Balance and Sequence in Online Reviews: The Wrap Effect

Nathalia Purnawirawan, Nathalie Dens, and Patrick De Pelsmacker
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 17 Number 2, Winter 2012-13, p. 71-98.

Abstract: We investigate the impact of balance (the ratio of positive to negative reviews) and sequence (the order in which reviews are presented) of online review sets on consumers’ recall of and impression about the reviews. Results show that, in a positive or negative balance, consumers rely on the majority’s opinion in shaping recall and impression. In a neutral balance, where no dominant opinion is available, sequence effects influence recall and impression. The results provide evidence of a wrap effect: starting and concluding (wrapping) a set with positive (negative) reviews biases recall and impression toward the positive (negative) direction. In addition, wrapping is capable of generating an equally positive (negative) impression as positively (negatively) balanced sets. Review recall affects the attitude and intention toward the product indirectly through its effect on the reader’s impression of the reviews.

Key Words and Phrases: Conformity tendency, electronic word of mouth, negativity bias, online consumer reviews, sequence effects.