Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Business Administration -- Marketing

Committee Director

John B. Ford

Committee Member

Chuanyi Tang

Committee Member

Weiyong Zhang


In the context of online marketing, product reviews and online relationships have played essential roles in determining consumer's decision making. The three essays examine how valence and volume of online reviews affect consumers' perceived relationships with a firm, as well as the boundary effect of the causal link. Previous literature has been focusing on the direct effects of word-of-mouth (WOM) on consumers' short-term purchase decisions and treating WOM solely as an outcome of a relationship. Consequently, the role of online reviews has been underestimated by contemporary literature and how electric WOM (eWOM) changes consumers' perception with an exchange partner is under-researched.

The first essay provides a theoretical foundation of how the valence of WOM relates to the constructs of a consumer-firm relationship. Based on the literature review, the essay suggests that there might be a systematic linkage between review valence and relationship constructs, and perceived partner' commitment plays moderating roles during these processes. Specifically, being exposed to negative reviews will significantly increase consumers' perceived conflict with the focal firm, leading to a reduced level of perceived relational benefit and trust, and therefore undermining consumers' loyalty and purchase intentions.

Through five lab experiments in the second and third essays, the results demonstrate there is a serial of chain effects of online reviews and consumer-firm relationships, indicating eWOM is not only a consequence of relationship marketing (RM) but also an antecedent. The effects of valence on relational outcomes are contingent upon other factors, such as perceived commitment, review volume, and financial constraints. Specifically, the adverse effect of negative reviews will be mitigated by low volume, low perceived commitment, and high financial constraints.

These findings provide an incremental knowledge of how online reviews shape consumers' perception of a relationship, contributing to RM theories as well as marketing practices. By adding WOM as an antecedent of the RM model (Palmatier,2006), a chain of effects from eWOM to relationship is established. The examination of moderators suggests that not all negative reviews are equal and that marketers may use different online strategies for different target segments in different situations.


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Included in

Marketing Commons