Essays on external ideation : exploring innovative online consumer behavior

  • Aufs√§tze zur externen Ideengenerierung : Exploration von innovativen Online-Konsumentenverhalten

Vossen, Alexander; Piller, Frank Thomas (Thesis advisor)

Aachen : Publikationsserver der RWTH Aachen University (2013)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

Aachen, Techn. Hochsch., Diss., 2013


This thesis investigates the motivation of consumers to engage in creative online behavior, such as developing ideas for new products or services that fit their individual needs and preferences. Due to the rise of the Internet, consumers who previously mostly used their workbench or garage as a setting to develop such ideas have been granted a wider range of tools and possibilities to individually and collectively engage in creative behavior. Firms have begun to benefit from this by holding so-called online ideation contests, offering a monetary reward for product or service ideas a consumer shares with them. In addition, firms also encourage consumers to comment and elaborate on other peoples' ideas within the same contest. Opposing this firm practice, the main findings of past research on innovative consumers have shown that monetary motivation, as incentivized by firms, is not a driver of creative behavior and in turn highlight non-monetary benefits (e.g., use benefits), since consumers benefit from using a product, not from selling it. Nevertheless, consumers frequently participate in such ideation contests. Hence, this thesis aims to generate deeper insight into why consumers actually do so and how their participation can be encouraged by setting proper monetary as well as non-monetary incentives. To show this, I use three research papers. Paper 1 combines a survey with actual behavior data to examine whether monetary and non-monetary benefit expectations lead to different kinds of individual behavior. It shows that both are conducive to different behaviors and that the effect is contingent on individual traits of the participants. While monetary incentives can encourage consumers to share their ideas with the host, they cannot induce collectively oriented behavior, such as commenting and improving on other people's ideas. Such collectively oriented behavior by consumers can only be incentivized through non-monetary benefit expectations, especially the expectation of an innovative outcome. Both effects are also contingent on individual traits of the consumers. For consumers with a high personal need regarding a host's offering, the effect of monetary incentives is diminished, while the effect of non-monetary benefits is reinforced. Hence, results show that hosts must take into account what kind of behavior is more important in achieving their goals and tailor the incentives correspondingly. Further, they must consider whom they want to address with the contest when deciding between monetary and non-monetary incentives. In order to examine the role of monetary incentives in more in detail, Paper 2 uses a scenario-based online choice experiment that addresses the efficiency of monetary reward expectations, focusing in particular on prosocial boundaries. The paper shows that the effect of monetary incentives depends on who offers them (the organizational stereotype of the host), what they are offered for (the contest's topic), and how much is offered (the amount of money). For for-profit hosts, monetary rewards are a reliable incentive and a higher reward increases consumers' willingness to join a contest and exert effort in it. The same mechanism also applies to for-profit hosts offering a contest related to a prosocial topic. In this case, the offered money works as a signal by the host, demonstrating competence and willingness to utilize the ideas generated by consumers. Non-profit hosts, such as welfare organizations, cannot rely on monetary incentives for prosocial tasks, since they lead to a crowding out of participants' prosocial motivations. In order to explore the usefulness of non-monetary benefit expectations more closely, Paper 3 relies on an online field experiment to examine non-monetary benefit expectations and their efficiency in attracting consumers to idea contests. The paper shows that an innovative outcome, as the strongest non-monetary benefit expectation, is contingent on who receives the benefit of the innovative outcome, how this benefit is communicated, and how much individual relevance the topic has. Highlighting an outcome for others is particularly effective in increasing consumer attention to the idea co-creation initiative when the individual relevance for the consumer is low. The results show that innovative behavior can be motivated by the expectation of benefits for others, not just by a potential personal gain or chance to win a prize, as commonly addressed by firms. The results of this dissertation contribute to the literature on user innovation, prosocial behavior, and motivation in general, and they show further contingencies of the efficiency of monetary and non-monetary reward expectations as an incentive for idea co-creation by consumers. From a managerial perspective, it helps decision makers of different organizations decide on how to compose the incentive structure of their own ideation contest.


  • Chair of Technology and Innovation Management (TIM) [812710]