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Consumer empowerment model: from unspeakable to undeniable
S. Umit Kucuk
Department of Management, College of Business, Central Washington University, Ellensburg, Washington, USA
Purpose – Although consumer sophistication and empowerment is on the rise as a result of the digital revolution, there is insufficient academic exploration with the aim of understanding how this empowerment functions on the internet. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to fill this gap by proposing a new conceptual model in light of available literature. Design/methodology/approach – The paper employs a deep and broad literature review and discussion regarding possible consumer power sources on the internet to develop the proposed conceptual model, which is defined as consumer empowerment model (CEM). The components of the model are discussed in detail to reveal possible links, consumer empowerment actualization, and impacts on consumer markets on the internet. Findings – The components of CEM are structured in light of the theory of reasoned action’s main proposals as follows: “Perceived consumer power,” “Perceived consumer trust,” “Attitudinal consumer power” and finally “Behavioral consumer power.” Each component is discussed in terms of its possible contributions to the model in order to illustrate how this new form of consumer power actually works. The possible implications of consumer empowerment are also discussed in light of the newly proposed model. Originality/value – There is no paper discussing how consumer power actualization works and thus how consumer power revolutionizes today’s cyberspaces. In this context, the study is the first of its kind. Keywords Consumers, Empowerment, Internet, Trust Paper type Conceptual paper

Consumer empowerment model 327

1. Introduction The idea that the “Consumer is King” in traditional marketing has a strong consumerist meaning that places the consumer centrally in the company’s focus. Although consumers are intuitively presumed to be the most powerful channel members in distribution channel literature, and believed to be protected by the consumerism conceptualization; in reality, companies have historically maintained the most powerful role in markets. In fact, the “Consumer is King” concept has gone the same way as “The Emperor has no clothes” – with the consumer being nearly powerless in consumer markets in many situations although “presumed” to be the most powerful. This is not often discussed. In other words, the powerlessness of the consumer has been “unspeakable” – hidden for the sake of company and market growth. However, with the advent of the internet, scholars began discussing the difficulties in understanding and controlling today’s consumers with traditional marketing approaches and agreed upon the “undeniable” change that the internet has empowered consumers by providing greater information access and unprecedented communication abilities (Hoffman et al., 2004; Urban et al., 2000; Urban, 2004; Crumlish, 2004; Kucuk and Krishnamurthy, 2007) as also expressed by practitioners as follows:

Direct Marketing: An International Journal Vol. 3 No. 4, 2009 pp. 327-342 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 1750-5933 DOI 10.1108/17505930911000892

Each component of CEM will be discussed in detail in order to illustrate how this new form of consumer empowerment is actualized. the main aim of this study is to discuss changing consumer power with a newly proposed conceptual model. This historic shift is unprecedented.” When consumers are confident about what they can accomplish on the internet they may feel powerful. Pavlou and Fhgensen. 1989. Therefore. 1989. 2006). 328 Recently. consumers are neither “king” for the sake of marketing discussions. as indicated by Kucuk and Krishnamurthy (2007. the balance between “perceived consumer power” and “perceived consumer . consumer trust increases the probability of a consumer’s willingness to engage the online shopping world. 2002).. 1975). However. consumer empowerment model (CEM). with the digital revolution. “power” is at the heart of the construct of the empowerment model. which utilizes the theory of reasoned action (TRA) (Fishbein and Ajzen. Consumer empowerment model In the developmental stages of e-commerce. “Special report” April 2.DMIJ 3. among others.. With rising consumer power on the internet. nor passive market actors who accept the dictated market value without questioning. 2005. on the internet.” says Dell’s Mr George. TAM generally uses two specific components: “Perceived usefulness” – the user’s perception of the degree to which using the system will improve the user’s benefits. Issues addressed regarding TAM included the role of trust and risk in the internet technology adoption process (Pavlou. 2005). 2000. 46) as follows: The industrial revolution was to manufacturers what the digital revolution is to consumers. Although consumer empowerment is an influential phenomenon that is transforming today’s web 2. Davis and Venkatesh. In other words. 2. Therefore.0 world. As a result. consumers are likely to believe that they have sufficient power. while a lack of consumer trust increases the perceived costs of social exchange and thus might negatively impact consumer power. 1996). users’ browsing modes – goal oriented or experimental (Sanchez-Franco and Roldan. Naturally. the study addresses key managerial implications in light of the new proposed model and ongoing discussions. when consumer perceived power is balanced with trust. there is no study which aims to understand how consumer empowerment works and functions on the internet. 2006). 16). and “Perceived ease of use” – the user’s perception of the amount of effort needed to use the system or related technology (Davis. users’ cultural differences (Kucuk and Arslan. web site image (Lee et al. customers’ needs will get more diverse. Kucuk. Thus. scholars realized that the major obstacle for internet technology is the acceptance of the internet as a shopping tool. “The market will get more fragmented. 1989) to the internet. consumers’ perception of the amount of effort (as in TAM’s usefulness) can be associated with consumers’ “trust.4 “There is clearly no turning back. Finally. major contributions in this field came from the adaptation of technology acceptance model (TAM) (Davis. In other words. and sophistication and empowerment will continue to grow” (Emphasis added) (The Economist. consumers’ manner of understanding and perceiving the benefits (as in TAM’s perceived ease of use) gained as a result of using the internet is the main starting point. p. 2003. p. TAM can again be used as a starting point to model the consumer empowerment actualization on the internet. Davis et al.

