger, 2014).
Wu and Wang (2011) specifies that the information quality can shape a purchasers’ brand perception, if the message has negative elements then increases attitudes toward brands reduced and the opposite. On the basis of this research, it is found that information quality has effect on brand image.
Hyrynsalmi et. al. (2015) said that quantity can be known as acceptance level of brand image among consumers due to high rate of products shows customers’ approval in high level towards product quantity which minimizes bad decision in purchase (Lu, Ye ; Law, 2014).
Relationship of IV with DVs
Lin et. al. (2013) stated that a person that acts to be committed to purchase certain products can be defined as consumers purchase intention. Therefore, consumer purchase intention can be explained as effectiveness of the eWOM communication (Bataineh, 2015) the sum of online consumers’ experience modifies the outcome of customers’ attitude. eWOM defined as important medium which can impacts previous experience that consumers faced (Wu ; Wang, 2010). Because of the information that is trustworthy from community, friends and family providing feedback and review can alter customers’ mind set which impacts purchasing decision (Chang & Chin, 2010).
Wu and Wang (2011) discovered that there exists a direct and positive relationship between message source credibility and purchase intention. High credibility support for positive eWOM, customers purchase intention of high message source credibility would be better than low message source credibility.
It has been said in Lee’s (2009) research that the quality of the arguments of the online posts has a positive impact on the purchase intensions. High quality of evidence from purchasers that experienced certain products can affect customers’ perception (Senecal & Nantel, 2004).
The amount of online customer WOM (eWOM quantity) of a product denotes the product’s popularity as the online word-of-mouth outcome since it is linked to the sales volume of the product (Chatterjee 2001; Chen and Xie 2004). It is expected to lead customers to justify their purchasing decisions by telling themselves, “Many individuals also purchased the product.”.
Wang (2006) used brand image as independent variable, product category as moderator, and purchase intention as dependent variable and realized that the higher the brand image is, the higher the purchase intention is.
Relationship of MV with DV
Brand is a key element in the procedure of customer product choice. A brand that is well established will not only gain customers attention to buy its goods and services but it also benefits in generating recurring buying behaviour, it decreases the undesirable behaviour that results from volatile price (Cadogan and Foster 2000).A positive purchasing intention is linked to a strong brand image (Khanna, Yan, Tashkin et al., 2007). Consequently, a positive brand image directs to customer buying intention, whereas a negative brand image won’t lead to buying intention. Additionally, Cronin (1992) said that customer purchasing decision completely depends on brand image. So, brand image generates the highest values about the company (Chevalier, 2012). Hsieh, Pan, and Setiono (2004), said that “a successful brand image empowers customers to recognize the needs that the brand gratifies and to distinguish the brand from its rivals, and therefore enhances the likelihood that customers will purchase the brand”.
2.2 Conceptual Framework and Hypothesis Development
By doing a detailed analysis of eWOM literatures, the following model has been proposed, it includes three interrelated parts that are: Perceived eWOM which includes (eWOM credibility, eWOM quality, and eWOM quantity), brand image, and finally the purchase intention
Based on above model following hypothesis has been formed
H1: There is a positive impact of eWOM credibility on purchase intention
H2: There is a positive impact of eWOM quality on purchase intention.
H3: There is a positive impact of eWOM quantity on purchase intention.
H4: There is an impact of eWOM credibility, eWOM quality, and eWOM quantity (EMOMIV)on purchase intention
H5:There is an impact of eWOM credibility, eWOM quality, and eWOM quantity (EMOMIV) on Brand image
H6:Brand image has a Positive impact on Consumer purchase intention
H7:The impact of eWOM credibility, eWOM quality, and eWOM quantity (EMOMIV) on purchase intention will be mediated by brand image.
2.3 Identification of gap
Previous studies explored about eWOM (e.g Jalilvand and Samiei, 2012; Charo,et al.,2015; Hennig-Thurauet al.,2004; Wu and Wang, 2011; Themba and Mulala, 2013; Chinho, Yi-Shuang and Jeng-Chung, 2013; Yi-Wen and Yi-Feng, 2012; Torlaket al., 2014). One of the main problems that have been investigated is associated to eWOM’s between brand image and customers purchase intention (e.g Jalilvand and Samiei, 2012; Charo,et al.,2015; Themba and Mulala, 2013; Chinho, Yi-Shuang and Jeng-Chung, 2013; Torlak et al., 2014). The previous researches have debated abut the relevance of eWOM with purchase intention and brand image, these studies have not discovered the association of some variables that are investigated in this study. Two variables, ewom credibility and ewom quality are engaged in the current study to increase the information on the relevance they have with brand image and purchase intention.Torlak et al. (2014) found out that brand image has an influence on purchase intention regarding cell phone brands through electronic word of mouth. Lien et al. (2015)said that brand image is a main driver that positively effects hotel booking purchase intentions. Moreover, in a study concerning destination image results exposed its positive outcome on attitude towards the destination (Jalilvand et al., 2012). Finally, Jamal and Goode (2001) agreed that the congruence among the brand image and customers self-image would strengthen customer satisfaction and preference for the brand.
