Hsu et al (2013) The effects of blogger recommendations on customers' online shopping intentions. Internet Research, Vol. 23 Issue: 1, pp.69-88
The stated purpose of the paper's research was:
'... to examine whether the blog reader's trusting belief in the blogger is significant in relation to the perceived usefulness of the blogger's recommendations; and how the blog reader's perceptions influence his/her attitude and purchasing behaviour online. The moderating effect of blogger's reputation on readers' purchasing intentions is also tested.'
In my opinion, that describes research of a psychological nature - though as I am a marketer I would say the subject is consumer behaviour. Full biographies of the three authors are not available with the paper, but their university departments are listed, them being; Computer Science and Information Management. Whilst I do appreciate there are academics who have dual specialisms - there is no indication that any of the authors have any qualifications or experience in marketing, let alone consumer psychology. So, before I had even read a sentence of the paper I had my doubts about its value, let alone validity in the real world.
Furthermore, as I do when marking students' dissertations, I started with a quick look at the reference list for the paper. Of around 80 references, fewer than a quarter were to marketing, psychology or even business-related journals, the majority being from computer science fields, including several related to the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM). My background of working with computer scientists within a digital environment means I am aware of this model. It is an IT concept that looks at how users accept technology and in particular considers the factors that influence their decision about how and when they will use that technology. Call me naive if you wish - but in my opinion anyone who is using the Internet to read blogs that may influence their online purchase behaviour has already not only accepted the technology of the Internet, but is comfortable with it.
So why would research into consumer behaviour even mention a model designed to evaluate a technology? By this point I would normally have stopped reading the paper as I felt it carried little or no validity to my practitioner outlook to the subject of digital marketing. However, I write books on this subject - and this paper looked to be a contender for an example of my view towards academic papers in my field of study. So I read on.
Sadly I could gather no enthusiasm to continue further after reading the hypotheses, which included:
- H2a 'Trust will positively affect blog readers' perceived usefulness', and ...
- H3 'Blog readers' attitudes toward shopping online will positively affect their intentions to shop online'.
My immediate thought was; do the answers to those questions really need researching?
Anyone who has ever worked in any kind of sales environment selling any product in any industry, market or environment will tell you that if someone trusts a person who is recommending a product then they are more likely to purchase that product. As for shopping online, isn't anyone who is psychologically in a position to trust an online blogger already making purchases online?
Bringing the subject more up to date, online retailers certainly knew the answer to these questions in around 1997. I certainly did. And I am not even going to mention the role bloggers played in the early Internet, except to say that they were - probably - the first Internet authors to be trusted by users.
Finally, I checked the sampling procedure for the primary research of the paper, which included placing a banner on one of the authors' Facebook page requesting the page's visitors complete the questionnaire. I'll leave a question hanging: is that a good example of a valid sample?
This page was first published in February 2018 ... but it may also have been updated or amended since then.