, Volume 38, Issue 5, pp 634-653

The influence of C2C communications in online brand communities on customer purchase behavior

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Abstract

Increasingly, consumers use the internet as a vehicle for pre-purchase information gathering. While technical specifications and potentially biased selling points can be gleaned from corporate web sites, online brand communities are becoming essential conduits for the customer-to-customer (C2C) sharing of product information and experiences. This study develops and tests a model of online C2C communications in developing desirable online brand community outcomes. Two studies were used to test the model. In Study 1, a netnography technique was employed and conversations between brand community members were coded and combined with survey data to test the research model. In Study 2 an experiment was conducted to further test the sequence of events in our base model. Our findings show that online brand communities are effective tools for influencing sales, regardless of whether these communities reside on company-owned or independently-owned websites. In addition, we demonstrate interesting asymmetrical effects, whereby the positive information shared by community members has a stronger moderating influence on purchase behavior than negative information. Further, we find that online brand communities are effective customer retention tools for retaining both experienced and novice customers. These findings highlight the need for all firms to carefully consider their online community strategies.