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Born Unequal: A Study of the Helpfulness of User-Generated Product Reviews

Yue Pan and Jason Q. Zhang

Journal of Retailing, 2011, vol. 87, issue 4, 598-612

Abstract: Online user-generated product reviews have become an indispensible tool for consumers and thus for retailers who want to attract and retain consumers. Yet, relatively little is known about what causes consumers to find an online peer review helpful to their shopping tasks. Prior research examines mostly the effects of product reviews on consumer product attitude, product choice, and product sales. This paper, however, provides an analysis of the determinants of review helpfulness. In two studies, we examine the effects of review characteristics, product type, and reviewer characteristics on perceived review helpfulness. With data collected from a real online retailer, we provide empirical evidence to support our conceptual predictions. Specifically, both review valence and length have positive effects on review helpfulness, but the product type (i.e., experiential vs. utilitarian product) moderates these effects. Using content analysis of reviews, we develop a measure of expressed reviewer innovativeness (i.e., the predisposition toward new products as revealed in review content). A curvilinear relationship exists between expressed reviewer innovativeness and review helpfulness. These findings lead to pertinent managerial implications.

Keywords: User-generated content; Helpfulness; Product reviews; Content analysis; Virtual communities; Consumer innovativeness (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:eee:jouret:v:87:y:2011:i:4:p:598-612