Marketing Theses and Dissertations

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    (2022) Zhao, Xindi; Trusov, Michael; Business and Management: Marketing; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Recognizing the importance of product reviews for product sales in online retail platforms, this dissertation studies the effect of electronic word-of-mouth (e-WOM) dynamics on consumer behavior, including information processing, review-reading behavior, product evaluation, purchase decision, and reviewing behavior. In the first essay, I focus on incentivized reviews, which are posted by reviewers who received economic incentives (e.g., free product) from the firm, and explore how their emergence in a reviewing system influences subsequent organic (i.e., nonincentivized) review contributions for the focal product. I find that the ratings of subsequent organic reviews decrease after the appearance of incentivized reviews and that the magnitude of this negative impact decreases over time and the ratings recover in the long run. This is because subsequent reviewers adjust their product evaluations downwards when faced with priorincentivized reviews. In the second essay, I study the effect of a prevalence phenomenon— repetition in e-WOM—on consumer behavior. I demonstrate that high repetition in e-WOM could have a negative effect on persuasion and that this negative effect could be eliminated by modifying consumers’ inferences about the cause of repetition. Furthermore, consumers’ information-seeking behaviors are also affected by the share and type of repetition. Both essays provide an understanding of the impact of e-WOM on consumers’ judgments and decisions and offer implications for firms and platforms on how to gather, manage, and display e-WOM effectively; they also provide interesting avenues for future research.
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    Essays on Digital Content Provision and Consumption
    (2022) Wang, Chutian; Zhou, Bobby; Joshi, Yogesh V; Business and Management: Marketing; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    Consumption of digital content has become an inseparable part of consumers' lives today. As providers of digital content, media platforms continuously seek to pursue pricing and product design strategies that increase their profits. This dissertation studies media platforms' digital content provision and consumers' consumption decisions. In the first essay, we focus on the pricing of digital content and analyze the impact of consumers' endogenous content consumption on platforms' paywall strategies. Paywalls increase subscription revenues for platforms, but they also impact content consumption and thus advertising revenues. We build an analytical model that endogenizes consumers' content consumption decisions. We find that under moderate ad rates, a metered paywall under which a limited amount of content is provided for free is optimal when consumers display sufficient heterogeneity in their costs of consuming content. We also study how the amount of free content and the subscription price vary with changes in the advertising rate and consumer preference. In the second essay, we analyze the accuracy of news reported by the news media. When consumers are seeking the truth and accurate reporting is costly, determining the optimal level of accuracy in reporting is a strategic decision for a profit-maximizing media firm. We build an analytical model to study this media firm decision. When consumers and the media firm are both initially uncertain about the true state of the world, we show that the media firm always chooses full accuracy if investigation and reporting are of low cost. However, if achieving accuracy is sufficiently costly, the media firm provides news only when consumers' priors regarding the truth are not too extreme, so that they see enough value in news consumption. Interestingly, consumers' truth-seeking and the firm's profit maximization can lead to reporting inaccuracy and exaggeration of the more likely state a priori. We also discuss the implications of polarization in consumers’ prior beliefs and the media firm’s different objectives on the accuracy of news.
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    (1988) Bowers Comer, Lucette; Jolson, Marvin A.; Marketing; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md)
    Because of an increasing shortage of qualified salespersonnel, recruiters for sales positions are very receptive to female applicants. Despite this, sex-discrimination is still detectable in the market place. Some sales managers resist bringing women into male-oriented areas of selling, criticizing them for alleged weaknesses. Their criticisms stem from the belief that saleswomen will behave according to gender stereotypes on the job and that this behavior will impact negatively on selling performance. Sales managers need assurance that the saleswomen they hire will perform well on the job. This research investigated the usefulness of the concept of "sex role identity" as a basis for segmenting the pool of female applicants by their potential for effective performance. A survey was conducted of sales managers in three traditionally male areas of selling, who described saleswomen under their supervision. The relationships between sales managers' perceptions of gender stereotypic behavior, selling effectiveness, and sex role identity were examined. Saleswomen' s gender stereotypic behavior was defined as perceived weaknesses in three areas: "selling ability," "human relations," and "motivation." Selling effectiveness was measured as perceived proficiency in performance of six functions of selling and non-selling activities. Saleswomen were classified into sex role types on the basis of their sales managers' perceptions of their masculine ("instrumental") and feminine ("expressive") traits in their sex role identities on the Bem Sex Role Inventory. Seven research hypotheses were tested using univariate and multivariate analysis of variance and correlational analyses. The results showed that sales managers perceived some gender stereotypic behavior in the marketplace and that some of this behavior was associated with reduced selling effectiveness. Sex role types of saleswomen related to both perceived gender stereotypic behavior and selling effectiveness. Androgynous and masculine saleswomen were perceived 'as being the least stereotyped and the most effective performers. The findings give partial support for a two-dimensional model of selling effectiveness defined by masculine "instrumentality" and feminine "expressiveness." The results have implications for the selection, training , and supervision of saleswomen.