” The concept of self-efficacy indicates that people with high self-efficacy most likely believe that difficult tasks are something to be mastered rather than avoided (Bandura. Internet technology competence H1aa Economic self-efficacy H1ab H1ba Social self-efficacy H1bb H1ca Legal self-efficacy H1cb Consumer empowerment model 329 Perceived consumer power H2 Perceived consumer trust H3 Trust in website H3a Trust in online company H4 Attitudinal consumer power H6 Behavioral consumer power H5 H3b Figure 1. Similarly. as conceptualized in Figure 1. Thus. The first condition to reaching consumer empowerment on the internet is having sufficient knowledge. economic and legal self-efficacies) on the internet. in the social context. These types of consumers are empowered by their self-efficacy. consumers might challenge themselves to overcome difficulties and are empowered by their belief in their own self-efficacy (Macdonald and Uncles. which is indicated in Figure 1 “Internet technology competence. A person with high self-efficacy is more likely to navigate the web to find legal solutions. As a result of such self-efficacy. Once consumers reach a necessary level of competence to implement their decisions on the internet. Economic self-efficacy. which is conceptualized in Figure 1 as “Economic. 2007) in different forms (social. they then “believe/feel” that they are capable of executing their decisions on the internet. social and legal self-efficacies. consumers cannot use the internet as a shopping tool. consumers can see themselves as powerful market actors or can master difficult market relations and situations. as also depicted in Figure 1. a lack of self-efficacy might render social interactions difficult to manage. expertise. social self-efficacy indicates a consumer’s confidence in his or her ability to successfully communicate with fellow consumers to reach common goals within societies. Consumer empowerment model .” Without having expertise or the ability to use the internet technology successfully. indicates that consumers with high economic self-efficacy can engage and understand price and value related activities when they are searching for needed products. This concept is easily applied to the legal field. in this context. 1997). and “ability/capability” to perform the necessary operations. and are thus willing to accept the challenge of the internet.” towards a company and its related technologies are important elements of this proposed CEM.

