Do online product ratings reflect only our own experience?
As social creatures, online reviews and recommendations certainly influence our decisions. Recent research in the Journal of Marketing goes beyond confirming that "what we read shapes what we write" to focus on the interaction between existing reviews and our own rating of a product experience. Using a highly-rated category - hotels - the authors identified scenarios where we might increase our rating and ones when we might decrease them.
So, imagine the product has a positive rating and you go to write yours. Here is what is likely to happen based on your experience:
Thus, it appears that social influence of existing reviews mitigates or accentuates our own ratings creating a self-adapting system. The implication is that we need to understand the context in which the rating was given and act accordingly. Clearly we should reach out in the event of bad experiences; it has a good chance of correcting overly strong reactions while at the same time building goodwill.
The surprise is that we should be communicating with those who are positive - because their desire to use self-expression to be unique can bring down our rating.
Our contribution to communal content is just that, a reflection of the community.
Paper is entitled: Social Influence Effects in Online Product Ratings by Sridhar and Srinivasan