Thursday, June 30, 2016

Consumers' trust in online user ratings misplaced, says CU-Boulder study

Public Release: 28-Apr-2016
Consumers' trust in online user ratings misplaced, says CU-Boulder study
University of Colorado at Boulder

The belief that online user ratings are good indicators of product quality is largely an illusion, according to a new University of Colorado Boulder study.

Yet almost all retailers provide user ratings on their websites and many consumers rely on the information when making purchase decisions, according to the paper, published this month in the Journal of Consumer Research.

For the study, researchers examined user ratings for 1,272 products across 120 product categories, such as car seats, bike helmets, sunblock, air filters, smoke alarms and blood pressure monitors. Their analyses show a very low correspondence between average user ratings of products on and product ratings, based on objective tests, found in consumer reports.

"The likelihood that an item with a higher user rating performs objectively better than an item with a lower user rating is only 57 percent," said Bart de Langhe, author of the study and professor of marketing at CU-Boulder's Leeds School of Business. "A correspondence of 50 percent would be random, so user ratings provide very little insight about objective product performance."

In addition, user ratings do not predict the resale value of used products, found the study.

"Products with better reliability and performance retain more of their value over time," said de Langhe. "If average user ratings reflect objective quality, they should correlate positively with resale values. The fact that they don't casts more doubt on the validity of user ratings."


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