4 The empowerment process flows from perception to the attitudinal consumer empowerment stage.. 1975).. 2006). 2007) over their transactions and relationships with companies. 2001) and “control” (Wolfinbarger and Gilly. if attitudinal empowerment reaches high levels with more usage and positive experience. and encourage widespread usage of consumer voice. 2004).. 1999) as a result of the internet’s decentralized and anti-hierarchical information architecture (Jordan. 1985) and economic systems (Ailawadi et al. today’s consumers feel less dependent upon companies. 1994. Lusch and Brown. complaining about and protesting them. 2008). Thus. However. Mehra et al. 1996). Perceived consumer power Power in marketing theory has been predominantly discussed within the distribution channel’s behavioral (El-Ansary and Stern. and consumers were perceived as the most valuable and powerful members of the channel. 2003). defined as voice-based consumer power. or alternatively. on the internet (Kucuk. In the end. it was presumed that all distribution channel members are dependent upon consumer purchase decisions. consumers. thus reaching “speech equalization” on the internet (Wu. 1972) or the “interdependence” between members (Dwyer et al. 330 . behavioral power outcomes can be observed as consumer consumption reinforcement – promoting products to fellow like-minded consumers. 2001. nor did they have any empowering environments in markets (Harrison et al. 2002).DMIJ 3. Therefore. defined as exit-based consumer power. as the internet has done today (Kucuk and Krishnamurthy. 2001. with the internet. Thus. this indicates the degree of consumers’ control over the outcomes of their usage of the internet for a specific task. there has been no platform or technology that equalized the power balance between consumers and companies in the history of business.. power is basically discussed from the perspective of the degree to which a channel member can “control” or “influence” the outcomes of others (El-Ansary and Stern. In either system. Gaski and Nevin. Such developments increase consumer exit options from market. 2008a. 1999. 1972. 1999). In this context. Krishnamurthy and Kucuk. 3. 1995. This is similar to TRA hypotheses (Fishbein and Ajzen. or passively boycotting and not buying specific products. 1987. 1998). as discussed in digital divide (DD) literature (DiMaggio and Hargittai. tearing up promotions. Betancourt and Gautschi. Consumers can communicate with like-minded consumers on the same footing with corporations (Kucuk. consumers neither felt empowered. However. 2008b). 2007). Heide. Kucuk and Krishnamurthy. Wolfinbarger and Gilly. A lack of technological competence in many marginalized sub-cultures and nations have plunged many would be internet consumers into the digital darkness.1 Internet technology competence Internet technology competence refers to consumers’ skills and understanding of the technology necessary to operate and navigate on the internet. consumers can be anywhere (and anyone) at any time on the internet as conceptualized as “superior flexibility” (Thompson. 3. can only show passive power by just “hoping” to obtain a better value or protesting by zapping TV ads. This divide can be broader between generations (young and older users) in terms of internet technology competence as conceptualized “second-level of digital divide” (Hargittai. Now. in actuality. and thus have more “freedom” (Jordan.

Brynjolfsson et al. 1972. Consumer internet technology competence positively influences consumer economic self-efficacy. H1ca. and has become a powerful economic equalizer for markets and consumers (Grover and Ramanlal. 2006). as also hypothesized as follows: H1aa. However. Such consumers do pre-planned shopping and search product and price information before buying by utilizing the internet’s aforementioned economic benefits to get the Consumer empowerment model 331 . or goal-directed consumers who are generally less involved in experimental. product information and price options on the internet where possible buyers and sellers can meet at with little or no cost (O’Rourke. the better their chance of asserting their own control in market relationships and seeing themselves as active and influential market players on the internet. Consumer internet technology competence positively influences consumer social self-efficacy. rationale. the literature has generally defined economic self-efficacy as consumers’ confidence in their coping abilities with general economic factors that directly affect the consumer’s financial situation (Engelberg. Therefore. In this context. 2005). This view extends the definition of economic self-efficacy in the literature. Consumer internet technology competence positively influences consumer legal self-efficacy. The greater the consumers’ internet technology competency. 2006). is defined as economic self-efficacy in the context of this study: “consumers’ belief and confidence in their ability to successfully insert themselves into a better economic situation in a shopping process on the internet. or thus understanding the value accurately in any exchange relationship. H1ba.Generally. social and legal self-efficacies on the internet. this study seeks to extend this concept to the micro level in a simple shopping process. Thus.. This. 1993). which are broadly studied by structuring upon main TAM (Davis.” In other words. 3.2 Economic self-efficacy The internet reduced market imperfections and stimulated competition. consumers’ perception of “usefulness” and “ease of use” of the internet. Bailey and Lown. although.. a consumer’s attitude toward money is generally related his or her coping abilities through understanding sensible money management (Wernimont and Fitzpatrick. can eliminate barriers to consumers’ technology competence and can mitigate the effects of DD (Porter and Donthu. 2003. 1989). Such increasing competition in online markets in turn reduces the power of monopolies and accelerates the markets’ economic liberation and effectiveness (O’Rourke. 2000. internet technology competency is the first condition for consumers to truly comprehend their power through economic. These kinds of consumers are generally defined as utilitarian. Now. such economic empowerment loses its impact unless consumers are capable of accurately evaluating product and market related value elements by optimizing the information introduced on the internet. 1999). Huang. in turn. In this context. fun or impulsive shopping behaviors on the internet (Wolfinbarger and Gilly. 2005). there are more products. the internet enhances consumers’ bargaining and economic power (Campbell et al. consumers with high economic self-efficacy are better able to find the desired item at a better value (from a variety of sources) in order to maximize their economic benefits in a simple shopping process on the internet. 2000). 2001).

