Word-of-mouth processing and higher education choice factors

Le, D 2018, Word-of-mouth processing and higher education choice factors, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Economics, Finance and Marketing, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Word-of-mouth processing and higher education choice factors
Author(s) Le, D
Year 2018
Abstract The importance of word-of-mouth (WOM) communication in the information search and decision-making process of consumers has been well established in the marketing literature. However, there are two areas to this type of communication that are rarely considered: the nature of WOM processing from the receiver perspective; and WOM seeking behaviours in a particular context. In this regard, higher education is an increasingly competitive service in which prospective consumers are highly engaged in the decision-making process and rely on WOM information to evaluate a large number of attributes they may have not considered before and may, therefore, be unfamiliar with.

This doctoral project conducts a series of research studies related to two associated themes: first, investigating the factors of WOM processing from the receiver perspective, using empirical studies situated in the higher education context; and second, analysing choice factors and how choice factor information is delivered through WOM. This research series is reported in five journal papers which are presented as chapters in this thesis.

A holistic approach was developed to cover the research areas. For the first theme, a conceptualisation of WOM factors for WOM processing is presented (Paper 1). This conceptualisation highlights the factors that result in WOM influence on consumers, and presents the development of the WOM Processing Framework, to illustrate the interrelationships among factors. The WOM Processing Framework includes six main groups of factors: source characteristics, receiver characteristics, message characteristics, situational factors, channel characteristics, and enduring involvement. The propositions of this framework suggest avenues for future research.

From this conceptualisation, two empirical studies follow to examine the relationships between source characteristics and message judgement, as well as their impacts on WOM influence. Paper 2 focuses on the impacts of primary characteristics of WOM sources on message quality and the mediation of message quality. Paper 3 focuses on exploring the processing routes within WOM processing, from the task involvement and active WOM seeking behaviour. Data were collected from prospective university students (currently attending high school), and were analysed using structural equation modelling techniques.

The second theme is comprised of two empirical studies that analyse choice factors and how information is delivered by WOM. Paper 4 presents a segmentation analysis on the importance of choice factors. The data were collected by questionnaire surveys to explore the choice factors across different student segments. Paper 5 presents a content analysis of data collected from online communities to reveal the information required regarding choice factors from social media electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM).

This thesis develops a rich theoretical and empirical understanding of WOM processing and a practical view on WOM within the higher education context. Theoretically, the conceptualisation provides a comprehensive framework which highlights factors of WOM processing and their mutual relationships. The empirical studies contribute to WOM literature by examining relationships which have been rarely tested in WOM research, as well as contributing to the application of the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) by identifying the links between the processing routes in WOM processing. The analyses of choice factors and information sought from WOM contribute to literature on higher education. Practically, this thesis provides a number of implications for practitioners, from understanding the factors of WOM processing to insights into prospective students’ information search, which are helpful for university marketing practice.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Economics, Finance and Marketing
Subjects Marketing Communications
Higher Education
Keyword(s) word-of-mouth processing
higher education choice
receiver perspective
prospective students
choice factors
credence services
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Created: Mon, 13 Aug 2018, 11:30:16 EST by Keely Chapman
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