Although Samira Farivar is a newly appointed Assistant Professor at the Sprott School of Business she has hit the ground running and her pioneering research in the Information Systems research sphere is already bursting at the seams.

Portrait of Samira Farivar

Samira Farivar is an Assistant Professor of Information Systems at Carleton Univeristy’s Sprott School of Business.

Before joining Sprott, Farivar proved she would be a force to be reckoned with in the academic world. Born and raised in Iran, Farivar was an exceptional student and attended the top university in the country. She earned her BSc and MSc both in Industrial Engineering before accepting a full scholarship to the DeGroote School of Business for a PhD in Business Administration, Information Systems. During her time in academia she made a significant impression, receiving several academic scholarships and clearly making her mark in the academic world.

Q: As a new faculty member, you must be excited about these new beginnings. Tell us about your research program.

A: I am very excited to be at Carleton and to be a part of the Sprott team. My research currently includes two main areas of research: Online users’ behaviour and decision making, namely in the context of social media platforms. The second area is big data analytics and its impacts on organizations. In the first area of my research, I’m interested in looking at the factors that influence online users’ behaviours in social platforms. For instance, in studies that I have developed so far, I explore social commerce users’ behaviours. Social commerce is an offshoot of e-commerce and is revolutionizing the way people shop—and how businesses and brands market their products and services and capitalize on their social media reach. In fact, recent data show that the top 500 retailers brought in $6.5 billion from social shopping in 2017. It’s a significant and emergent phenomenon and therefore essential for businesses to understand how consumers and users of sites are influenced in their purchasing intentions and rationalities. Most of the literature in this area is on developing models that explain behaviour of consumers that is compatible with rational models (the factors or drivers that encourage intentions to buy). I have taken it further and look at the factors that may skew users’ rational behaviors. In a recent study, my colleagues and I analyzed survey data using structural equation modeling techniques to tease out how users’ propensity (or intention) to purchase via the website platform Etsy.com was influenced by trust-risk and habit theories, such as the role of habitual use of the site in lessening users’ evaluation of risk and increasing their trust considerations toward site members and developing purchase intentions. What is interesting about our findings is that the results demonstrate that typical rational considerations, especially trust and risk, which often drive online purchase decisions, diminish and even become irrelevant when social commerce use becomes habituated.

Q: Your research is looking further into social commerce and how social identification on social media websites plays a role in consumer decision making. How are you looking at this?

Samira Farivar sitting on a bench

A: Further to my work with understanding users’ behaviour in social platforms, my colleagues and I are examining the role of social identification in skewing users’ rational risk-taking propensity when it comes to making purchasing decisions on social commerce platforms. We believe social identity can be developed within a social commerce environment because these platforms offer the social elements and a sense of community. In one study, we look at whether the creation of a social profile on Etsy.com establishes a group or community of users with similarities and does being part of this group influence purchasing decisions on this platform. Our findings show that social-commerce users do indeed develop a social identity, and that this may bias users’ decision-making in a way that reduces users’ risk considerations with purchasing and participating behaviour.

Q: What can developers of social commerce platforms learn from your findings?

A: Given social commerce market potential, it is important to understand what drives users’ social interaction and purchasing behaviour on these sites. Based on findings of studies I have conducted, it’s suggested that developers of social commerce platforms focus more on creating and encouraging group platforms to increase the sense of community and connections and encourage engagement of users to build trust of users. By building and honouring trust of users, it is a win-win because our data show that through both increase in frequency of use of the site (habitual behaviour) and establishing a social identity that builds on a sense of community, the impact of users’ assessment of risk on their behavioural intention is reduced and therefore, their propensity to buy from the site increases. This is because social commerce users can share their consumption experiences related to products or services and seek advice and recommendations from their online community members. Social commerce developers can also encourage frequent usage by providing incentives to their members, such as prizes and bonuses. As well, they can enhance the ease and accessibility of their website by providing tutorials on their features. Frequent and enjoyable repetition of a website use can eventually lead to habituation.

Q: You’re also doing some on influencer marketing, can tell us about that?

A: Yes, it’s very exciting work that is in development. Continuing my work in the social media users’ behaviour arena, I’m highly interested in “influencer marketing”—people (or influencers) who promote products via social media platforms. These influencers have a large network of followers and I’m particularly interested in the factors that make influencers, also called “micro-celebrities,” so successful. Micro-celebrities are a very new phenomenon and so there is very little understanding of their impact on decision-making of consumers/users. My work is delving into a very new area of social media research and Information Systems theory; it is pioneering research that will be highly contributory to our understanding of social platforms and the phenomena that ensues.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020 in , ,
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