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Acta Psychologica Sinica    2017, Vol. 49 Issue (3) : 370-382     DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2017.00370
Mixed effects of inconsistent reviews on consumers: The moderating roles of product attributes and regulatory focus
HUANG Minxue1; WANG Yiting1; LIAO Junyun1; LIU Maohong2
(1 Department of Marketing and Tourism Management, Economics and Management School, Wuhan University, Wuhan 430072, China) (2 Management School, Wuhan University of Science and Technology, Wuhan 430081, China)
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Inconsistency (If product A scores 3, 4, and 4, and product B scores 4, 4, and 4, then product A has higher reviews inconsistency compared to product B) frequently appears in online reviews. But prior research have conflicted findings regarding the effect direction of inconsistency on sales/firms. The reason is that previous studies largely ignored the review content such as product attributes. In fact, product reviews inconsistency are caused by consumers’ different preferences and evaluation on the product attributes. In this paper, the product attributes are classified into vertical and horizontal attributes with the standard of uniform preference. According to the regulatory focus theory, reviews inconsistency of vertical attributes are more likely to trigger consumers’ prevention focus, thus stimulate the risk perception of the product, and reduce their purchase intention; but reviews inconsistency of horizontal attributes are more likely to trigger consumers’ promotion focus, thus stimulate the unique perception of the product, and increase their purchase intention. By introducing product attributes in the inconsistent reviews as a moderator, we tried to unify and explain the previous seemingly conflicting conclusions. To obtain some preliminary insights, we collected 138 restaurants’ group-buying posts and coded them as either vertical attributes or horizontal attributes. The analysis of this secondary data showed that the higher the inconsistency of vertical attribute reviews, the less the product sales; while the higher the inconsistency of horizontal attribute reviews, the more the product sales. Furthermore, we conducted two laboratory experiments to examine our hypothesis. In experiment 1, we used a 2 (reviews inconsistency: low vs. high) × 2 (product attributes: vertical vs. horizontal) between-subjects design. In experiment 2, we used a 2 (reviews inconsistency: low vs. high) × 2 (product attributes: vertical vs. horizontal) × 2 (regulatory focus: prevention vs. promotion) between-subjects design. We recruited 270 graduated students as the subjects (130 in experiment 1 and 140 in experiment 2). Results indicated that reviews inconsistency can stimulate consumers’ perception of risk to reduce their purchase intention, while reviews inconsistency can stimulate consumers’ perception of uniqueness to increase their purchase intention. In addition, the product attributes about reviews play a significant moderating role in the main effects. Namely, for the vertical attribute reviews, the reviews inconsistency are more likely to stimulate consumers’ perception of risk, thereby reducing the purchase intention, and for the horizontal attribute reviews, the reviews inconsistency are more likely to stimulate consumers’ perception of uniqueness, thereby increasing the purchase intention. Finally, the results indicated that the regulatory focus moderates the moderating effect of product attribute reviews. By focusing on different consumer preferences for product attributes, this paper breaks the contradictory conclusions about the impact of reviews inconsistency in previous studies. This study extended the research in the field of consumer word-of-mouth. Regulatory focus theory was introduced to this research, which also extended the externality of this theory. Also, some theoretical and practical contributions were made in the product marketing strategy area.

Keywords reviews inconsistency      product attributes      risk perception      unique perception      purchase intention      regulatory focus     
Corresponding Authors: WANG Yiting, E-mail:   
Issue Date: 25 March 2017
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HUANG Minxue; WANG Yiting; LIAO Junyun; LIU Maohong. Mixed effects of inconsistent reviews on consumers: The moderating roles of product attributes and regulatory focus[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica,2017, 49(3): 370-382.
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