Previous researches have not been able to clear insight of the purchase intensions of Pakistani consumers taking brand image as a mediator.So far, no such study has been organised to describe this phenomenon in the presence of the brand image as a mediator. This thesis has tried to bridge that research gap by studying the impact of perceived eWOM on purchase intensions taking brand image as a mediator. In Pakistan where people are really price sensitive they avoid doing experiences by purchasing product, of which they don’t have proper information about, they either go for a positive evidence regarding the products features or a good brand image. This has not been studied before in the presence of brand image which I realize has a huge impact on purchase intention of a consumer.
3.1 Sample selection
For this research 270 individuals were primarily counted as a but after eliminating invalid and incomplete responses,242 were considered as usable replies and analysis was then carried on 242 questionnaires. The response rate was found to be 74% that is considered sufficient. N > 50 + 8 m (where m is the number of IVs) was suggested by Green in 1991 to test the multiple correlation, here we are having 5 variables so the result is 90 that’s why we are using questionnaires that are more than 90 i.e 242 . The questionnaire has been distributed and assembled from Feb 10, 2018 to March 10, 2018.
3.2 Population frame
The population selected for this study included all the staff members and students who had an idea about social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube , and Instagram). The study focused on the consumers of internet who have used online review for shopping some products. Everyone who is purchasing any product after going through online reviews in one or the other way was a part of population of the study i.e whoever had an online shopping experience or any information online product reviews.Hence it included those individuals browse review different websites and social sites, who look for the product reviews and comments so that their purchase intensions can be guided.
3.3 Unit of analysis
Rawalpindi and Islamabad has diversity and population intensity both, so for this research it is taken as a representative. For this study, the data has been collected from university students and employees in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, two main cities in Pakistan. Data was collected about the impact on purchase intensions after going through online reviews about different products i.e how eWOM credibility, quality, quantity impacts their purchase intensions and how the brand image influences their purchase intention for the respective brand from the students and staff members of Islamabad and Rawalpindi universities both public and private. Hence, the unit of analysis are the individuals of different universities who have had a shopping experience after going through product reviews to investigate if there was an impact on their purchase intensions.
3.4 Type of study
Crosssectional research that only gives a look at a clear point in time and is used to inspect data from a population, or a representative subset regarding one variable in dissimilar crowds that are similar in all other characteristics. This research only took into consideration the perceived eWOM (credibility, quality, quantity), the positive and negative eWOM are ignored in this research, also the impact of gender is not taken into consideration.
3.5 Instrument Development
This section is about asking questions about the variables used in the research; the perceived eWOM which includes (eWOM credibility, eWOM quality, and eWOM quantity,the mediating variable (Brand image), and the dependent variable (purchase intention), using five-point Likert scale, ranging from (strongly disagree) to (strongly agree).
For perceived electronic word of mouth, to measure eWOM quality, six items were adapted from Park et al. (2007) and Bailey and Pearson (1983).Three items were taken from Park and Lee (2008) as and Do-Hyung and Band (2008) for eWOM quantity ,to measure eWOM credibility three items were adapted from Sussman and Siegal (2003), and Li and Zhan (2011) , and five items were adapted from the study of Dodds et al. (1991) to measure brand image. To measure purchase intention, five items were adapted from the study of Baker and Churchill (1977). All the measurement questions of all the variables were measured at five- point Likert scale.
3.6 Sampling Strategy (Sampling techniques, sample size using statistical method)
The sample was chosen from two cities of Pakistan i.e. Rawalpindi and Islamabad from the social circle of the researchers. As the investigation is being done regarding the electronic word of mouth, and it is prevalent amongst the general consumers so it was not possible to randomize them because of their large, all the respondents volunteered to respond to the questionnaires. Therefore, convenient sampling technique is chosen to be the most appropriate and reasonable sampling technique. It allowed the subjects of this research to be touched through social media in a short time span. This method is very simple in nature and because of the time limit therefore it has been chosen for this research. Within a sample to examine eWOM’s impact on purchase intention convenience sampling was realized to be very useful. Non-probability sampling was used in this research. A research conducted by Baltar & Brunet (2012) regarding the individuals that reached through Facebook is higher than by the usage of conventional snowball effects, showed that by using the non-probability sampling individuals built more confidence toward the researcher as they disclose their personal information like their email id , Facebook profile etc. as they participate in the groups of their own interests (Facebook groups) .
