Online reviews have become more important than ever, to the point that it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that online reviews can make or break businesses. Before spending on anything online, even services, people look at reviews, which explain why companies put so much stock on many a King Kong advertising review and the like.
Not all customer reviews, however, are created the same. People perceive a King Kong advertising review differently from an iPod review. This is reinforced by a recently published study conducted by a research team from the University of Toronto, which looked at how online reviews influence potential customers.
According to one of the study’s co-authors, Cindy Chan, reviews about material items get more trust from people than those of experiential items like trips, and events. She explains that this is due to the fact that people associate experiential purchases with their self-identity closer than material purchases; in other words, past research shows that people think of experiences when considering what purchases define them.
University of Toronto’s Cindy Chan worked alongside University of California’s Hengchen Dai, and Los Angeles Anderson School of Management’s Cassie Mogilner Holmes, looking at more than 6.5mn reviews on Amazon, alongside 4 lab studies. For the Amazon study, items were categorized into 26 classes, then rated by the study’s participants on a nine-point scale; 1 representing purely material purchases, and 9 representing purely experiential purchases. Things like watches, and shoes were rated by the study’s participants close to 2, while TV shows and the like ranked closer to 7.
Following that, participants rated how helpful they found the online reviews on the products and how likely these reviews would convince them to buy. The researchers then compiled the data, noting that opinion about material purchases was better at swaying others, compared to reviews about experiential purchases.
Chan explains that people feel that reviews of material products have more objective information about quality, which helps sway people’s opinions.
The researchers did note a key exception to the general findings, as one study noted that reviews about experiential purchases that contained better descriptions referring to objective quality were better at swaying opinion.
They state that the change wasn’t with the products themselves, but how they were described. The research team stated that this was a good indicator of how helpful objective descriptions are when it comes to swaying opinions about products.