consumers have a distinct advantage in their ability to change public opinion and thus have an enormous amount of purchasing (Gronmo and Olander. However. they experience more control. as also hypothesized as follows: H1bb. making these consumers perceive themselves to be more empowered and in control of their shopping processes on the internet. Consumer social self-efficacy positively influences perceived consumer power. Because the number of consumers far outweighs (Huang. which can put sufficient pressure on a company to encourage it to change its business practices. companies have even attempted to hire consumer bloggers who have demonstrated high social self-efficacy and who have had an influence on groups of consumers (Armstrong. 1978). Consumers can communicate easily with each other in order to create solutions among themselves.4 Legal self-efficacy Legal self-efficacy can be defined as consumer confidence in their ability to successfully reach legal information and protect their own rights as consumers on the internet. 2008). which heightens market pressures. In fact. consumers who feel alienated can now easily connect with online communities and discussion groups to share their experiences and ideas with the other consumers (Hagel and Armstrong. 2001). company-generated marketing messages are losing influence and ground to online communities and forums (Bickart and Schindler. 1991) and hence collective bargaining power (Kauffman and Wang. freedom and empowerment in an online shopping process (Wolfinbarger and Gilly. values. and thus to feel helpless and powerless. 2006). solutions. and to easily communicate with and organize other like-minded consumers to better serve the group’s values and goals. consumers with high social self-efficacy have the ability to communicate with others and to organize people for the benefit of the group or society.4 332 best value in online markets. They also have a platform from which to organize people (Crumlish. In other words. it was easy for consumers to feel alienated in marketplace (Allison. 2001). Recently. In this context. 3. consumer-organized anti-brand sites have strong potential to impact consumer consumption habits by creating new brand meanings. Now. As a result.DMIJ 3.3 Social self-efficacy Social self-efficacy can be defined as an individual consumer’s confidence in his/her abilities to build social relationships. 2004). identities. Krishnamurthy and Kucuk. 1997). and thus re-shaping companies’ marketing strategies (Kucuk. Thus. Information that was previously limited to lawyers or high level employees on Wall Street is accessible and easily located on the internet (Kucuk and . consumers’ economic self-efficacy is an important psychological factor that can be linked to consumers capabilities to search and find better economic value and benefits from a variety of shopping sources provided on the internet. as also hypothesized as follows: H1ab. 2005) the number of distribution channel members. 2008a. Consumer economic self-efficacy positively influences perceived consumer power. As a result. 2001) when they are organized. consumers who have high social self-efficacy are gaining more social support and power on the internet. In the past. 3. individual consumers can easily access legal information about corporations.

In this respect. A savvy consumer can locate pending lawsuits.” “Uncertainty” about the intentions of others is a perceived source of risk and increases the need for trust (Luhmann.. b). Often times. reflecting a positive attitude about another’s motives. and blogs). this free flow of information also enables consumers to share complaints on their own web sites with other like-minded consumers (Krishnamurthy and Kucuk. and with the help of third-party watch dog groups. Rousseau et al. (1998. trust is defined by Rousseau et al. trust can be conceptualized in the context of this study in terms of “uncertainty” and “interdependence. individual web sites. companies now may think twice before accessing a consumer’s personal information without permission (Cavoukian and Hamilton. Rousseau et al.” Although uncertainty reduction can be reached via an increase in information. As Lewis and Weigert (1985. Consumers who use the internet have become much more aware of the privacy concerns that may await them on the web. 395) as follows: Trust is not a control mechanism but a substitute for control. Gefen. Luo (2002) indicated that the key factor influencing these types of trust is the consumer’s satisfaction with previous interactions and experience with the online company. 1998).Krishnamurthy. such as catalog sales (Kucuk and Krishnamurthy.. It is illegal for a company to sell consumer information gained from the internet to third parties without the consumer’s consent. In a less formal way. Access to such information can allow for the coordination of lawsuits against targeted brands.. 2006). 462) succinctly state. Governmental regulation has played a role in protecting the consumer as well. as well as corporate filings with governmental regulatory commissions. 1979.” Similarly. In the USA. 2000). Harrison et al. Consumer empowerment model 333 . more information in the meantime may cause complexity (Huffman and Kahn. but rather now has access to information about international violations as well. 1998. Thus. p. Consumer legal self-efficacy positively influences perceived consumer power. 1995. Control comes into play only when adequate trust is not present (Emphasis added). As a result of their outcry (often resulting in mass publication of consumer privacy violations via online communities. Gefen. 2008a. Fukuyama.” When there is strong interdependence and reliance. 2007). 2000. the reason behind uncertainty is the lack of knowledge or information asymmetry about possible risk factors. A consumer is not limited to information about a company’s legal woes within the USA. 2008). p. Consumer trust in the internet Although there are various perspectives and approaches in the conceptualization of trust in different disciplines. 2007). then there is less risk and more trust exists on each side (Fukuyama. Luhmann (1979) defines trust as an uncertainty reducer which can be reached by complementary forms of power. such expression is generally protected by the first amendment right to free speech (Kucuk. 1995. consumers with high legal self-efficacy will engage more on legal issues to create a powerful front to companies on the internet as also hypothesized as follows: H1cb. “Trust begins where knowledge ends. 2002). Another necessary condition for trust is each party’s level of “interdependence. though the same sale of information remains legal for information gathered via other means. 1998. 4. settlement agreements. or “control.

