Speaking for 'Free': Word of Mouth in Free- and Paid-Product Settings
Journal of Marketing Research, Forthcoming
66 Pages Posted: 6 Jan 2019 Last revised: 21 Jan 2019
Date Written: December 22, 2018
This research examines drivers of consumer word of mouth (WOM) in free-product settings, revealing fundamental differences with traditional, paid-product settings. The authors build and investigate a theoretical model that highlights two unique characteristics of free products (reciprocity motivation and diminished adoption risk) and considers their implications for WOM sharing. Results of a retrospective survey, two controlled experiments, and an analysis of more than 5,000 mobile apps at Google Play and Apple’s App Store reveal that consumers are generally more likely to share their opinions of free products than paid products, due to feelings of reciprocity towards the producer. However, this difference is reduced when prior consumer WOM is low in volume and highly disperse, signaling greater adoption risk. These findings contribute to nascent understanding of free-product marketing, while offering new insights for catalyzing consumer WOM.
Keywords: word of mouth, free pricing, social influence, online reviews, reciprocity
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