The Impact of Word of Mouth Sources on the Perceived Usefulness of an Innovation


  • Tomoko Kawakami,

  • Mark E. Parry

  • The authors acknowledge financial support by the MEXT KAKENHI Grant-in-aid for Scientific Research (B) #23330142 (2011–2014) of Japan Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and by the Strategic Project to Support the Formation of Research Bases at Private Universities Matching Fund Subsidy from MEXT (2008–2012). The authors also thank Mr. Kawashima and Ms. Nakae at JMR Science Co., Ltd., for their assistance with data collection.

Address correspondence to: Tomoko Kawakami, Faculty of Commerce, Kansai University, 3-3-35 Yamate-cho, Suita-shi, Osaka 564-8680, Japan. E-mail: Tel: 06-6368-1121. Fax: 06-6339-7704.


This paper examines the role of three indirect mechanisms linking word-of-mouth communication with one of the most important innovation attributes influencing the adoption decision: perceived usefulness. The authors hypothesize that word-of-mouth (WOM) communication impacts perceived usefulness by influencing potential adopter perceptions of the credibility of innovation information, the size of the adopter population, and the availability of complementary products. To test these hypotheses, the authors analyze the survey responses of over 550 potential adopters of e-readers and smartphones. In both product samples, the perceived credibility of WOM information is positively related with perceived usefulness, which is positively related with purchase intent. Consistent with theoretical arguments regarding the importance of access to expert information sources, findings indicate that, relative to personal WOM, written and virtual WOM have stronger relationships with consumer perceptions of the credibility of innovation information. In addition, in both samples, perceived usefulness is positively related with the perceived availability of complementary products, which is positively related with both personal and written word-of-mouth. Finally, perceived usefulness has (1) a direct relationship with the perceived size of the local adopter population in the e-reader sample and (2) an indirect relationship with the same variable that is mediated by the perceived availability of complementary products in both samples. In turn, the perceived size of the local adopter population is positively related with exposure to personal word-of-mouth.