Overcoming the J-Shaped Distribution of Product Reviews

Communications of the ACM, October 2009, Vol. 52, No. 10

4 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2013

See all articles by Nan Hu

Nan Hu

Stevens Institute of Technology - School of Business

Paul A. Pavlou

University of Houston - C.T. Bauer College of Business

Jie (Jennifer) Zhang

University of Texas at Arlington

Date Written: October 18, 2009

Abstract

While product review systems that collect and disseminate opinions about products from recent buyers are valuable forms of word-of-mouth communication, evidence suggests that they are overwhelmingly positive. Kadet notes that most products receive almost five stars. Chevalier and Mayzlin also show that book reviews on Amazon and Barnes & Noble are overwhelmingly positive. Is this because all products are simply outstanding? However, a graphical representation of product reviews reveals a J-shaped distribution with mostly 5-star ratings, some 1-star ratings, and hardly any ratings in between. What explains this J-shaped distribution? If products are indeed outstanding, why do we also see many 1-star ratings? Why aren’t there any product ratings in between? Is it because there are no “average” products? Or, is it because there are biases in product review systems? If so, how can we overcome them?

Keywords: Product Reviews, Product Review Systems

Suggested Citation

Hu, Nan and Pavlou, Paul A. and Zhang, Jie (Jennifer), Overcoming the J-Shaped Distribution of Product Reviews (October 18, 2009). Communications of the ACM, October 2009, Vol. 52, No. 10. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2369332

Nan Hu

Stevens Institute of Technology - School of Business ( email )

Hoboken, NJ 07030
United States

Paul A. Pavlou (Contact Author)

University of Houston - C.T. Bauer College of Business

Houston, TX 77204-6021
United States

Jie (Jennifer) Zhang

University of Texas at Arlington ( email )

701 S. West St.
Arlington, TX 76019
United States

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