This Is Not The Brand I Am Searching For! Can Social Influence Cues Always Reduce Sponsored Search Results Avoidance?

Project: Research

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Online sponsorships are widely applied in search engines to promote sponsors’links (e.g., links to their products and websites) and become one of the most importantrevenue streams for search engine providers. However, according to recent marketing surveysand research, Internet users tend to avoid sponsored search results (SSRs) in general. SuchSSR avoidance reduces the click-through rate of SSRs and challenges the viability of thebusiness model of sponsored search.This project aims to understand users’ SSR avoidance and seek possible solutions in thecontext of consumer-to-consumer (C2C) e-commerce, in which consumers search forproducts and sellers in an online e-commerce platform. Particularly, we examine how usersrespond to SSRs that deviates from users’ brand preferences indicated in their search queries.Several issues will be addressed in this project. First, we intend to explain SSR avoidancefrom the preference construction and persuasion knowledge perspectives. The discrepancybetween users’ brand preference and the sponsored brand becomes an explicit reason forusers to avoid SSR. To reduce users’ avoidance, many websites apply social influence cuesto affect users’ judgment and behavior. However, whether positive social influence cuesabout a SSR can always be effective in reducing SSR avoidance remains unclear. We identifytwo potential types of users’ persuasion knowledge on SSRs, that is, (i) sponsor-oriented(e.g., consumers believe that the website presents the SSR to promote the sponsored brandbecause the website wants to get commissions form the sponsor) and (ii) consumer -oriented:(e.g., consumers believe that the website presents the SSR to promote the sponsored brandbecause the website wants to introduce a good product with high value to the consumers).We propose that a social influence cue can reduce users’ SSR avoidance only when theconsumer-oriented persuasion knowledge is activated at the time of judgment.Second, we will use a contingency approach to examine the role of the reputation ofsponsored brand on reducing users’ SSR avoidance via social influence cues. The reputationof the sponsored brand determines which persuasion knowledge (consumer-oriented orsponsor-oriented) will be activated. A SSR with a high reputation will be likely to triggerconsumer-oriented persuasion knowledge. Thus, we propose that a social influence cue willbe effective in reducing SSR avoidance only when the sponsored brand has a high reputation.Third, we will further investigate the possible effects of social influence cues on reducingSSR avoidance when these cues are presented on both organic results (i.e., unsponsoredresults) and SSRs. We will examine whether and when a social influence cue of a SSR canovercome the effects of sponsored brand’s low reputation. We propose that regardless thereputation of the sponsored brand, when the level of the social influence cue on the SSR issimilar to these cues on the top organic results, the cue on the SSR is likely to increase users’preference for the sponsored product and reduce their SSR avoidance.We will conduct a series of laboratory experiments to test our hypotheses. This projectwill significantly contribute to both research and practice. The project will extend the extanttheoretical understanding of SSR avoidance from the preference construction and persuasionknowledge perspectives in the scenario where the sponsored brand deviates from users’preferences. This project will also contribute to establishing boundary conditions for theeffects of social influence cues with respect to reducing SSR avoidance. Findings from thisproject can also help practitioners to effectively utilize social influence cues to reduce SSRavoidance and thereby promote the viability of the sponsored search model.


Project number9042573
Grant typeGRF
Effective start/end date1/01/1831/12/21