when consumers feel powerless. 2007). a maximized consumer power-trust relationship can be reached anywhere along the OD line in Figure 2. Therefore. In other words. A Consumer control over company D C B Figure 2. and the consumer is less dependent on the company. the consumer is likely to be empowered. in this context. . as also hypothesized as follows: H5. consumer “distrust” can alternatively be considered a source of power for the consumer (Ekici. the powerful side generally needs to build trust (Hart and Saunders.] an imperfect substitute for absent power over the agents to whom we stand in a vulnerable position. 11) sees trust as: [. Cowcher (2001. as also indicated at point A in Figure 2. Point C indicates the optimum level power and trust required between the consumer and company to reach a balanced and beneficial market relationship. as well as for missing information about their intentions and deeds. in an ordinary relationship. The relationship between consumer power and trust O Consumer interdependence with company . . there is need for trust as also indicated point B in Figure 2. p. Similarly. is one of the major components of power as also conceptualized earlier. 1997). because the less powerful side is more dependent on the more powerful side’s outcomes. 334 Thus. Perceived consumer trust influences perceived consumer power on the internet.DMIJ 3. On the other hand. (Emphasis added). If consumer control and influence is high. In this context. In other words. the relationship between consumer power and trust on the internet can be hypothesized in the context of the study’s proposed model as follows: H2. trustworthy relationships with companies are impossible. In light of TAM. The negative relationship between power and trust is depicted in terms of their functions of control and interdependence in Figure 2.4 Control. if the consumer feels highly dependent on the company and has less control and influence on the company. Perceived consumer trust positively influences consumer attitudinal power on the internet. perceived consumer trust also directly influences consumer attitudinal power.

it is important to provide unbiased.2 Trust in online company Trust in an online company can be discussed as the company’s ability to reduce the perceived uncertainty and to keep promises and commitments on the internet. to introduce unbiased and updated product/service information... the company’s web site might not provide and establish trustable relationships. 2002). 2001). understanding the manner in which consumers interpret their power will be helpful in gaining insight into when and why a consumer might feel safe enough to engage in online buying or protests. such as: trust and technology acceptance (Gefen et al. up-to-date information about product/service specification. prices. in-stock availability. Aladwani and Palvia. and comparative information including competitors (Urban et al.. 2002. 2002. It is also useful to provide assurances from a trustable third party – such as TRUSTe and BBB – seals of privacy. Peeples.. Miyazaki and Krishnamurthy. 2004). 2000). but rather cause banner ad blindness and consumer dissatisfaction. perceived consumer trust will be investigated in two parts in the following section: consumer “trust in company’s web site” and “trust in online company. to the best of our knowledge there is no study investigating the differences in these two aforementioned distinct trust perspectives on the internet. and finally security of personal information (Ranganathan and Ganapathy. Thus. thus security (Urban et al. Loiacono et al. trust in a web site can be discussed as the web site’s ability to provide secure transactions and strong privacy policies (Urban et al. 2000).. 2007). 2004). 2000. 2000). Web sites with a crowded format and flashing banner ads might fail to create trust (Urban et al. Kim and Stoel. Kim and Stoel. 2003). consumer trust in web sites is mainly discussed in web site quality studies to describe consumers’ feeling toward the web site’s trustworthiness (Loiacono et al. Consumer trust in a company’s web site positively influences perceived consumer trust in the internet. Although trust in company was studied from Consumer empowerment model 335 . Consumer trust in web site studies predominantly focuses on transaction security and privacy issues. and finally to provide the company’s ethical codes without using confusing terms (Hoffman et al. Generally. 4. familiarity (Gefen. 2002. 2002. to answer consumer inquiries appropriately. social presence (Gefen and Straub. 4.As a result. and technology assurances. the following factors enhance a consumer’s trust in a company: a company’s willingness and ability to protect consumer’s rights. 2004)..” Although trust has been broadly and deeply studied by social scientists. 2004). Kimery and McCord. In this context. process. to provide delivery and fair return guarantees. and help consumers to make conscious product/service choices. technical adequacy (Aladwani and Palvia.. 2000. which have been identified as important consumer power sources on the internet (Kucuk and Krishnamurthy. Consumer trust on the internet has been discussed as one of the main factors influencing consumer participation in online shopping. H3b.1 Trust in web site Although consumers may have faith in a company. and trustworthiness-beliefs (Gefen.. 2000. interaction – reliability. 1999. 2002). 2002). and is studied by scholars with different academic focuses. Kim and Stoel. system use – security of transaction (Liu and Arnett. 2002). Generally. personalization (Barnes and Vidgen. In addition. 2002).

