Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Moore School of Business

Sub-Department

College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management

First Advisor

Fang Meng

Abstract

Online reviews constitute an important source of word-of-mouth, which can affect consumers’ product choices as well as company sales and profitability. Therefore, understanding the factors underlying consumers’ online posting behavior is essential for business success and relevant knowledge development. This dissertation consists of three independent but closely related studies focusing on hotel and restaurant contexts. The objectives of this dissertation are to investigate how prior reviews and disconfirmation (i.e., the deviance between post-consumption evaluations and other consumers’ prior average review rating) may affect subsequent consumers’ online review-posting behavior in terms of their willingness to post online reviews, the review ratings they ultimately choose, and the content characteristics of their reviews.

Utilizing an experimental design method, Study 1 examines the influence of disconfirmation on consumers’ willingness to post online reviews and on their ultimate review rating decisions. The findings of this study suggest that disconfirmation can increase consumers’ willingness to post online reviews, and positive disconfirmation can increase consumers’ online review ratings. Compared with substantial variance in prior review ratings, disconfirmation effects are stronger when the variance of prior ratings is smaller. Using an econometric and text mining method based on online review data from Yelp, Study 2 investigates the influence of disconfirmation on the content characteristics of consumer-generated online reviews. The findings of this study reveal that disconfirmation compels consumers to write longer and sentimental reviews and to explain why they have deviated from past consumers. Negativity bias was also found to exist in disconfirmation effects, such that negative disconfirmation shows stronger effects than positive disconfirmation. Again using online review data from Yelp, Study 3 explores the impact of prior average review ratings on subsequent consumers’ post- consumption review ratings as well as the factors contributing to customers’ conformity or differentiation behavior. The findings of this study imply that prior average review rating exerts a positive influence on subsequent review ratings for the same restaurant, but the effect is attenuated by variance in existing review ratings. Moreover, social influence is stronger for consumers who had a moderate dining experience or invested less cognitive effort in writing online reviews. Compared with reviewers classified by Yelp as “elite,” non-elite reviewers appear more susceptible to the social influence of prior average review rating.

This dissertation contributes to the hospitality marketing literature and general marketing literature by providing new theoretical insights. Moreover, the empirical findings of this dissertation also unveil important managerial implications regarding online review management and digital marketing strategies for hospitality firms and online review communities.

Available for download on Saturday, August 15, 2020

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