Dora (Yun) Wang is a PhD student whose research intersects between Marketing and Information Systems. Growing up in China, Dora received her undergraduate and master’s degrees, both in Business Administration. But it was after working at Nestle in China that Dora became quite interested in the health/nutrition marketing and social commerce side of business.

profile of Yun WangShe was accepted at Sprott to do her PhD and has evolved her work from analyzing the use of social media analytics in marketing to her current project where she is exploring consumer behaviour in a social media context. “We live in an online world and people have different patterns of purchasing and use behaviours that emerge. I want to understand why there are differences based on consumer perceptions and ideologies toward the product or service.”

Social commerce is a fast-growing field indeed, where more and more products and services are not only promoted through social media platforms, but they are being sold and distributed through these channels as well. Dora has directed her research to focus on a specific market of complementary and alternative medicines—namely dietary supplements (DS) in China—conducting in depth, highly exploratory interviews on Chinese consumers who are buying these products from the western world (North America, Australia and New Zealand). China is the second largest market of dietary supplements, only second to the United States. As this emerging market grows, Dora’s research will be highly contributory to understanding how businesses can effectively sell to this market—but do it in a safe and educated way.

I am passionate about this topic because it has really positive implications for public health by improving consumer understanding of why they like supplements and to help consumers make more educated choices.”  

What’s great is that Dora is taking a unique angle to studying online consumer behaviour. Most current models focus on pre-purchase stage of consumption and predict consumers’ intentions to purchase—why they want to buy a certain product or service. Dora is taking our understanding to the next level by taking on a dynamic, process-view of DS consumption. She argues that, in addition to intention-to-purchase, it is important to include the use behaviour of consumers. In other words, why consumers use dietary supplements, as well as how they use them in order to fully uncover consumers’ context-dependent motivations. Uncovering the “how” of DS users is highly contributory because research indicates that some consumers will continue to take DS even if the products are shown to be ineffective in scientifically conducted clinical studies.

Dora hypothesizes, then that there are different types of committed DS users that express different motivations to use the product, such as learning-oriented (value health benefits), expressing-oriented (value a cultural relationship to the product), and experience-oriented users (simply want to try it out). That is, DS consumption might be understood as a complex phenomenon which involves many layers of meanings.

These different conceptions of the product not only suggest their intentions to purchase is varied, but it also suggests that it will impact their subsequent behaviours, both in health and mass cultural consumption. For example, when a consumer uses dietary products regularly, they may in turn exercise more, or believe in the product more, or express their values more favourably about the countries of origin and the local culture. By understanding how consumers may perceive the value of dietary supplements, one can get a better picture of how these consumers may value other healthy habits—and then how they may tend to purchase other related products or services—highly valuable for adding specificity to marketing strategies.

Dora is also excited to take the next steps in her research exploration, and future work may see her expand her research to a more holistic picture of the health market and include consumer online behaviour of more products and services such as therapeutic practices, functional foods, and eastern Chinese medicines, as examples. As well, Dora is highly interested in exploring how perceptions of health products may vary between China and North America and other western cultures.

Co-supervisors: Leighann Neilson, Associate Professor, Marketing & Shaobo Ji, Associate Dean, Research and International Professor, Information Systems

Tuesday, March 3, 2020 in ,
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