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How Do Platforms Empower Consumers? Insights from the Affordances and Constraints of Reclame Aqui

Robert V Kozinets, Daniela Abrantes Ferreira, Paula Chimenti, Linda L Price and Christina Goulding

Journal of Consumer Research, 2021, vol. 48, issue 3, 428-455

Abstract: Consumer feedback platforms offer consumers tools to provide feedback on their market and consumption experiences. Beyond broad prior characterizations, little is known about the specific means by which platforms affect empowerment. Elements of empowerment identified in extant studies include voice, choice, justice, inclusion, catalysis, and consciousness-raising. We research a popular Brazilian platform to learn how platforms facilitate and constrain consumer empowerment. Our approach is immersive, a more-than-human netnography of the platform involving depth interviews with twenty-one of its consumer and corporate users. Findings show same-side and cross-side network effects driving the ability of the platform to offer consumers empowerment. Furthermore, affordances are critically important. Affordances provide opportunities for consumer choice, voice, justice, and inclusion. However, platforms’ cross-side network effects create economic considerations that limit those opportunities in theoretically and practically important ways. Although other feedback platforms might offer catalysis and consciousness-raising elements of empowerment, our focal platform does not. Earlier studies of consumer empowerment on the Internet may have been overly general and exuberant because they failed to recognize the constraining impacts of network effects, affordances, and algorithms. Consumer-citizenry, collective action, and consumer power are thoroughly transformed in the age of the platform, opening up new spaces for further investigation.

Keywords: affordances; activism; choice; consumer empowerment; platforms; power (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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