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The impact of COVID-19 on online product reviews

Omer Cem Kutlubay (College of Business, University of Arkansas at Fort Smith, Fort Smith, Arkansas, USA)
Mesut Cicek (Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, USA)
Serdar Yayla (New Jersey City University, Jersey City, New Jersey, USA)

Journal of Product & Brand Management

ISSN: 1061-0421

Article publication date: 23 November 2021

Issue publication date: 19 January 2023




The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has led to drastic changes in the lives of customers. Social isolation, financial difficulties, fear of being infected and many other factors have caused the psychological well-being of customers to deteriorate. By taking up the role of online reviews in the regulation of consumers’ moods, this study aims to examine the changes that have occurred in online product ratings, as well as the negative tone and word counts of product reviews during the COVID-19 pandemic.


This study examines the online reviews of 321 products in the pre-COVID, immediate COVID and extended COVID periods. This paper compares the changes that have taken place in product evaluations via various analysis of variance analyses. The authors also test the effect of COVID-related deaths on product evaluations via regression analyses.


The results indicate that online product ratings decreased sharply just after the outbreak of COVID-19. The study also found that the tone of reviews was found to be more negative and the length of reviews appeared to be longer in comparison to the pre-COVID-19 period. The results also revealed that the product type (experience vs search) moderated the effect of the pandemic in online reviews and the impact of COVID-19 on online product reviews diminished in the later stages of the ongoing pandemic.

Practical implications

Managers should be aware of the detrimental impact of pandemics on online product reviews and be more responsive to customer problems during the early stages of pandemics.


To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study that analyzes the effects of a pandemic on online product ratings and review content. As such, this study offers a timely contribution to the marketing literature.



Kutlubay, O.C., Cicek, M. and Yayla, S. (2023), "The impact of COVID-19 on online product reviews", Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 32 No. 1, pp. 1-13.



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