Thus. Recently.DMIJ 3. and massive e-mail campaigns (e-mail bombs) (Vegh. . 2008). or “hacktivist. 2001. More advanced internet-based actions offer a more proactive and aggressive use of the internet and cover a wider range of boycott and protest. This. with the intention of redirecting consumer consumption patterns. Bagozzi et al. Locander and Hermann. indicates the success of the consumerist oriented approach.. an increased demonstration of consumer power can be expected in light of TRA hypotheses. consumers can act. 2008a. Vegh. 1979. 2008). and may feel more empowered as opposed to their state-oriented and low confidence counterparts. which places consumers in charge and allows them to function as co-partner or co-worker in company operations (Oliver. 2006). consumers now can voice their dissatisfaction firmly on their own blogs and web sites.. Consumers who have positive attitudes toward their empowerment are more likely to transform their attitude into behavior.. the more consumers become aware of their power. online forums – either consumer-oriented or consumer-generated – may be more likely to generate empathy among fellow consumers. Krishnamurthy and Kucuk. now companies can feel the effects consumer power in real time while it used to take days or years (Gelb.4 varying perspectives. Kucuk. Thus. 2008a. there is no study exploring consumer trust in a company in terms of consumer power on the internet.. virtual sit-ins.” techniques such as cyberattacks. Henig-Thurau and Walsh. activism and consumer involvement might be observed and expected on the internet. Krishnamurthy and Kucuk. Bickart and Schindler. or thus behavioral power. 6. 1983). web site defacements. 1992) and highly self-confident consumers (Dash et al. 2001. Attitudinal consumer power Attitude can be considered a person’s evaluation of action (Bagozzi et al. 2003) or against a company by protesting the company’s products/services/policies on the internet (Harrison-Walker. in turn. 2003. 1992). 1982.. 1995). many consumer forums are rivaling corporate web sites. Perceived consumer trust in an online company positively influences trust in the company’s web site. 336 5. As a result. 2005. This inclination can be easier for action-oriented (Kuhl. Behavioral consumer power Once consumer attitudes toward their own empowerment on the internet reach high levels. Sharma et al. Such consumers may perceive less uncertainty and risk. once a consumer’s perception about his/her power and trust in an online company/web site is strong. and develop more product category interest from online discussions forums than they would if they were exposed only to marketer-generated sources of information online (Bickart and Schindler. 2001. on the internet. thus the marketing empowerment battle rises between consumer-generated word of mouth power and marketer-generated content power. Kucuk. Taken to extremes. 2003). 1976. Therefore. Notably. This action can be in favor of a company by sharing their recommendations with fellow like-minded consumers (Godes et al. this can also be hypothesized in light of the aforementioned discussions as follows: H6. H3a. the more boycotts.

