The Economic Value of Online Reviews

May 20 2015

Published: Marketing Science 34(5)
Coauthors: Hai Che(UC Riverside), Tat Y. Chan (Wash U) and Xianghua Lu (Fudan)


This paper investigates the economic value of online reviews for consumers and restaurants. We use a dataset from, a leading Chinese website providing user-generated reviews, to study how consumers learn from reading online reviews the quality and cost of dining at restaurants. We propose a learning model that has three novel features: (1) different reviews offer different informational value to different types of consumers; (2) consumers learn own preferences, and not the distribution of preferences among the entire population, for multiple product attributes; and (3) consumers update not only the expectation but also the variance of their preferences. Based on estimation results, we conduct a series of counterfactual experiments and find that the value from Dianping is about 7 CNY for each user, and about 8.6 CNY from each user for the reviewed restaurants in this study. The majority of the value comes from reviews on the quality of restaurants, and contextual comments are more valuable than numerical ratings in reviews.

Keywords: Online Reviews, User-generated Content, Consumer Choice under Uncertainty, Learning, Economic Value to Consumer and Firm

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