Year of Publication

2014

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Business and Economics

Department

Business Administration

First Advisor

Dr. De Liu

Abstract

Social endorsements are user-generated endorsements of products or services, such as “likes” and personal collections, in an online social platform. We examine the effect of prior social endorsements on subsequent users’ tendency to endorse or examine a product in a social shopping context, where a social platform connect consumers and enable a collaborative shopping experience. This research consists of two parts. In part I, we identify two ways prior social endorsements can affect subsequent user behavior: as a crowd endorsement, which is an aggregate number of endorsements a product receives for anyone who comes across the product, and as a friend endorsement, which is an endorsement with the endorser’s identity delivered only to the endorser’s friends or followers. Using a panel data of 1656 products on a leading social shopping platform, we quantify the relationship between crowd and friend endorsements and subsequent examination (“click”) and endorsement (“like”) of the products, noting that examination is a private behavior while endorsement is a public behavior. Our results are consistent with the identity signaling theory where identity-conscious consumers converge with the aspiration group (the followers) in their public behavior (e.g. endorsement) and diverge from the avoidance groups (the crowd). We also find differences between public and private behaviors. Moreover, the symbolic nature of social shopping platform trumps the traditional dichotomy of symbolic/functional product attributes. Part II of this study seeks to clarify the underlying mechanism through lab experiments. We hypothesize that consumers’ evaluative attitude, specifically the value-expressive type, moderates the relationship between crowd and friend endorsements and a focal user’s product choice. Our initial results of the second study show support for this idea in the cases when the product choice is not obvious.

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