in this study. In this way.) helps them to enhance their self-efficacy to create solutions for themselves and even for companies. Empowering consumers with convenient. on the other hand. and hence management. in order to develop trust. are sitting at the heart of web 2. a conceptual model – CEM – is introduced and its components are discussed in detail in light of the related theories. Thus. in this study’s context. Trust. 7. trust balances the power between consumers and online companies. As a result. and providing decision support systems by connecting consumers with like-minded fellow consumers and communities as in the case of many social networking and online brand communities. is more of a control-oriented phenomenon. while power. is also defined as the reducer of confusion and uncertainty in interactions with consumers. Conclusion The theory suffers a lack of second generation models that replicate consumer empowerment and behaviors in today’s transforming web 2.0 transformation on the web. The companies who understand the role of the empowerment process. empowering them with trust tools (commitments. Therefore. this newly proposed CEM has strong potential to shed light on many missing links in terms of consumer empowerment and behaviors on the internet to develop key marketing and public policy solutions in this continuously evolving digital environment. Other empowering web site features can include: finding and providing better value by scanning the markets to increase consumers’ comparative options as in the case of search engines and shopping bots. rather than as company partners and active market agent or. However. and careful power and trust optimization. Consumer empowerment model 337 . This guarantee or promise works to reduce uncertainty for the buyer. in turn. the more consumers are empowered on the internet. too much consumer or company power can lead to destructive outcomes.0 environments. etc. Understanding all dimensions of consumer empowerment might transform traditional company perspectives which view consumers as passive buyers or service receivers. and provide the necessary empowerment tools to consumers supported by trustworthy company and web site interactions.This actually. thus empowering them in the digital markets. guarantees. Generally. when consumers feel uncertain and hesitant. a consumer need only receive a few simple things: the guarantee of the seller to fulfill the consumer’s expectations prior to buying and the delivery of the product in the manner promised. as service providers. is necessary to reach well functioning markets and consumer-company relationships. In short. companies who are shifting/sharing their power with consumers can gain more trust for long lasting business relationships on the internet. the more time and money they will spend on specific web sites and digital spaces. promises. alternatively. and easy to navigate web features to build their own space. In this context. and thus will succeed. as in the case of user-generated content. such tools can be used to manage consumer perceptions. Empowerment eventually can draw consumers’ attention to company web sites. Thus. and attitudes about their own power. indicates the transformation of silent majorities into verbal consumer societies with the advent of the internet. can be considered an important empowerment tool that companies can provide. flexible. and following through with the promise is sure to reduce disappointment.

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com To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: reprints@emeraldinsight. 42 No. 39-48. 1163-204. “The emerging era of customer advocacy”. “Shopping online for freedom. 56 No. J.. Vol.DMIJ 3. 24 No..W. “The meaning of money”. Wolfinbarger. in McCaughey.C. Umit Kucuk can be contacted at: umit. pp. M. Vol. pp. Journal of Euro-Marketing. M. C. 2. pp. 71-95. and Wilkes.G. pp. Singh. (2001). 43 No. (Eds). 218-21. S. Vol. Wernimont. (1996). T. (1972). 34-55. L. Vol. D. umittin@hotmail. Mick. in Ratneshwar. “Postmodern consumer goals made easy!!!”. W. and Straub. pp. Or visit our web site for further details: www. M. Urban. 3.F. and Ayers. Sultan. 85. “Classifying the forms of online activism: the case of Cyberprotests against the world bank”.4 342 Thompson. Sloan Management Review. (Eds).G.J. F. 7-24. NY. S. pp. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science. S. and Huffman.G. Routledge. Journal of Brand Management. and Desires. “Placing trust at the center of your internet strategy”.com. and Gilly. 350-65. E-Services Journal. Vol. Cyberactivism: Online Activism in Theory and Practice. Sloan Management Review. “When consumer complain: a path analysis of the key antecedents of consumer complaint response estimates”. 2 No. control. F. About the author S. New York. Journal of Applied Psychology. California Management Review. 2. Urban. Journal of Research for Consumers. D. Umit Kucuk was a post-doctoral fellow at the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration – University of Virginia. Journal of International Consumer Marketing. and Technovation. 45 No. (2004). and Susan. Some of his articles are also ranked in some of these journals’ most popular and most downloaded article lists. (2003).J. London. Virginia Law Review.E. Wu. (2003). pp. and Qualls. His works appear in the International Journal of Retail and Distribution Management. 120-39. and fun”. Vol. Vol. kucuk@gmail. Routledge. The Why of Consumption: Contemporary Perspectives on Consumer Motives. L. “Managing user trust in B2C e-services”. R. (2003). Journal of Business Research. D. (2000). C. 1. M. Goals.D. pp.emeraldinsight. 77-82. Further reading Gefen. P. Vegh. “Application-centered era of customer advocacy”. . (1999). pp.