Social commerce has taken the e‐tailing world by storm. Business‐to‐consumer sites and, more important, intermediaries that facilitate shopping experience, continue to offer more and more innovative technologies to support social interaction among like‐minded community members or friends who share the same shopping interests.
Among these technologies, comments, reviews, ratings, and recommendation systems have become some of the most popular social shopping platforms due to their ease of use and simplicity in sharing buying experience and aggregating evaluations.
With the minimal role of price in the buying decision, social discussion via eWOM becomes a collective signal of reputation, and ultimately a significant demand driver. Empirical studies suggest that eWOM can be used to convey the reputation of the product, the reputation of the brand, and the reputation of complementary goods.
Although there are many forms of social interaction, the most commonly adopted form is online ratings and reviews and comments. Word-of-mouth communications have been shown to influence awareness, expectations, perceptions, attitudes, behavioral intentions, and behavior.
They can be either positive or negative, and there is a strong incentive for consumers to gain something for nothing by reading reviews from others who share the same interest in order to help make a decision.
Reviews and ratings can be written or read by a consumer who is unknown to others, an adviser or expert, or a close and trusted friend.
Social Influence, Social Commerce, and eWOM (electronic Word of Mouth)
Social commerce involves the use technologies such as social networks and user-generated content to assist in the acquisition of products and services. The concept of social commerce evokes the notion of a network of consumers with very strong ties (e.g., trusted friends), made possible recently with the widespread adoption of online social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, to name a few.
eWOM communications via online customer reviews and comments act as routes for social influence.
Social influence is the process by which individuals make changes to their thoughts, feelings, attitudes, or behaviors as a result of interaction with individuals or groups who are perceived to be similar or desirable or with experts who are recognized by the community of buyers as knowledgeable about the product.
Thus, while information gathering is a primary motive to get informed about the product, there is a considerable element of social interaction involved in terms of getting empathy and intimate discussion between well-meaning friends.
It has been shown that book readers, as consumers, articulate themselves through online reviews and conversation (eWOM) because they are strongly motivated by their concern for others and by the potential to enhance their own self-worth vis-à-vis their friends.
Since friends alternately act as information seekers and information providers, social interaction is likely sustained over time through continued discussion threads.
Online recommendation sources can be sorted into three categories, namely, regular consumers, human experts, and expert systems such as recommender systems.
It is likely that the shopper looks at reviews and ratings from unknown customers or experts as a source of accurate and unbiased information regarding a particular product.
In addition to needing information about the product, the shopper will seek reviews from friends as a source of emotional, possibly nonjudgmental guidance and support—a personal touch in the buying decision process.
eWOM communications by experts have the potential to pro- vide professional advice with a certain level of authority, whereas eWOM and feedback between friends offer opportunities for conversation at the level of trust and friendship.
Online automatic recommendation systems tend to have more in uence on consumer choices than human experts or other anonymous consumers , but they may be biased by commercial motives.
Part II soon.