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    (2021) Kim, Nicole You Jeung; Ratner, Rebecca K.; Wang, Yajin; Business and Management: Marketing; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    This dissertation includes three essays that investigate the impact of signals that certain consumption choices can send to other consumers. In particular, each essay focuses on how consumers’ consumption-related decisions (e.g., choice of hedonic items, selecting low variety, and communicating that one has no preference) impact an observing audience’s perceptions of the consumer and the subsequent impacts on the observer. The first essay demonstrates that consumers strive to position themselves as attractive friends by making hedonic consumption decisions. While consumers shift to hedonic consumption, anchoring on their belief that others would heavily value fun when it comes to friendship, this essay demonstrates that consumers themselves actually value other aspects of friendship more, such as meaningfulness. As a result of this discrepancy in the belief of friendship, hedonic choice does not effectively help consumers cultivate friendship with another person. The second essay investigates the signals that selecting a low (vs. high) variety of items sends to observers. Choosing low variety signals to observers that the consumer has accumulated consumption experiences in the past, and thus has greater expertise, compared to choosing high variety. This signal of expertise endows the consumer with influence to impact observers to make consumption choices that mimic the consumer and be more willing to take the consumer’s recommendations. The third essay examines the impact of expressing no preference in a joint decision making context. While consumers expect to make the decision easier for the recipient, recipients of no preference communication (vs. explicit preference communication), experience greater decision difficulty. This unexpected negative impact occurs because recipients of no preference communication perceive that the communicator actually has preferences that they are hiding. Further, because recipients infer that these hidden preferences are dissimilar to one’s own preferences, they end up making a choice for the joint consumption that they personally less prefer.
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    (2020) Huh, Jin-Hee; Godes, David; Business and Management: Marketing; Digital Repository at the University of Maryland; University of Maryland (College Park, Md.)
    This dissertation studies two topics regarding user-generated content (UGC) in social media context. Due to its rapid proliferation, UGC has received much attention among both practitioners and researchers. Although past studies have investigated diverse aspects of UGC and their influences on consumer decision process, few studies have examined (1) status bias in online peer-feedback on UGC with the presence of reputation system, and (2) the impact of video UGC, a relatively new type of UGC, on product purchase and usage decisions. In Essay 1, we investigate how a reputation system affects peer-evaluations in an online community. In contrast to previous research on reputation systems, which has predominantly shown that reputation systems can induce posting activity and quality contributions, we study how reputation markers (“badges,” for example) may change peer-evaluations. We rely on a unique and detailed data set and employ a difference- in-differences approach, combined with propensity score matching, that suggests that, all else equal, posters receive disproportionately-higher evaluations of their posts after they earn a reputation marker, irrespective of post quality. This suggests a “rich- get-richer” process induced by a reputation system that may have the unintended effect of favoring some participants at the expense of equally-skilled others. In Essay 2, we examine the impact of a relatively new type of user-generated content, video user-generated content (VUGC), on consumer’s purchase and product usage decision. Due to its highly visual and auditory characteristics, VUGC has been considered as an effective marketing tool. However, as VUGC can have the risk of revealing too much information about the entertainment products, firms need to limit the amount of original content in VUGC. Under these circumstances, game developers need to have an understanding on how VUGC can impact sales and usage. To examine the impact, we collected VUGC activities and game characteristics from diverse sources. Our results indicate that VUGCs can affect sales and game usage, and the impact can vary by VUGC and game product characteristics. Our findings suggest that game developers should consider both VUGC characteristics and their product characteristics jointly when developing and implementing policies on users’ VUGC uploading, sharing, and monetizing.