The Impact of Social Media on Customer Decision Journey and the Implications of Customer Research Activities in the Front-end of New Product Development: A Study in the Infant Diaper Market in China

  • YI WU

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This study focuses on investigating how social media (SM) impacts customers’ product
purchase decision making process, and how fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG)
companies should react to the new SM-driven customer decision journey (CDJ) to
consolidate their market performance.
Thanks to the accessibility and convenience of communications on SM, customers
extensively exchange information through SM in their CDJ. In this situation, customers
are empowered by the peer-shared product information. They can learn about the quality
of the products from other individuals’ usage experience, which is independent from
brands’ or retailers’ commercial interests. Therefore, customers can make informed
decision of which product to select. This phenomenon is especially prominent in the
Chinese market. However, there is a lack of attempts to model Chinese customers’ SMdriven
CDJ. In this situation, scholars also argue that brands are disempowered by SM
and SM-driven CDJ, as they lost control of messaging and channels to market their
offering to potential customers. Therefore, researchers and business practitioners have
been conducting extensive investigations of how businesses can enhance their
marketing practices (rear-end of innovation activities) on SM.
A limited number of studies also suggest that the SM-driven CDJ also provided
opportunities for businesses to enhance their front-end of innovation (FEI) activities, in
which they develop new product ideas. In the SM-driven CDJ, customers leave traces
about their product needs on SM platforms through posting product reviews. Potentially,
businesses could use customer needs information embedded in product reviews that are
shared by customers publicly on SM to inform their FEI activities. However, there are
only a small number of academic studies focused on this domain. To address this
knowledge gap, this study aims at the exploration, description, and explanation of how
the FEI can potentially benefit from the SM-driven CDJ.
Building upon theoretical propositions synthesized from literature reviews mainly in SM,
consumer decision making, and FEI domains, this research endeavours to develop an
in-depth understanding of a group of Chinese customers’ SM-driven CDJ through a
series of focus groups studies. It also investigates how might businesses identify
customer needs through collecting and analysing customer-created product reviews on
SM platforms by conducting SM text-mining studies.
The findings contributed new academic knowledge and managerial suggestions. The
first contribution is the construction of two SM-driven CDJs of FMCG customers in China.
It is one of the first attempts to provide in-depth and detailed insights about how SM
affect customers’ decision making behaviour. The findings also provide evidences that
businesses can addresses market challenges caused by the SM-driven CDJ from the
FEI perspective, instead of the market launch perspective. It directly addressed a
knowledge gap defined by a small group of scholars and the literature of this study. It
offered business practitioner actionable recommendations. Finally, the study
documented a real-life business case in an emerging research field. As the research
domain is nascent and few industrial observations have been documented, this study
added valuable empirical knowledge with both academic and practical recommendations.
Date of Award2 Sept 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorSIMON BOLTON (Director of Studies)


  • Social media
  • Customer decision journey
  • Social Media-Driven Customer Decision Journey
  • Customer Decision Making Process
  • Front-end of innovation
  • New Product Development
  • Customer needs
  • Focus groups
  • Social media text-mining
  • Product reviews

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