Here is some research that you might find suprising.
Recent research has indicated that consumers are more likely to find online rating systems useful if only a small number of people have given feedback.
The researcher reports:
People giving online reviews of products and services – such as those found on the websites Amazon or TripAdvisor – exaggerate their scores in surveys where many others have already contributed. They do so to try to increase the impact of their response, researchers found.
As a result, online surveys that have received many scores are more likely to be affected by extremely good or bad ratings, distorting results for consumers
Conversely, surveys in which smaller numbers of people have responded often contain more measured responses, which potential buyers may find more useful and influential.
The phenomenon also occurs in online feedback systems such as surveys posed by news media organisations.
Online surveys on topical news issues – such as how favourable people are towards Scottish independence – elicit more extreme responses from readers as they become more popular, making their results more inaccurate, the study found.
Online vendors who allow consumers to rate their purchases should consider capping the numbers of people who can respond to provide a more helpful guide to customers, the researcher says. Alternatively, star rating systems could be replaced with a simple like or dislike button, similar to that found on YouTube.
Kohei Kawamura, of the University of Edinburgth School of Economics, who undertook the researc commented:
Online rating systems are increasingly influential in how people make everyday decisions, from where to go on holiday to what consumer items to buy. But these systems do not work perfectly. This research shows that when making decisions online, consumers may be better off using surveys in which a smaller number of people have contributed their opinions.
I reached out to the university to find a little more information about the research – due to the way the research was undertaken there are no demographic data available.
The researcher was good enought to reply back to me as follows:
My research is based on mathematical model and calculation, which means I did not deal with data myself. However, it was inspired by other researchers’ previous empirical studies on customer reviews, which did find, on online vendors such as Amazon.com and Barns & Noble, that customer reviews tend to be extreme.
However, those studies assumed reviewers reveal their opinions honestly without exaggeration, which I found unsatisfactory. The novelty of my research is to analyse reviewers’ temptation to exaggerate their opinions, especially to attract attention, and how the readers should interpreted such exaggerated reviews.
Personally I find the research findings unexpected – I know I personally do not exaggerate reviews. For example where I leave a review for a book on Amazon I make sure that it reflects my personal experience as the review can be connected to my online digital footprint.
Do you exaggerate reviews you leave online?
For further information about the research you can contact Norval Scott, Press and PR Office, tel +44 131 650 2246, mobile +44 7791 355809; email norval.scott(at)ed.ac.uk.