The first online review can kill products

The first user-generated online review of a product on platforms such as Amazon is given undue importance. This is shown by a study conducted by the University of Florida UF. This review often seems to have a lasting influence on whether and how other users judge the product.


In the worst case, this leads to a product failing. It would therefore be important for companies to pay more attention to the initial review on platforms. Customers, in turn, should not only compare reviews on a website.


Evaluation guide function

Sungsik Park, now a doctoral candidate, had noticed that the same product had sometimes wildly divergent reviews on different platforms. His question here: "Why would a product achieve a 4.7-star rating with 100 reviews on Amazon, but only four or five reviews with two stars at Walmart or Best Buy?"

Park and his colleagues analyzed the reviews of identical products on Amazon and Best Buy. In the case of vacuum cleaners, for example, 30 percent of the models offered on both platforms have a good initial rating on one platform and a poor rating on the other.

That allows for a good comparison of how it plays out. "The first review can potentially influence the complete evolution of customer reviews," says UF marketing professor Woochoel Shin. That's because, according to the study published in Marketing Science, the first review can influence both the number of subsequent customer reviews and their tone, and it does so over three full years. The former is related to the fact that a bad first review leads to fewer purchases, meaning the product has less chance of further reviews.


Do not compare one-sidedly

Ultimately, this means that ratings on a single platform do not provide a clear picture. "We want customers to know that this information is easily distorted," Park emphasizes. Anyone who wants to make a truly informed buying decision should compare reviews from multiple platforms - after all, a second site could present a completely different picture of the same product.

For companies, on the other hand, it would probably make sense to rethink their strategies for dealing with online reviews. After all, they do monitor them. "But they focus on the review average, not a single rating, and only after customers have had enough time to evaluate the product," says UF marketing professor Jinhong Xie. It would be important to react quickly to one particular review, namely the first one. After all, a poor initial rating literally cries out for measures to be taken to counteract its possible effects. (pte)

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