Uncertainty-reduction or reciprocity? Understanding the effects of a platform-initiated reviewer incentive program on regular review generation
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Citation (published version)Jingchuan Pu, Young Kwark, Sang-Pil Han, Bin Gu, Qiang Ye. "Uncertainty-Reduction or Reciprocity? Understanding the Effects of a Platform-Initiated Reviewer Incentive Program on Regular Review Generation."
To stimulate product reviews, many e-commerce platforms have launched reviewer incentive programs in which free product samples are provided to reviewers in exchange for their ratings of the samples. This study focuses on an unexplored aspect of reviewer incentive programs—the impact of participating in such programs on reviewers’ ratings of products they purchased normally (i.e., regular ratings). We find that after reviewers join the program and receive free product samples, their average regular rating increases by 2.25% (i.e., 0.093 more stars on the five-star scale). Our follow-up analyses indicate that the observed regular-rating increase can be attributed to an uncertainty-reduction effect evoked by the free product samples, as opposed to a reciprocity effect. We further delve into the underlying mechanism by analyzing the reviewers’ regular ratings at a granular, product-category level. Consistent with our theorization of the uncertainty-reduction effect, our findings reveal that reviewers’ regular-rating increase is driven by improved assessment and knowledge about products sharing common attributes with the sampled products, resulting in better post-purchase outcomes. Our results demonstrate that apart from motivating the feedback for the sampled products, free product sampling can reduce reviewers’ product uncertainty and trigger evident change in their regular ratings for the purchased products.