Title: Effects of suspicion on the perception of online referrals: the role of congruity and message sidedness

Authors: Christoph Pütz

Addresses: FOM Hochschule, Hochschulzentrum Duesseldorf, Karlstrasse 104, 40210 Duesseldorf, Germany

Abstract: This research investigates how a consumer's suspicion that an online referral may result from marketers' involvement affects referral persuasiveness. Two referral characteristics are examined in this regard: referral congruity and message sidedness. It is demonstrated that referral congruity can motivate consumers to question the authenticity of online referrals and that message sidedness determines subsequently the type of motive attributed to observed referral behaviour. It is further shown that the perceived referral motive affects attitudes toward the recommended item as well as purchase intentions. Based on the findings implications are drawn for planning effective referral campaigns.

Keywords: word of mouth; electronic WoM; e-WoM; online referrals; motive inference; persuasion knowledge; correspondence bias; message sidedness; referral congruity; referral campaigns; buzz marketing; consumer suspicion; referral persuasiveness; referral authenticity.

DOI: 10.1504/IJIMA.2017.082994

International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising, 2017 Vol.11 No.1, pp.44 - 63

Accepted: 07 Oct 2015
Published online: 17 Mar 2017 *

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