The Effects of Image-Based Online Reviews on Customers' Perception Across Product Type and Gender

The Effects of Image-Based Online Reviews on Customers' Perception Across Product Type and Gender

Yuming Liu (School of Economics and Management, Xidian University, Xi'an, Shaanxi, China) and Rong Du (School of Economics and Management, Xidian University, Xi'an, Shaanxi, China)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/JGIM.2019070108

Abstract

Online vendors consider image online reviews as an important format to improve customers' buying decision. Prior research examined the influence of review presentation format, but did not focus on image format. Little is known about customers' perception on image online reviews. This study developed a theoretical model to analyze the effect of image reviews across product type and gender. The 2×2×2 between-subject experimental design was conducted to test hypotheses. The results demonstrated that compared to text review, the influence of image format on customers' perception was more significant, but in varying degrees across product type and gender. This study found that image format had more positive impact for experience product's understanding compared to search product. The result also showed that the effect of image format on experience product was not significant greater for females than males, but the perception improvement degree from text to image reviews was saliently different between genders. This study discussed theoretical and managerial contributions of these results.
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Introduction

Online reviews, one form of e-WOM, are having significant influences on customers’ product valuation (Mudambi & Schuff, 2010) and vendors’ product sales (Duan et al., 2008). As a new format of online review, image reviews are making their presence on some leading vendor websites around globe. In practice, image reviews were considered as an important marketing strategy to attract potential customers for online vendors and as a key source of product information for future customers. BuzzFeed reported that one vendor selling Bikini swimsuit on Amazon.com had reached great high sales in 2015 because this vendor encouraged its customers to post text review and upload product images simultaneously (Probus, 2015). In China, some vendors try to stimuli their buyers to post customers’ image by cash rewards in order to attract more customers and reach more great sales. Most vendor websites, including Amazon.com and Taobao.com, have listed “customer image” as a search keyword independently, which is convenient for customer to identify all image reviews of one product. Alike practitioners, scholars are also concerned how image reviews are perceived helpful and what that depends on.

Review helpfulness can be seen as a reflection of review diagnosticity. Scholars have extensively examined the area that is what makes online reviews helpful to customers (Mudambi & Schuff, 2010; Filieri, 2014; Huang et al., 2015). However, vast prior researches have only focused on a text-based review, which is main presentation format on vendor websites in the past years. Previous studies have primarily identified perceived helpfulness of various text-based review characteristics such as review extremity, star rating and review depth (Mudambi & Schuff, 2010), and discrete emotional content in a seller review (Yin et al., 2014). With the popularity of an image review growing fast, some scholars turned to put an eye on the influence of image reviews on customers (Xu et al., 2015). But their finding was that the effects of text and image reviews on customers’ perceived helpfulness are not distinguished from each other significantly. Obviously, this conclusion could not explain why image review format is increasingly popular on most vendor websites, such as Amazon.com and taobao.com, and especially for the Bikini swimsuit case mentioned above. To narrow the gap between theory and practice, this area needs further research to examine this important question as to whether an image review is more helpful to customers than commonly used text review.

The effect of image reviews on customer perceptions is unclear without adequate examinations. This study adds to a growing body of online reviews highlighting the effect of presentation format. Based on discussion above, this research focuses on the first question: (1) Whether image-based online reviews provide higher perceived product understanding for customers than text-based online reviews?

Most research of online reviews considered different effect between experience products and search products (Mudambi&Schuff, 2010; Xu et al., 2015). For different product type, customers would seek different kind of information to diagnostic online products (Jiang & Benbasat, 2007). Image reviews present visual information depicting experience attributes (e.g. appearance). So the authors consider: (2) whether image-based online reviews have greater positive effect on customers’ perceived product understanding for experience products compared with search products?

Actually, past research found that gender is different in online information processing (Shaouf et al., 2016). So the authors also are interested in: (3) Whether image-based reviews on experience products have greater positive effect on customers’ perceived product understanding for female customers compared to male customers? This study uses cognitive fit theory to explain the different influence of review presentation format, and the moderation effect of gender and product type.

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