3.7 Data collection procedure
To collect the information about the measures of the study including eWOM credibility, quality and quantity, questionnaire survey method was used. The used instrument was an adopted one with convenient sampling technique as the most appropriate for this study because of the large number of general consumers. Data was collected through the face-to-face methodology and by hand distribution of questionnaires across public and private universities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The questionnaire was also delivered to the respondents via E-mail. Data was also gathered through google docs and social networking sites like Facebook etc. The translation was done in two languages (English, Urdu) for the convenience of all the respondents and for full understanding of all the statements.
3.8 Data analysis techniques
IBM Statistical Packages for Social Sciences (SPSS) version 22 software was used for the interpretation and analysis of the data gathered by the respondents. For the reliability analysis, variance analysis and regression analysis SPSS12.0 is used. Through regression analysis, moderation and mediation analysis techniques the data was analyzed.
The descriptive statistics were used to analyze the data such as frequencies distribution of respondent’s demographic profiles, reliability analysis on dimensions and items, validity analysis, regression analysis and mean analysis and independent t-tests for creating a much better image of the responses. Linear regression for testing the hypothesis and to examine the causal relationships between determinants of eWOM influence and customers purchasing decision.
3.9 Ethical issues in research
The moral values and principles that should be taken into consideration by a researcher are known as the ethical issues (Blumberg et al., 2014; Cooper and Schindler, 2014). Some of the ethical matters explained by Cooper and Schindler (2014) are as follows:
a) The contributor’s rights should be protected.
b) Sponsors of the research should be informed.
c) Ethical standards should be maintained while designing the research.
d) The safety of research team members must be ensured.
During the research, all the requirements were fulfilled. Because of the choice of the medium to gather data there is a possibility of the rise of ethical issues. For this research, all responses were kept confidential, all the individuals volunteered themselves to fill in the questionnaires and not even a single respondent was pressurized or bribed. There was no sensitive information included in the survey and it didn’t even discriminate female or male respondents. All the information was delivered to the respondents about the aim of the research and the importance of their contribution in the research.
3.10 Pilot test
A pilot test was also conducted to ensure the questionnaire respectively.The questionnaire is designed and pre-tested by 30 students with different majors, rating on 5-point Likert scale.
3.11 Validity and Reliability
This study adopted items from the different studies and modified questions to fit the purpose of the study. So for validity concerns, the survey was piloted on a sample of 40 customers to check its face and content validity. The comments of respondents related to language and design of questionnaire were considered in the final form. For reliability of constructs, Cronbach’s alpha coefficient was calculated and exceeded 0.70 for all constructs meaning that the questionnaire results are reliable (Hair et al., 2010).
DATA ANALYSIS AND FINDINGS
4.1 Demographics Analysis of the data
Description of frequency, valid percent and cumulative percent
Age 20-29 213 88.0 % 88.0
30-39 23 9.5 % 97.5
40-49 5 2.1 % 99.6
50-59 1 .4 % 100.0
Graduate 37 15.3 % 85.5
MS/ M Phil 24 9.9 % 95.5
Ph.D 11 4.5 %
Job level Staff 60 24.8% 24.8
Student 182 75.2% 100.0
Department R&D 5 2.1 % 2.1
Production 7 2.9 % 5.0
Marketing 41 16.9 % 21.9
HR 26 10.7 % 32.6
Economics 21 8.7 % 41.3
Finance &Acc 31 12.8 % 54.1
IT/MIS 31 12.8 % 66.9
CS 15 6.2 % 73.1
Islamic studies 17 7.0 % 80.2
Others 48 19.8 % 100.0
Total 242 100.0
Online shopping experience 1 years or less 148 61.2% 61.2
2-5 years 70 28.9% 90.1
5 & above 24 9.9% 100.0
Total 242 100.0
To have a fast look on the characteristics related to the respondent’s profile, a respondent’s demographic analysis is performed. Demographics include Age, Qualification, Job level, Department and Online shopping experience.
Filled questionnaire were 242 .in number. Out of 242 respondent’s majority are in the age group of 20-29 i.e. 88.0 %, 9.5%falls in the range of 30-39 ,2.1% are in the range of 50-59 and only 0.4% are above 50.
Among the 242 respondent’s majority falls in category of Undergraduate with 70.2% , 15.3 % are Graduate, 9.9 % are Ms/MPhil and 4.5 % are Ph.D. Majority of the respondents are undergraduate because the data has been collected from the university students.
Only 24.8% of the respondents were staff members are majority of the respondents were student with 75.2%.
