Web Personalization as a Persuasion Strategy

Fon Sundaravej
Web Personalization as a Persuasion Strategy: an Elaboration Likelihood Model
By Kar Yan Tam and Shuk Ying Ho
The objective of this article is to examine the effectiveness of Web personalization on
different stages of persuasion and to highlight effectiveness of Web personalization
features at each stage. A typical information-processing model consists of attention,
elaboration, and behavior stages. Not every message goes through all these stages. It thus
becomes important to understand how Web personalization affects each stage of
information processing. The other dimension of information processing is the level of
cognitive effort on the receiver side. There are six levels of information processing: preattention, focal attention, heuristic assessment, central processing, relate prior knowledge
to message, and embellish message. Most of levels fall into elaboration stage. The ELM
focuses on the second stage of the information processing. The elaboration stage
processes persuasive messages and the ELM embraces a process-oriented approach rather
than a variable-oriented approach to persuasion.
This article draws the elaboration likelihood model (ELM) to the research of interaction
between a firm and its customers in terms of a persuasive communication to customers.
The study examines three major elements of a Web personalization strategy: level of
preference matching, recommendation set size, and sorting cue, manipulated by a firm in
implementing its personalization strategy. This study also investigates a personal
disposition and need for cognition that are used to assess the effectiveness of Web
personalization. Research hypotheses are tested using 1,000 samples in three field
experiments based on a ring-tone download Website. This study provides many insights.
First, the presence of sorting cue and preference matching does attract attention. Second,
a large set of recommendation set size attracts more attention than a smaller one.
However, a large set does not lead to more elaboration. Third, the preference matching
corresponds with a high need for cognition (NFC) on information elaboration.
Summarily, findings from the research indicate the importance of these variables in
different stages of the persuasion process. Ultimately, personalization on the Web attracts
more attention than non-personalization.
The ELM used in this study could be compared to facet theory used in the article “A
Field Study of the Effect of Interpersonal Trust on Virtual Collaborative Relationship
Performance” by Paul and McDaniel, Jr. (2004). The ELM allows the mixed result of
previous studies using a single theoretical framework. That means, in the current article
the same variable can induce different behaviors at different stages of the persuasion
process. In the meantime, the facet theory is a systematic approach to facilitating and
integrating research construction, design, and data analysis of complex social systems.
The facet theory has the potential to address many of the concerns and challenges IS
research face in performing field research.
IS 7890: IS Research Seminar
Spring 2006