Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Business models integrating the internet into their value propositions have demonstrated varying levels of viability. In particular, firms offering information-based products via the internet commonly are unable to generate sufficient revenue and, consequently, experience financial losses. Researchers continue to examine factors which motivate individuals' willingness-to-pay for online content. One factor from the marketing literature which has been argued to affect consumer behavior is social influence. The purpose of this research is to investigate the effect of the three levels of social influence, micro-, meso-, and macro-, on both willingness-to-pay for online content and each other. This is accomplished by examining social influence in the context of online gaming, which has proven to be one of the most successful industries in integrating the internet as a delivery channel for information-based goods. Our results suggested that all levels of social influence play a considerable role in the product valuation process. While micro-level influences, such as attitude, arguably serve as the best predictors of WTP, we found that macro-level social influence, in the form of reputation, played the greatest role in affecting the formation of individual attitudes and behaviors. This was due not only to its direct effect on WTP, but also a consequence of several significant indirect effects. Our hypothesis that an interaction effect occurs between social influences such that their effect on WTP would be "greater than the sum of their parts" was not supported. Nonetheless, our study demonstrates social influence's ability to affect an individual is not a straight forward process. Only examining the relationships between constructs occurring at different levels of social structure does the magnitude of interaction which occurs between them becomes apparent.
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