Academic journal article Journal of Electronic Commerce Research

Effects of Interactions and Product Information on Initial Purchase Intention in Product Placement in Social Games: The Moderating Role of Product Familiarity

Academic journal article Journal of Electronic Commerce Research

Effects of Interactions and Product Information on Initial Purchase Intention in Product Placement in Social Games: The Moderating Role of Product Familiarity

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Product placement in social games has become a growing trend in recent years. Based on mere exposure effect and dual-process theory, this paper develops a theoretical model to examine the effects of interactions and product information on the initial purchase intention of social gamers in the context of product placement in social games. The moderating effects of product familiarity are also examined. Results show that interaction with product and sociality affect the positive emotion of social gamers in relation to the virtual product in a social game, and the positive emotion affects the social gamers' product interest in the actual product. In addition, positive emotion directly affects the initial purchase intention of social gamers in a heuristic approach; and perceived usefulness and perceived entertainment gained from the provided product information affect the initial purchase intention of social gamers through product interest in a systematic approach. Finally, the results show that product familiarity is an important moderator.

Keywords: Initial purchase intention; Interaction; Product information; Product placement; Social game

1. Introduction

In recent years, the use of social games has become a worldwide phenomenon. Social game is a type of entertaining online game designed to facilitate interaction among its users [CNNIC 2009; Shin & Shin 2011]. The popularity of social games lias captured the attention of marketers [Rozendaal et al. 2013]; thus, the placement of advertisements in social games is on the rise [Terlutter & Capella 2013]. For example, McDonald's has successfully advertised its brand and products on popular social games FarmVille and City Ville on Facebook. Likewise, Unileversponsored Dove has successfully advertised its products on the Sims Social game on Facebook.

Product placement in social games is a distinctive and appropriate category of research on advertising in digital games [Terlutter & Capella 2013]. It is similar to advertising in other digital games to some extent; however, social games differ somewhat from other digital games. As a result, the effect of product placement may vary as well. The most significant difference may lie in the area of interpersonal relationships and its effect on gamers' response to the product being advertised [Terlutter & Capella 2013]. To achieve the goals of social games, gamers are encouraged to "share" the game with their friends (via the social network hosting the game), orto induce them to play as "neighbors" or "allies" [Radoff 2011]. Social gamers explicitly know the members who are playing with them [Rau et al. 2008]. Therefore, social gamers are interested in improving their real interpersonal relationships through the medium of the placed product unlike players of other digital games who primarily participate for entertainment. The special contribution of the products placed in social games to improvements in interpersonal relationships may evoke responses from social gamers regarding these products that differ from their responses to those products placed in other digital games.

Current research on advertising in digital games has focused on in-game advertising and advergames [Hang & Auty 2011; Jeong & Biocca 2012; Lee & Faber 2007; Mackay et al. 2009; Marchand & Hennig-Thurau 2013; van Reijmersdal et al. 2012]. However, despite its fast-growing popularity, only scarce attention devoted to advertising in social games [Terlutter & Capella 2013; Rozendaal et al. 2013; Okazaki & Yagüe 2012]. Little is known about how product placements in social games affect the purchase intention of social gamers toward the placed products.

The present study develops a theoretical model to understand the effect of product placement on the initial purchase intentions of social gamers. Previous studies report product/brand familiarity as an important variable that influences consumer processing [Campbell & Keller 2003; Sheehan & Guo 2005; Mau et al. …

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