The Role Of Virtual Communities As Shopping Reference Groups


Iryna Pentina
Victor R. Prybutok
Xiaoni Zhang


Virtual communities are self-selecting groups of individuals engaged in sustained computer-mediated interactions around common interests or goals, governed by shared norms and values, and serving individual and shared needs. This work proposes and empirically tests the model of social influence on individual shopping preferences in the context of virtual communities. This work proposed and supported a new motivational construct for joining virtual communities that integrates a social psychology approach with the media uses and gratifications paradigm. The findings confirmed the role of this motivational construct in explaining the degree of social identification and norms internalization within a community, and suggested that the influence of virtual communities on their members’ shopping choices is exercised through the mechanism of social identification. These research findings highlight the importance for companies of developing interactive websites that support relationship formation and opinion sharing capabilities.

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May, 2008

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