Discourse analysis of online product reviews: A discussion of digital consumerism and culture

Special Issue: Digital Advertising and Consumer Empowerment


This study focuses on consumer interaction via online product reviews in digital markets by incorporating intercultural perspective. In doing so, this study explores the representation of digital consumerism, defined as development of consumer empowerment and vulnerability in digital markets, which appears as a paradigm to ensure balanced market environments for both consumers and companies (Kucuk, 2016). In particular, this study investigates cultural differences in the representation of digital consumerism in online product reviews by comparing the online product reviews from U.S. and South Korea. Additionally, message strategies employed in the online product reviews were also examined in respect of digital consumerism while comparing the two cultures. A discourse analysis on a total of 400 online product reviews (i.e., 200 from U.S., 200 from South Korea) was conducted to understand how digital consumerism can be constructed. The results indicated significant cultural differences between the U.S. and South Korea based on online consumer powers manifested in the content of online product reviews as well as message strategies adopted to express digital consumerism. In the U.S., economic, technologic, and social power were more frequently observed in online product reviews compared to legal power; In contrast, in South Korea, economic power was the most frequently observed, followed by social and technologic power. In terms of message strategies, transformational messages were dominantly used to express digital consumerism in online product reviews from both countries, whereas each type of online consumer powers was expressed differently in the U.S. and South Korea by adopting different message strategies. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Digital consumerism; culture; online product reviews; discourse analysis

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