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Online support for vulnerable consumers: a safe place?

Online support for vulnerable consumers: a safe place? PurposeThis paper aims to examine the service experience in an online support community of consumers to understand the nature of social support and how it is experienced and enacted by vulnerable consumers.Design/methodology/approachA netnographic study was conducted to examine vulnerable consumers’ participation in an online support group for weight management. The Linguistic Inquiry Word Count (LIWC) program was used, and additionally data were coded using open coding. A hybrid approach to data analysis was undertaken using inductive and deductive methods.FindingsThe findings suggest online social support groups can be used as an online “third place” to support vulnerable consumers, with vulnerable groups engaging with the online support group differently than those in the normal weight group. Social support was also found to be bi-directional in nature.Research limitations/implicationsThis study only investigates one online support group. To gain deeper insights, other support groups should be examined over a longer period.Practical implicationsThis paper demonstrates that transformative services have the hidden capacity to optimize their services to enable vulnerable consumers to co-create social support in a safe place, thus providing a non-judgmental environment with the end goal of improving their health and well-being.Social implicationsFindings reveal how services can enable marginalization and stigmatization to be overcome and inspire social action through the use of online support groups.Originality/valueThis research is unique in that it used a netnography approach to examine how vulnerable consumers interact in an online service setting, reducing self-report bias and allowing for a natural research setting, thus allowing a unique understanding of how vulnerable consumers experience and enact social support. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Services Marketing Emerald Publishing

Online support for vulnerable consumers: a safe place?

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
Copyright © Emerald Group Publishing Limited
ISSN
0887-6045
DOI
10.1108/JSM-05-2016-0197
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

PurposeThis paper aims to examine the service experience in an online support community of consumers to understand the nature of social support and how it is experienced and enacted by vulnerable consumers.Design/methodology/approachA netnographic study was conducted to examine vulnerable consumers’ participation in an online support group for weight management. The Linguistic Inquiry Word Count (LIWC) program was used, and additionally data were coded using open coding. A hybrid approach to data analysis was undertaken using inductive and deductive methods.FindingsThe findings suggest online social support groups can be used as an online “third place” to support vulnerable consumers, with vulnerable groups engaging with the online support group differently than those in the normal weight group. Social support was also found to be bi-directional in nature.Research limitations/implicationsThis study only investigates one online support group. To gain deeper insights, other support groups should be examined over a longer period.Practical implicationsThis paper demonstrates that transformative services have the hidden capacity to optimize their services to enable vulnerable consumers to co-create social support in a safe place, thus providing a non-judgmental environment with the end goal of improving their health and well-being.Social implicationsFindings reveal how services can enable marginalization and stigmatization to be overcome and inspire social action through the use of online support groups.Originality/valueThis research is unique in that it used a netnography approach to examine how vulnerable consumers interact in an online service setting, reducing self-report bias and allowing for a natural research setting, thus allowing a unique understanding of how vulnerable consumers experience and enact social support.

Journal

Journal of Services MarketingEmerald Publishing

Published: Jul 10, 2017

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