Helpfulness of Online Product Reviews as Seen by Consumers: Source and Content Features

Mengxiang Li, Liqiang Huang, Chuan-Hoo Tan, and Kwok-Kee Wei
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 17, Number 4, Summer 2013, pp. 101-136.

Abstract: Online product reviews are important determinants of consumers’ purchase decision. Although prior research has articulated various benefits of online product reviews, there are few investigations into whether or not they are perceived as helpful by consumers. Product review helpfulness is conceptualized as a second-order formative construct, which is manifested by perceived source credibility, perceived content diagnosticity, and perceived vicarious expression of the product review. In this study, we conduct a laboratory experiment to investigate product review helpfulness as well as its corresponding antecedents from the product review feature perspective (i.e., source- and content-based review features). Findings from the study are threefold. First, the results of the data analysis support the theoretical conceptualization of product review helpfulness as a formative construct. Second, the results support the notion that the source- and content-based review features have direct impact on product review helpfulness. Consumers perceive customer-written product reviews as more helpful than those written by experts; they also perceive a concrete review as more helpful than an abstract review. Third, we find an interaction effect of the source- and content-based features of product reviews on review helpfulness. A customer-written product review with a low level of content abstractness yields the highest perceived review helpfulness.

Key Words and Phrases: Co-creation, content-based review feature, online reviews, product reviews, source-based review feature.