Academic journal article Journal of Global Business and Technology

Product Involvement and Online Word-of-Mouth in the South African Fast Food Industry

Academic journal article Journal of Global Business and Technology

Product Involvement and Online Word-of-Mouth in the South African Fast Food Industry

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

WOM is seen as one of the most effective and credible marketing tools a marketer can use to influence consumer attitude, perception and their purchasing behaviour (Yang, Hu, Winer, Assael & Chen, 2012, p. 952). According to Berger and Schwartz (2011, p. 870) this is especially true in the fast food restaurant industry - the focus of this study. It has been established that consumers exhibit different levels of product involvement depending on the product or service involved (Phau, 2010, p.47). Those who exhibit high levels of product involvement seek continuous information, have high levels of experience and interest in the product, and have the ability to influence other consumers' purchasing behaviour (Wu & Wang, 2011, p. 449). According to Riegner (2007, p. 443), consumers' levels of product involvement influence their levels of word-of-mouth (WOM) engagement. Xue and Zhou (2011, p. 45) explain that due to the increased use of social networking sites on the Internet, increased opportunities for expanding word-of-mouth communications through an online forum exist, especially on a global platform. This has led to consumers to share more experiences and opinions based on their purchasing behaviour and engaging in online word-of-mouth (eWOM) (Chen, 2011, p. 1). Marketers therefore cannot ignore the role of the Internet in spreading WOM. This study investigates product involvement, WOM and online WOM. It determines the relationship between these constmcts in the fast food restaurant industry of South Africa and uncovers significant differences between groups of respondents. After the research methodology and results have been discussed, managerial implications and recommendations are presented.

LITERATURE REVIEW

South Africa's food and beverage industry (which includes the fast food and restaurant sectors) has seen increased sales since 2007/2008 with a 9% increase from 2011 to 2012 (Statistics South Africa, 2012, p. 2, Ntloedibe, 2011). Maumbe (2012, p. 149-150) adds that fast food outlets contributed 30% and employed 24.1% people in the industry. Despite economic woes, the demand for fast food has increased with 25.3 million people purchasing fast food at least once a month (Vallie, 2012). The fast food and restaurant sectors in South Africa can attribute this growth to its adaptation to new market trends (such as healthier food options), technological innovations, demographic changes and increased levels of food safety (Maumbe, 2012, p. 147).

According to Samson (2010, p. 61) "product involvement is the degree of interest of a consumer in a product category on an on-going basis". Xue and Zhou (2011, p. 8) add that it is based on the relevance that a product or service has in consumers' minds based on their needs and interests. Wu and Wang (2011, p. 449) explain that consumers can experience either high (e.g. risky purchase) or low levels (low-risk purchase) of product involvement. Consumers, who exhibit high levels of product involvement, seek continuous information on the product and have high levels of experience and interest in the product, and will easily influence other consumers' purchasing behaviour (Wu & Wang, 2011, p. 449). Xue and Zhou (2011, p. 52) explain that consumers' level of product involvement will be influenced by word-of-mouth (WOM) communications spread by others. Riegner (2007, p. 443) supports this by stating that word-of-mouth will influence consumers who have higher levels of product involvement (such as in the purchase of technology), but is less likely to influence purchases of low involvement products (such as apparel).

According to Ahmad (2012), WOM is defined as "an informal type of communication between private parties concerning the evaluation of goods and services" (p. 104). WOM includes any form of communication such as, face-to-face, phone or email, and can expressed as either positive or negative (Xue «fe Zhou, 2011, p. 47, Goyette, Ricard, Bergeron «fe Marticotte, 2010, p. …

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