What do you think? Research based on eBay support communities that was published in the Harvard Business Review a few years back seemed to indicate that it did.
Some of those same researchers, including Utpal Dholakia who helped us with the writing of our book, The Hyper-Social organization, went back and re-examined the eBay support communities – this time making sure that they corrected the results to account for self-selection bias. The results – community participation could actually have a negative impact on buying and selling. The recent study was published in an article titled “Impact of Customer Community Participation on Customer Behavior,” in the Journal Of Marketing Science, and can be accessed online here. What they found is that community participation has mixed effects on customers’ likelihoods of participating in buying and selling behaviors. In fact, they found that community participation had a negative impact on the number of listings and amount spent, suggesting that people who participated in the communities were educating themselves to be more efficient.
That does not mean that you should do away with online communities! Even the authors of the paper say so themselves.
There is also other research that looks at the impact of peer buying on buying behavior in communities. What this study found is that people with high status within the community would buy less than average – suggesting that they have nothing to prove by buying anymore. Those with low status were not very well connected to the community and peer buying did not influence them much at all. The middle tier – those with medium status – were very much influenced by peer buying and made up amply with their buying for the other two groups.
So while education may lead to short term efficiencies and less revenue from the buyers and sellers in eBay communities, they could also lead to increased customer satisfaction and higher lifetime customer value – which was outside of the scope of this research project. It could also lead to more customer acquisition through word-of-mouth, another metric that felt outside the scope of this research.
What do you think?