The strange impact of the first consumer review

February 04, 2021

If you're about to buy something online and its only customer review is negative, you'd probably reconsider the purchase, right? It turns out a product's first review can have an outsized effect on the item's future -- it can even cause the product to fail.

Shoppers, retailers and manufacturers alike feel the effects of customer reviews. Researchers at the University of Florida's Warrington College of Business looked at the influence of the first review after noticing the exact same products getting positive reviews on one retailer's website but negative reviews on others, said Sungsik Park, Ph.D., who studied the phenomenon as a doctoral student at UF.

"Why would a product receive a 4.7-star rating with 100 reviews on Amazon, but only four or five reviews with a two-star rating Walmart or BestBuy?" Park wondered.

To find out, Park -- now an assistant professor at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina -- teamed up with UF professors Jinhong Xie, Ph.D., and Woochoel Shin, Ph.D., to analyze what might cause the variation. By comparing identical vacuum cleaners, toasters and digital cameras on Amazon and Best Buy, they were able to isolate the first review as the variable in how the product fared. They showed that the first review can affect a product's overall reviews for up to three years, influencing both the amount and the tone of later reviews.

"The first review has the potential to sway the entire evolution path of online consumer reviews," Shin said.

How could one review have such a lasting impact? When the first review on a retailer's site was positive, the product went on to garner a larger number of reviews overall, and they were more likely to be positive. When a product got a negative first review, fewer people were willing to take a chance on buying it, so it had fewer opportunities to receive positive reviews, creating a lingering impact from the first unhappy customer.

"Once you think about how user reviews are generated, it makes sense," Park said.

The findings, published in the journal Marketing Science, suggest that retailers and manufacturers should take steps to detect negative first reviews and mitigate their impact.

Firms generally monitor their online reviews and evaluate their strategies accordingly, Xie explained. "However, they do so by focusing on average rating rather than a single rating, and after the product has sufficient time to be evaluated by consumers. Our research suggests that firms need to pay attention to a special single review (i.e., the first one) as soon as it is posted."

Consumers, on the other hand, might want to check multiple sites' reviews before they rule out a product. If you're looking at several sites to compare prices, Park suggests comparison shopping reviews, too. (For big ticket items, Park also checks third-party reviews like Consumer Reports.)

Because shoppers consider user reviews more trustworthy than information from advertising, it's important to understand the factors that could skew those ratings.

"We want consumers to know that this information can be easily distorted," Park said.
-end-


University of Florida

Related Online Reviews Articles from Brightsurf:

First published peer reviews of the WHO solidarity trials
Forthcoming COVID-19 research in Rapid Reviews: adjuvants could improve vaccine efficiency; what are the risks of reinfection; understanding autophagy could inspire new antivirals.

Researchers examine if online physician reviews indicate clinical outcomes
Dr. Atanu Lahiri and Dr. Zhiqiang Zheng studied the relationship between online reviews of physicians and their patients' actual clinical outcomes.

Forthcoming COVID-19 preprints to be peer reviewed in Rapid Reviews
Forthcoming COVID-19 research in Rapid Reviews include manuscripts examining the risk of infection in commercial aircraft, classrooms, sporting events; a preprint that concludes universal mask mandates could save 815K lives; and studies of race/socioeconomics and mortality.

Media alert--forthcoming reviews from RAPID REVIEWS:COVID-19
Media Alert--MIT Press journal Rapid Reviews: COVID-19 will review preprints on evidence that racial/ethnic disparities are bigger than previously reported, the prevalence of antibodies in healthcare workers, and the effectiveness of 10-day quarantines

Player behavior in the online game EVE Online may reflect real world country
Virtual worlds may reflect social and economic behavior in the real world, according to a study published October 21, 2020 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Andres M.

New peer reviews of COVID-19 research highlight promising, warn of misleading studies
Peer reviewers highlight promising research that higher levels of cytokines IL-6 and IL-10 are associated with increased severity of COVID-19, while also flagging misleading research suggesting laboratory modification of the SARS-CoV-2 genome.

New peer reviews of COVID-19 preprints from the MIT Press journal Rapid Reviews: COVID-19
Peer reviewers highlight promising research highlighting reform in public health and employment law, an approach for identifying asymptomatic COVID-19 patients, and strong evidence that inhaled corticosteroids do not protect against COVID-19 related deaths.

New peer reviews of COVID-19 preprints from the MIT Press journal RAPID REVIEWS COVID-19
Peer reviewers highlight promising research on increased risk for severe complications from COVID-19 in post-menopausal women; improved prognostic scoring for hospital admissions; and a new therapeutic approach that could lead to more effective treatments.

Make the best of bad reviews by leveraging consumer empathy
When confronted with unfair negative reviews, firms can strategically leverage consumer empathy and benefit from potential downstream consequences.

Reviews find children not major source of COVID-19, but family stress is high
The review found among children who were infected, transmission was traced back to community and home settings or adults, rather than amongst children within daycares or schools even in jurisdictions where schools remained open or have since reopened.

Read More: Online Reviews News and Online Reviews Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.