Introduction and background

When consumers make purchase evaluations, they may consider the possible future "price," or cost consequences of the decision, in addition to the advertised price (Stone & Grønhaug, 1993). Many marketers explicitly include this risk element in their explanations of how consumers consider and view price (Murphy & Enis, 1986). Hence, the consideration of the possible risk involved in acquiring a product or service is likely to affect a buyer's evaluation of the stated price and so form-ing a "perceived price." In the past, it has been found that positive word of mouth (WOM) has a risk-relieving effect when consumers make purchase choices (Woodside & Delozier, 1976). In addition, this risk-relieving effect of WOM communication was found to be most significant in the service context (Mitchell & Greatorex, 1993). Given these findings, it can be expected that online WOM, hereafter referred to as eWOM, could affect the assessment of prices, that is, influence the perceptions of a stated price. An aim of our study, therefore, is to explore how eWOM may influence perceptions of prices, particularly in a service market.