An exploratory study on online lurkers

Reem Albuhameed*, Jason Sit, Juliet Memery

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The approaches employed by retail marketing studies hitherto to examine lurkers’ participation behaviour online are frequently—and unfairly—oriented towards a visible action perspective, focusing on easily measurable activities like the frequency and number of posts, likes, comments, and shares (Nonnecke & Preece, 2001; Sun et al., 2014). Hardly any retail marketing studies have considered lurkers’ participation based on what they do covertly or passively and less measurable activities like reading, observing, and digesting content online. Retail marketing academics and practitioners consistently view covert actions as unproductive, unbeneficial, or undesirable behaviours (Edelman, 2017). However, when viewed from a social learning perspective, the same activities can be considered intellectual and value-adding to the consumers and the providers of online content (Muller, 2012; Chen & Chang, 2011). For instance, browsing the content posted by other online users, either casually or carefully, may develop one’s interest in or strengthen their knowledge of a product (Reed et al., 2010).

Examining lurkers' online activities from an integrated perspective, coupling behavioural and passive engagement with social learning, may yield a more holistic understanding of why and how lurkers lurk compared to when only one perspective is considered. This integrated perspective is yet to be explored as retail marketing studies have mainly measured lurking with visible and measurable participation activities. For example, some scholars (Koh & Kim, 2004; Lee et al., 2006) emphasise posting and creating content as the most meaningful criteria for measuring lurking. Accordingly, lurking has been treated as a negative online behaviour and branded with negative labels like free-riders/free-loaders, invisible/silent users, passive users, and social loafing (Kollock & Smith, 1996; Edelmann, 2017).

The present study challenges the widely used active-participation perspective and measurement of lurking by favouring an integrated perspective and the notion that consumer behaviour manifests in varied forms. Besides considering the active and visible participation activities, the present study also embraces the less active and less visible participation activities like reading and digesting (Chen & Chang, 2011; Lee, et al., 2006). In brief, the present study aims to explore 1) the extent to which varied lurking behaviours exist and 2) if they do, the extent to which varied lurker segments can be discerned. Our exploration corresponds to the 90-9-1 rule proposed for an online community. That is, 90% of its users
are lurkers (Garfield, 2020).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication8th Colloquium on European Research in Retailing
Subtitle of host publicationCERR
EditorsMarta Nieto Garcia, Diletta Acuti, Jason Sit, Xavier Brusset
Place of PublicationPortsmouth
Number of pages5
ISBN (Electronic)9781861376787
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jun 2023
Event8th Colloquium on European Research and Rtailing 2023 - University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, United Kingdom
Duration: 21 Jun 202323 Jun 2023


Conference8th Colloquium on European Research and Rtailing 2023
Abbreviated titleCERR
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Lurking
  • Social learning
  • Social media engagement
  • Customer segmentation
  • Skincare retailing

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