Seeing Is Believing … Or Is it? The Effect of Product Review Modality and Valence: An Abstract
Imagine you are shopping online for certain products and you search the Internet for online reviews. However, these reviews come in different forms, video and/or text, and different degrees of valence, positive and negative. You find yourself confused and not sure which reviews you should believe. You are not certain which reviews are more credible and useful and which one you should believe. To answer this question, we examine how consumers respond to online reviews that come in different formats and valence.
According to a concept called review modality, online reviews are presented primarily in two different formats: text information and visual information. However, consumers often see reviews presented in different combinations of these two formats (Chau et al., 2000). Traditional research on negativity bias would suggest that negative reviews will trump positive ones (Feldman & Lynch, 1988; Lee et al., 2009), regardless of other factors. However, we believe that other factors, for instance, review modality, may enhance or hinder the effect of negative or positive reviews. How a consumer processes online reviews may vary based on how reviews are presented. Past research finds that visual information is more effective on message recall and attitude than text-only information (Liu & Stout, 1987). Moreover, visual information helps reducing the perceived risk (Park et al., 2005). On the contrary, according to dual-coding theory (Paivio, 1986), consumers may be overwhelmed by greater visual attention to process the visual information in video reviews. Additionally, Borup et al. (2015) find the superior quality of text-only feedback because they are easier to access, more efficient to read as fast or as carefully, and more concise. Through an experiment, we find that consumers have less favorable attitude and purchase intention when they read negative online reviews, regardless of review modality. Moreover, we examine further and find that consumers have less favorable attitude and purchase intention when they are exposed to a negative text review than a negative video review. Interestingly, the results show no difference in both attitude and purchase intention when consumers are exposed to either a positive text or video review.
These results suggest that review modality is relevant to how consumers process online reviews. Our research provides evidence that product reviews in the text form are more influential than visual presentation such as video reviews, especially for a utilitarian product such as vacuum. The results from this study offer useful insight into the management of online consumer reviews and social media activities. This research suggests that product managers should pay closer attention to text reviews, both negative and positive, since they are more influential. Moreover, managers may be able to offset negative video reviews by increasing positive text reviews.