Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



While traditional word of mouth (WOM) and electronic word of mouth (eWOM) have both been shown to highly impact consumer behavior, there is a deficit in our knowledge of how they compare to one another. My dissertation research addresses the lack of empirical studies that compare WOM promotion in the form of face-to-face interaction to eWOM promotion in the form of computer-mediated communication, especially using Web 2.0 technologies. This research tests the assumption that WOM is superior to eWOM and, if so, how to extend eWOM to improve its performance against WOM. Essay One introduces a proposed conceptual framework to differentiate WOM and eWOM based on Social Communication Theory. The overall conceptual model was derived from a qualitative research study that was used to explore and define the concepts, media types, and application of WOM and eWOM using a diverse panel of consumers. Essay Two describes an experiment that was conducted to empirically test whether WOM impacts important marketing outcomes differently than eWOM using an ecologically valid research procedure. Essay Two further explores mediation using social communication elements as the underlying explanatory mechanism for the relative impact of WOM and eWOM on consumers’ attitude toward a message, attitude toward a product, and purchase intention. The results revealed that WOM has a significantly higher impact than eWOM on consumer purchase-related attitudes. The posited social communication framework did mediate or explain the relative difference between WOM and eWOM on the outcomes variables. Essay Three investigates the robustness of the findings through a set of replication studies that test the effects across small and large sample sizes and across different methods of analysis. The results indicated that WOM showed a significant and consistently higher impact than eWOM across both replication studies. The third essay also examines factors that were influential in closing the relative gap between WOM and eWOM by introducing a third concept based on the Hyperpersonal Model of Communication Theory. This research is important as it seeks to understand how consumers communicate in this digital age and why there is an evolution of the sharing of product information that leads to key managerial, theoretical, and methodological implications.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Black, William

Included in

Marketing Commons