The influence of the diffusion of food safety information through social media on consumers’ purchase intentions. An empirical study in China

DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/DTA-05-2018-0046
Publication Date01 April 2019
Pages230-248
AuthorLi Cui,Haiyang Jiang,Hepu Deng,Tao Zhang
SubjectLibrary & information science,Librarianship/library management,Library technology,Information behaviour & retrieval,Information & knowledge management,Information & communications technology,Internet
The influence of the diffusion of
food safety information through
social media on consumers
purchase intentions
An empirical study in China
Li Cui and Haiyang Jiang
School of Business, Beijing Technology and Business University, Beijing, China
Hepu Deng
Business and Law School, Foshan University, Foshan, China and
School of Business Information Technology and Logistics,
RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia, and
Tao Zhang
School of Business, Beijing Technology and Business University, Beijing, China
Abstract
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to investigate how the diffusion of food safety information through
social media affects customerspurchase intentions in China. This leads to the identification of the critical
factors that impact the purchase intention of individual consumer through the diffusion of food safety
information using social media in China.
Design/methodology/approach A research model is proposed ba sed on a comprehensive review of the
related studies. Such a model is then tested and validated usingstructural equation modeling based on the
survey of 199 individual s who have experience in pur chasing food products o nline while having socia l
media accounts.
Findings The study reveals that friend recommendation and perceived risk directly affect consumers
purchase intentions and opinion leader recommendation, quality of information, credibility of information and
demand for information indirectly affect consumerspurchase intentions through the diffusion of food safety
information using social media in China.
Originality/value This study is the first of this kind in China for exploring the critical factors that affect
consumerspurchase intentions through the diffusion of food safety information using social media. The findings
of the study are significant for the government and food enterprises to make a full use of the advantages of social
media to improve the communication of food safety information in ensuring the safety of the food supply in China.
Keywords Food safety information, Social media, Purchase intentions, Consumer behaviour,
Empirical study, Information diffusion
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
With the rapid development of the Chinese economy and the significant improvement of the
living standard in China, there is an increasing attention that has been paid to food safety
across the country (Lu and Wu, 2014). Tremendous efforts have been made, and specific
strategies and policies have been developed in ensuring the safe production and distribution
of food products along the whole supply chain across the country. This leads to the
availability of much food safety information for individual consumers in the marketplace
through various communication channels including social media.
Data Technologies and
Applications
Vol. 53 No. 2, 2019
pp. 230-248
© Emerald PublishingLimited
2514-9288
DOI 10.1108/DTA-05-2018-0046
Received 17 May 2018
Revised 28 January 2019
Accepted 4 March 2019
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
www.emeraldinsight.com/2514-9288.htm
This research is sponsored by the National Key R&D Program of China (2017YFC1600605) and the
project of Beijing Philosophy and Social Science (17GLB013).
230
DTA
53,2
The situation of food safety in China, however, is still not satisfactory. There are several
reported food safety scandals involving adulteration, fraud and misleading advertising in
the past few years (Peng et al., 2015). One of the main reasons for such food safety issues is
the existence of the information asymmetry between consumers and food producers
(Yoo et al., 2015). There has been being a heated debate on how to make sure that consumers
have a full access to the right information at the right time when they make their purchase
decisions in the marketplace.
The importance of social media in providing consumers with timely food safety
information across the world has been increasingly being recognized (Farooq and Jan, 2012).
This is because social media has some commonly recognized characteristics in effectively
distributinginformation in a timely manner.Social media, for example, enableseveryone to be
a news reporter so that fo od safety informati on can be spread rapidly . It can transcend the
limit of timeand space so that people can receivefood safety information andforward them to
any place at any time. With the use of social media, consumers can share their experiences
of purchasing foodproducts via written texts, pictures, videos or even applications. Visually
enriched contents make food safety information more enjoyable and appealing, which
promote the rapid dissemination of food safety information among a large population
(Sohn, 2014).In addition, therecommendation of opinion leadersand peers in social media has
greatly promoted the spread of information and effectively enhanced the interaction
between consumers, thus signicantly mitigating the problem of information asymmetry
between consumersand food producers. The discussion aboveshows that social media plays
a prominent rolein improving food safety. Howsocial media has actually affected consumers
purchase decisions through the diffusion of food safety information in China, however is
unclear as there are no such studies of this kind available so far.
This study aims to investigate the influence of the diffusion of food safety information
through social m edia on consumerspurchase intentionsin China. A comprehensive review of
the related literatures is conducted that leads to the development of a conceptual model for
exploring the impact of the diffusion of food safety information on consumerspurchase
intentions in China. Such a model is then tested and validated with the survey data collected
in China using structural equation modeling (SEM). The study reveals that friend
recommendationand perceived risk directlyaffect consumerspurchaseintentions, and pinion
leader recommendation, quality of information, credibility of information and demand for
information indirectly affect consumerspurchase intentions through perceived risk by the
diffusion of food safety information via social media in China. This research contributes to
the existing knowledge related to food safety and information diffusion using social media
by addressing a critical social phenomenon with the testing and validation of a conceptual
model considering the unique characteristics of social media for information dissemination.
The remainder of the paper is organized as follows. First, the relevant literature on social
media, its role in disseminating foodsafety information and the relationship with consumers
purchase intentions is reviewed. This leads to the development of a conceptual model for
investigatingthe influence of the diffusionof food safety information throughsocial media on
consumerspurchase intentions inChina. The research methodologyused in the study and its
implementation are then described. A comprehensive analysis of the data collected is
conducted, and the research findings are presented. Finally, the limitation of this study is
discussed, and some specific suggestions for future research in the related area are made.
2. Literature review
Social media are computer-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation and sharing of
information and interests via virtual communities and networks. They include a group of
internet-based applications built on the ideological and technological foundations of web 2.0
allowing the creation and exchange of user generated contents (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010;
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Diffusion of food
safety information
through social
media

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