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

See all articles by Samuel Bond

Samuel Bond

Georgia Institute of Technology; Georgia Institute of Technology - Scheller College of Business

Stephen He

West Virginia University

Wen Wen

University of Texas at Austin - McCombs School of Business

Date Written: December 22, 2018

Abstract

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 Appleā€™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

Suggested Citation

Bond, Samuel and He, Stephen and Wen, Wen, Speaking for 'Free': Word of Mouth in Free- and Paid-Product Settings (December 22, 2018). Journal of Marketing Research, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3305483

Samuel Bond

Georgia Institute of Technology ( email )

Atlanta, GA 30332
United States

Georgia Institute of Technology - Scheller College of Business ( email )

800 West Peachtree St.
Atlanta, GA 30308
United States

Stephen He (Contact Author)

West Virginia University

1601 University Ave
Morgantown, WV 26506
United States

Wen Wen

University of Texas at Austin - McCombs School of Business ( email )

2110 Speedway Stop B6500
Austin, TX 78712
United States

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