An exploratory study of business-to-business online customer reviews: external online professional communities and internal vendor scorecards

Abstract

This research examines the increasing use of online customer reviews in business-to-business (B2B) decision making. In contrast with other research on B2B decision making, we study a unique aspect wherein buyers draw on two sources: external reviews posted on online professional communities and internal reviews in the format of vendor scorecards. This method creates a conundrum: What happens when a buyer is confronted with conflicting reviews from two different sources? To shed light on this problem, we (1) interviewed 48 B2B buyers, (2) conducted a field experiment with 293 B2B buyers to examine the effect of review source, (3) conducted a second field experiment with 587 B2B buyers to examine the effect of conflicting reviews, and (4) solicited insights from 82 B2B buyers regarding the findings. The results indicate that B2B buyers are driven to resolve differences in reviews rather than to dismiss negative reviews. In addition, even positive internal reviews prompt exploration to confirm that relational bias is not present.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    For the sake of brevity, we refer to online customer ratings, reviews, and comments simply as OCRs.

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Correspondence to Michelle D. Steward.

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Michael Ahearne served as Area Editor for this article.

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Steward, M.D., Narus, J.A. & Roehm, M.L. An exploratory study of business-to-business online customer reviews: external online professional communities and internal vendor scorecards. J. of the Acad. Mark. Sci. 46, 173–189 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11747-017-0556-3

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Keywords

  • Business-to-business marketing and purchasing
  • Digital marketing
  • Customer engagement
  • Online reviews
  • Online professional communities
  • Vendor scorecards