Online Reviews: A Literature Review and Roadmap for Future Research
66 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2023
Date Written: August 13, 2023
Online marketplaces have emerged as a popular innovation in the dynamic landscape of internet-based applications. To meet the challenge of building trust and reputation among their buyers, these platforms employ feedback systems, allowing buyers (and sometimes sellers) to share what we know as "online reviews''. Over nearly three decades, online reviews have become the go-to source for informed purchasing decisions across various platforms, captivating the interest of researchers across computer science, economics, marketing, and information science. Interdisciplinary attention, together with fast-paced changes in online review platforms and their dynamics, have resulted in a fragmented landscape of knowledge, and created challenges in comprehending, generalizing, and effectively communicating insights around online reviews. Consequently, in spite of the significant amount of extant research on the topic, it seems there are several fundamental questions in the field that still remain largely unanswered. This paper reviews and synthesizes existing research on online reviews, addresses the knowledge gaps, and proposes directions for future research. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, we delve into the stages of the online review process, including review creation, exposure, and evaluation, and discuss the role of behavioral biases, review formats, reviewer identity, and platform design across these stages. We discuss the significant business value of online reviews, which is not limited to boosting sales, but also to impacting the reputation of a firm, and providing essential information in uncertain contexts. We also discuss the flaws inherent to the online review process, including promotional motivations, self-selection biases, discrimination, and context effects, which might compromise the reliability and helpfulness of the reviews. Finally, we identify research gaps in the online review literature, and propose a roadmap for future research to address them. As technology advances and consumer needs evolve, the complexity of online reviews must be further explored to unleash novel insights, guide decisions, and better shape the future landscape of digital platforms.
Keywords: Online reviews, digital marketing, user-generated content, digital platforms, electronic word-of-mouth
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