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Consumer perceptions of online review deceptions: an empirical study in China

Ling Peng (Department of Marketing and International Business, Lingnan University, Hong Kong, Hong Kong)
Geng Cui (Department of Marketing and International Business, Lingnan University, Hong Kong, Hong Kong)
Mengzhou Zhuang (Department of Business Administration, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, Illinois, USA)
Chunyu Li (Department of Marketing and International Business, Lingnan University, Hong Kong, Hong Kong)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 13 June 2016

Abstract

Purpose

To influence consumer perceptions, firms often manipulate online product reviews on their own websites or third-party forums by anonymously adding positive reviews, deleting unfavorable reviews or offering rewards to encourage favorable reviews. This study aims to investigate consumer perceptions of online review deceptions and how these perceptions influence their subsequent purchase behavior. In particular, consumers’ awareness, suspicion and detection are studied and specific manipulation tactics are evaluated.

Design/methodology/approach

Both qualitative and quantitative studies are relied upon to understand consumer perceptions of online review deceptions. In-depth interviews with 16 experienced online shoppers were conducted to collect the illustrative accounts concerning consumer awareness of online review deceptions, their suspicion, detection and evaluation of different manipulation tactics. A survey of 199 consumers was then followed to validate and corroborate the findings from the qualitative study and generalize the interview results onto the general public.

Findings

The results from in-depth interviews suggest that consumers take a negative view toward online review deceptions, but the degree of negativity varies across different manipulation tactics. Moreover, different types of manipulations vary in terms of perceived deceptiveness, ease of detection and unethicality, as well as their effect on consumer purchase intention and perceived helpfulness of online product reviews. The findings from the survey further confirmed the qualitative findings.

Practical implications

The findings have a number of meaningful managerial implications for industry associations and policymakers on whether and how to regulate online review deceptions.

Originality/value

This study applies and extends information manipulation theory and deception detection literature to an online context to increase the richness of the relevant theories. It is among the first to empirically investigate online review deceptions from a consumer’s perspective, as opposed to a firm’s perspective as previous studies have done.

Keywords

Citation

Peng, L., Cui, G., Zhuang, M. and Li, C. (2016), "Consumer perceptions of online review deceptions: an empirical study in China", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 33 No. 4, pp. 269-280. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCM-01-2015-1281

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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