Improving Sales in Online Auctions: The Impact of Emphasizing Corporate Social Responsibility in Item Descriptions

Andrew S. Manikas, James R. Kroes, Shaunn Mattingly, and Garrett A. McBrayer
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 27, Number 4, 2023, pp. 443-468.


This study explores how emphasizing corporate social responsibility (CSR) in item descriptions relates to purchasing decisions for consumers buying goods through online auctions. We leverage herd mentality theory, the heuristic–systematic model (HSM), and signaling theory to develop a framework of how online auctions may be impacted by item descriptions touting CSR. We then utilize text analysis to examine 23,932 auctions and analyze how emphasizing CSR in item descriptions influenced actual purchase opportunities. In this study, we find that including more CSR terminology in an item description increases sales both directly and indirectly, via an increase in the number of bids. These findings can be leveraged by sellers to better promote their products, by using terminology that targets the desire of bidders to experience positive psychosocial and values-affirming sentiments when making purchases.