Trying Before Buying: The Moderating Role of Online Reviews in Trial Attitude Formation Toward Mobile Applications

Guei-Hua Huang and Nikolaos Korfiatis
International Journal of Electronic Commerce,
Volume 19, Number 4, Summer 2015, pp. 77-111.


Online reviews on mobile app marketplaces help consumers evaluate whether a mobile app fits their needs before upgrading or purchasing it. This study explores how online reviews influence trial attitude formation, a process that naturally bears on cognitive structure as much as on users’ emotional responses to online experience. We experimentally manipulate the valence (positive vs. negative) and consistency (one-sided vs. two-sided) of online reviews exposed to participants in a laboratory-controlled app trial scenario considering two different aspects of use (hedonic and functional). We find that review valence and consistency alter the emotional process during trial attitude formation but do not affect the cognitive process. In particular, negative reviews compared to positive reviews and two-sided reviews compared to one-sided reviews are more influential in trial attitude formation. Interestingly, two-sided reviews weaken the emotional process during the use of functional apps, but strengthen it during the use of hedonic apps. The study contributes to the literature by identifying the moderating role of online reviews on product trial experience, which in turn influences the formation of product attitudes. The findings help app developers and marketers understand how to elicit positive evaluations during app trials by highlighting the importance of online reviews.

Key Words and Phrases: Electronic word of mouth, eWOM, mobile applications, mobile apps, online ratings, online reviews, product evaluation, review consistency, review valence, software trials.