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Consumer Reviews and Consumer Attitudes: Honest Feedback and Confused Behavior?

CASE STUDY, CONSUMER BEHAVIOR
ET Cases, 9 pages
AUTHOR(S) : Vijay Kumar Tangirala, Dr. Nagendra V Chowdary

Case Preview

Consumer Reviews and Consumer Attitudes: Honest Feedback and Confused Behavior?

 

Sumanth, aged 27 years, and Geeta, aged 24 years, were a newly married couple. Though hailing from Kerala, they decided to settle in Mumbai where Sumanth had recently joined a trading company. On a Friday night they decided to go out for dinner. But on account of being new to the place, they were aware of very few restaurants. However, the couple did not want to compromise on their dining experience and wanted to savor authentic Maharashtrian cuisine.

Geeta luckily had three of her relatives residing in Mumbai. She first called up her distant nephew, Girish, aged 23 years, who had joined an MNC bank 6 months back through campus recruitment post his completion of MBA from a reputed business school in New Delhi. Girish said that he liked a specific Maharashtrian dish served by a national food chain which had recently set shop in the city and in a shopping mall. Next, Geeta contacted her cousin, Pavithra, aged 40 years, who had been residing in Mumbai for the last 10 years and was employed as a Deputy Manager with a public sector bank. Pavithra said that she occasionally visited, along with her husband and three children, a quasi-Udupi restaurant which also served Maharashtrian food as it was within her budget. Geeta also took the opinion from her uncle, Ganpathi, aged 58 years, who had been working in the city for the last 30 years. Ganpathi said that the only place he visited to have authentic Maharashtrian food was a restaurant run by the wife of a dabbawala. He was however apprehensive whether Geeta and her husband would like the restaurant as it had poor ambience.

Geeta told her husband about her conversations with her relatives but confessed that she would not be satisfied dining at any of the three restaurants. Sumanth told her to forget all three. He turned to his smartphone and opened a consumer review website for restaurants and searched for restaurants offering authentic Maharashtrian cuisine in Mumbai...............

Online Reviews by Consumers

Online consumer reviews are peer-produced product assessments posted on company or third party websites. Independent or third-party consumer review websites allowed consumers to post product or service reviews with content through numerical star ratings (generally hovering from 1 to 5 stars) and open-ended consumerwritten opinions about the product or service. E-tailers such as Amazon.com have allowed consumers to review products for several years. The other retailers followed suit by providing this facility to consumers in the last few years. Several websites offering consumer reviews related to specific themes such as travel and restaurants have come up.............

Popularity of Online Reviews

Various studies showed that online reviews had considerable influence on purchase intentions. A study found that online reviews had greater influence on intentions to buy online than other types of recommendations such as advertising, and, that for online marketers, consumer reviews and feedback were critical. Some of the surveys demonstrated the extent to which consumers referred to consumer reviews (Exhibit II).............

Why Online Reviews for Consumers?

Online reviews were normally trusted by consumers as they were from other consumers, particularly those with prior experience of the product or service (Exhibit IV). Consumers resorted to online reviews to mitigate the risks related to product or service purchase. They mostly believed that online consumer reviews and ratings aided them in making better-informed decisions..............

Why Consumers Post Online Reviews?

In the US, 61% of Americans posted some review or the other with Amazon being the most frequently used website for the same. The different motivations for consumers to post online reviews were found out to be personal motivations, social benefits, economic incentives and entertainment...............

The Emergence of Social Media

Social media offered a new tool to obtain product information by means of peer communication (Exhibit V). It also bestowed upon consumers the capacity to influence other purchasers by means of reviews of products or services that they had utilized. Social media transformed consumer behavior from merely garnering information to post-purchase behavior such as expressing dissatisfaction or any other opinion about a product or a company............

The Malaise of Fake Reviews

Fake reviews were a major factor testing the credibility of the mechanism of online consumer reviews. These reviews not just cheated the consumers but also negatively impacted the concerned review sites as well as the product/service referred to..............

Online Consumer Reviews Taking off in India

Several netizens in India were actively engaged in reviewing products and services post-purchase and referring to reviews prior to making a purchase. The gamut of goods and services reviewed had, over a period of time, increased in the country (Exhibit VIII)...........

What would change Geeta’s attitude towards online reviews?

“This isn’t convincing by any means,” said Geeta. Having used several times and for quite a few times being the reviewer himself...........

Assignment Questions

I. Are online consumer reviews popular? Why do consumers refer to online consumer reviews? Do fake reviews have an impact, and, if so, how do they influence consumer buying decisions?

II. Why do consumers post online reviews? Is social media a popular platform to post online reviews, and, if so, why? In the context of the growing popularity of consumer reviews, what should companies do?