Individuals who had done shopping after going through online reviews for 1 or less than one year are 61.2%, 28.9% are under the category of 2 -5 years and only 9.9% are the individuals who had been going through the online reviews of a product for 5 or more than 5 years.
4.2 Reliability analysis
To measure the overall consistency of data the statistical tool used is reliability. It is a level to which the considered questionnaire shows the reliable and even outcomes(Sekeran,2000). For developing a reliable research, a reliable scale is very important. Through the values of Cronbach’s alpha, the results can be easily analysed and interpret. To check the internal consistency of all factors the Cronbach’s alpha value was computed. If the value of Alpha lies between 0.7-1 then it would be considered suitable (Hair et al., 2006). The values under 0.5 are not satisfactory, only the values above 0.7 are regarded as ideal Cronbach’s alpha value. If the value of Cronbach’s alpha is equal to or above than 0.7 it means that the measures make a consistent set as a scale (Hair et al., 2010). Values below 0.5 are considered having a low reliability and figures between 0.50 and 0.70 are counted as moderately reliable (Hinton et al., 2014). The Cronbach’s alpha values of all the five variables which measure the impact of perceived eWOM information on purchase intensions, have high reliability as the figures are above 0.70.
Variables No. of items Cronbach’s alpha Type
01 eWOM Credibility 3 .755 High Reliability
02 eWOM Quality 6 .836 High Reliability
03 eWOM Quantity 3 .796 High Reliability
04 Brand Image 5 .864 High Reliability
05 Purchase Intention 5 .833 High Reliability
To check the internal reliability of the items value of Cronbach’s alpha and Guttman’s value was computed. For all the dependent and independent variables, the values of Cronbach’s alpha and Guttman’s value was computed. If values of alpha and Guttman’s value are not comparable then changings in data are done by excluding some items or reverse coding technique is used (Sekaran,2000).
1. eWOM Credibility had 3 items and it came to be reliable with 0.755 alphas value. Guttman’s value was 0.755. As both values were comparable and reliable so no further action was taken.
2. eWOM Quality was measured with 6 items. It also came out to be reliable with a value of 0.836 alpha and 0.00 Guttman’s value.
3. eWOM Quantity also came to be reliable. It was measured with 3 items. The value for alpha is 0.796 and Guttman’s value is 0.00. As both the values were comparable so no further actions were taken.
4. Five items were used to measure the Brand Image. Alpha value turned out to be 0.864 and Guttman’s value is 0.000. Both the values are comparable and reliable.
5. For Purchase Intention 5 items were used. The alpha value was reliable with 0.833 and Guttman’s value.
All values in the provided scale were internally consistent and lie sunder benchmark which means all the questions were understood by the respondents and reliable results are attained.
4.3 Descriptive statistics and Normality analysis
Normality of the data can be determined with the help of descriptive statistics. The large quantity of data is expressed through descriptive statics in a practical way. Mean and average are the most the common methods to describe the central tendency and the most accurate estimate of dispersion is standard deviation because the range can significantly exaggerate by an outlier (Saunders and McDowall,2010).Mean describes about the average of given response for a item, its range is also from 1-5.
The normality of data is checked in order to apply the parametric and non-parametric tests. For the data which is normally distributed parametric tests are used, and non-parametric tests are used for the data which is not normally distributed. Other than the independent and dependent variable there is an inclusion of the third hypothetical variable, known as a mediator variable so running mediation would be appropriate for getting outcome interpretations. As it is very important for the mediation analysis that the data should be linear and normal so normality was analysed using one of the SPSS features i.edescriptive statistics.
Values of Skewness and Kurtosis were analysed to check the normality of data.
Table 3 Descriptive statistics(242)
Variables N Min. Max. Mean SD Skewness Kurtosis
EWOMCRED 242 1.00 5.00 3.2410 .76292 -.558 .693
EWOMQUAL 242 1.00 5.00 3.2259 .73441 -.291 .164
EWOMQUAN 242 1.00 5.00 3.3526 .84404 -.505 .315
BRDIMAG 242 1.00 5.00 3.3562 .83586 -.401 .292
PRCINT 242 1.00 5.00 3.3455 .80249 -.604 .558
This table shows the description about the respondents, N is the number respondents. The respondents were 242 in which means that there were no missing values in this research and for this study both males and females were included in the research .Then minimum response and maximum response value on five item scale range from 1-5 is given.
The most common measure of dispersion is standard deviation . In this study all values of standard deviation lies between 73% to 84%.A higher standard deviation value indicates greater spread in the data.
In terms of graphical representation, Skewness is the degree to which the data is symmetrical and Kurtosis is the extent to which the data is either flat or peaked. In social sciences data is considered to be normal if the values of Skewness lies between -1 to +1 i.e. -1