Information search in virtual communities: Is it replacing use of off-line communication?

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Virtual communities on the Internet enlarge consumer access to non‐commercial individualized information dramatically. Such information may replace or supplement information provided to the consumer by marketers, hereby requiring marketers to consider alterations in their promotion mix. This paper looks into the extent of replacement of a number of off‐line sources by search and postings in virtual communities on a general level and explores variations across different types of users of virtual communities as described by Kozinets (1999 Kozinets, R. V. 1999. E‐tribalized marketing?: the strategic implications of virtual communities on consumption,. European Management Journal, 17(3): 252–264.
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, European Management Journal). Results build on an empirical study (n = 103) carried out in virtual communities on the Internet. This study shows that virtual communities, to some extent, replace commercial sources such as sales personnel, brochures, and advertisements distributed by mail, but only replace primary reference groups as sources of product information to a very limited extent. For most sources, no differences in level of replacement were found across Kozinets' segments. Thus, the level of replacement seems to be largely unrelated to the social tie to the community and interest in the product class. The findings imply that the possibility for some types of commercial source to influence consumers during their decision process may be diminished. It seems especially important for retailing to consider new roles for sales personnel, and for marketers in general to consider whether consumer use of virtual communities should influence their communication mix and distribution strategy.
TidsskriftJournal of Marketing Communications
Udgave nummer4
Sider (fra-til)247-261
StatusUdgivet - 2006


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