III. ..............

Exhibits

Exhibit I: Consumer Buying Attitudes – Influences

Exhibit II: The Extent to which Consumers Referred to Online Consumer Reviews

Exhibit III: Popularity of Online Reviews

Exhibit IV: Online Consumer-Generated Information Vs Online Seller-Generated Information

Exhibit V: Consumer Buying Cycle Employing Social Media

Exhibit VI: A Facebook Post Underlining Gen Y’s Indulgence with Social Media

Exhibit VII: Indian Hotels taking Consumer Reviews Seriously

Exhibit VIII: Consumer Reviews – Products and Service Categories

Teaching Note Preview

Consumer Reviews and Consumer Attitudes: Honest Feedback and Confused Behavior?

 

Synopsis

This case study enables a discussion on whether online consumer reviews influence consumer purchase decisions and, if so, why. It also throws light on what motivates consumers to post reviews and the impact of the reviews on the related product and service providers. The popularity of online reviews could be gauged from the fact that 79% of the respondents in a survey stated that they trusted online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Consumers primarily trusted consumer reviews as they were from ‘people like them’. Online consumer reviews reduced the risks connected with the purchases and bolstered the confidence of consumers when they contemplated buying a product or service. The main motivation for consumers to post online reviews was to help other consumers. They also generally posted reviews of those products and services that they were excited about. Social media has emerged as an important platform to post reviews. Social media channels were particularly being used by disgruntled consumers and were considerably influential in forcing companies to take corrective measures. However, what is the guarantee that all consumer reviews are genuine and that consumers are not being cheated by fake reviews?

Prerequisite Conceptual Understanding

This case study presupposes an understanding of the concept of consumer attitude formation and change. This would enable an effective discussion leading to practical solutions. The participants were asked to read the following chapter from 10th Edition of Consumer Behavior textbook to help them better connect the concepts:

  • • Leon G. Schiffman, et al., “Chapter: Consumer Attitude Formation and Change”, Consumer Behavior, 10th Edition, Pearson Education, Inc., 2010 – To have an overview of how consumer attitudes get formed

 

Mandatory Viewing

The participants should be encouraged to view the following documentary to highlight the power of consumer reviews and how those reviews influence consumer attitudes:

  • • Morgan Spurlock, Super Size Me, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GA8LnPg4ZA

 

Case Positioning and Setting

This case study can be used in MBA or Executive MBA programs for the following course:

  • • Consumer Behaviour Course – Consumer Attitude Formation and Change (Chapter) – To understand the reasons for consumers to post reviews online; to also understand whether or not these reviews influence consumers, and, if so, the process of influence

 

Assignment Questions

  • I. Are online consumer reviews popular? Why do consumers refer to online consumer reviews? Do fake reviews have an impact, and, if so, how do they influence consumer buying decisions?
  • II. Why do consumers post online reviews? Is social media a popular platform to post online reviews, and, if so, why? In the context of the growing popularity of consumer reviews, what should companies do?
  • III. ....................

 

Case Analysis

The classroom discussion was facilitated under three broad sections as explained in Exhibit (TN)-I. The classroom discussion and analysis for this case study could be summarized through the Board Plan [Exhibit (TN)-II]..............

Exhibits

Exhibit (TN)-I: Classroom Discussion Dashboard

Exhibit (TN)-II: The Board Plan

Exhibit (TN)-III: Creators and Consumers of Online Reviews

Exhibit (TN)-IV: Classroom Exercise

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Abstract


This case study's objective is to assess whether and how online consumer reviews affect consumers' attitudes. Presented through the dilemmas of the protagonists of the case study - Sumanth and Geeta - this case study outlines, based on research reports, several reasons as to why consumer reviews became quite ubiquitous, especially in the digital age. However, with fake reviews and 'paid' reviews, how would a consumer sieve the information? Would consumers' attitudes swing based on consumer reviews - either positive or negative? For what kind of product/service categories, online consumer reviews would make a significant difference?



Pedagogical Objectives

  • To understand the importance and intensity of online consumer reviews and debate on the efficacy and objectivity of online consumer reviews
  • To examine if and how online consumer reviews influence consumer attitude formation and debate whether online consumer reviews influence consumer attitude change
  • To assess the application of structural models of attitudes (the tricomponent attitude model, the multiattribute attitude model, the trying-to-consume model and the attitude-toward the-ad model) through online consumer reviews

Case Positioning and Setting

This case study can be used in MBA or Executive MBA programs for the following course:

  • Consumer Behaviour Course - Consumer Attitude Formation and Change (Chapter) - To understand the reasons for consumers to post reviews online; to also understand whether or not these reviews influence consumers, and, if so, the process of influence



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