Social selling cues: The dynamics of posting numbers viewed and bought on customers' purchase intentions

Gopal Das*, Mark T. Spence, James Agarwal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Online retailers provide social selling cues, such as “39 customers bought this product” or “156 customers viewed our product per hour”, to encourage sales. Revealing the numbers bought has been shown to increase purchase intentions, but what remains unexplored are the ramifications of posting the number of brand-related views or revealing both numbers bought and viewed so customers can determine the views-to-bought ratio. The number of views is much higher than the numbers bought, which customers may anchor on as a signal for product quality; however, a countervailing force is that views are a more ambiguous, hence a less diagnostic, cue. Five experiments revealed that: (1) showing the number of views or bought can, but does not always, increase purchase intentions; (2) revealing the number bought has a monotonically increasing (at diminishing rate) effect on purchase intentions; and (3) views exhibit a concave curvilinear effect in that, beyond a tipping point, increasing the number of views lowers purchase intentions. Given the anchoring effect of the larger views number, if the number of views or the number bought are relatively low, it is better to show the larger views number, but the reverse is true if the respective numbers are both high. Additional insights reveal that it is only advantageous to reveal both numbers if the views-to-bought ratio is lower than 20:1, which would apply to about the top 25% of brand landing pages. These findings were further validated in a choice experiment. Perceptions of product quality mediate the relationship between these social selling cues and purchase intentions; however, this is not the case for perceived skepticism (lack of trust in the information). Revealing these social selling cues is an online retailer's prerogative; hence, these insights are theoretically interesting and have practical relevance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)994-1016
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Research in Marketing
Issue number4
Early online date14 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


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