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The Effect of Word of Mouth on Sales: Online Book Reviews

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  • Dina Mayzlin

    ()
    (Yale University, School of Management)

  • Judith A. Chevalier

    ()
    (Yale University, School of Management)

Abstract

The creation of online consumer communities to provide product reviews and advice has been touted as an important, albeit somewhat expensive component of Internet retail strategies. In this paper, we characterize reviewer behavior at two popular Internet sites and examine the effect of consumer reviews on firms' sales. We use publicly available data from the two leading online booksellers, Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com, to construct measures of each firm's sales of individual books. We also gather extensive consumer review data at the two sites. First, we characterize the reviewer behavior on the two sites such as the distribution of the number of ratings and the valence and length of ratings, as well as ratings across different subject categories. Second, we measure the effect of individual reviews on the relative shares of books across the two sites. We argue that our methodology of comparing the sales and reviews of a given book across Internet retailers allows us to improve on the existing literature by better capturing a causal relationship between word of mouth (reviews) and sales since we are able to difference out factors that affect the sales and word of mouth of both retailers, such as the book's quality. We examine the incremental sales effects of having reviews for a particular book versus not having reviews and also the differential sales effects of positive and negative reviews. Our large database of books also allows us to control for other important confounding factors such as differences across the sites in prices and shipping times.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Yale School of Management in its series Yale School of Management Working Papers with number ysm413.

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Date of creation: 12 Aug 2003
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Handle: RePEc:ysm:somwrk:ysm413

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Web page: http://icf.som.yale.edu/
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Keywords: Advertising; word-of-mouth; source credibility; internet marketing;

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  1. Ellison, Glenn & Fudenberg, Drew, 1995. "Word-of-Mouth Communication and Social Learning," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(1), pages 93-125, February.
  2. Clay, Karen & Krishnan, Ramayya & Wolff, Eric, 2001. "Prices and Price Dispersion on the Web: Evidence from the Online Book Industry," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 49(4), pages 521-39, December.
  3. Erik Brynjolfsson & Michael D. Smith, 2000. "Frictionless Commerce? A Comparison of Internet and Conventional Retailers," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 46(4), pages 563-585, April.
  4. Paul Resnick & Christopher Avery & Richard Zeckhauser, 1999. "The Market for Evaluations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 564-584, June.
  5. Mark Rosenzweig & Andrew D. Foster, . "Learning by Doing and Learning from Others: Human Capital and Technical Change in Agriculture," Home Pages _068, University of Pennsylvania.
  6. Austan Goolsbee & Judith Chevalier, 2002. "Measuring Prices and Price Competition Online: Amazon and Barnes and Noble," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm290, Yale School of Management, revised 12 Sep 2008.
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Cited by:
  1. David Godes & Dina Mayzlin & Yubo Chen & Sanjiv Das & Chrysanthos Dellarocas & Bruce Pfeiffer & Barak Libai & Subrata Sen & Mengze Shi & Peeter Verlegh, 2005. "The Firm's Management of Social Interactions," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 16(3), pages 415-428, December.
  2. Enrico Moretti, 2011. "Social Learning and Peer Effects in Consumption: Evidence from Movie Sales," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 78(1), pages 356-393.
  3. Alexia Gaudeul, 2010. "Software marketing on the Internet: the use of samples and repositories," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(3), pages 259-281.
  4. John Ashworth & Bruno Heyndels & Kristien Werck, 2010. "Expert judgements and the demand for novels in Flanders," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer, vol. 34(3), pages 197-218, August.
  5. William N. Goetzmann & Vicente Pons-Sanz & S. Abraham Ravid, 2004. "Soft Information, Hard Sell: The Role of Soft Information in the Pricing of Intellectual Property," NBER Working Papers 10468, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Jonathan Beck, 2006. "The Sales Effect of Word of Mouth: A Model for Creative Goods and Estimates for Novels," CIG Working Papers SP II 2006-16, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin (WZB), Research Unit: Competition and Innovation (CIG).
  7. Mark Bowden & Stuart McDonald, 2008. "The Impact of Interaction and Social Learning on Aggregate Expectations," Computational Economics, Society for Computational Economics, vol. 31(3), pages 289-306, April.
  8. Sharma, Dheeraj & Verma, Varsha, . "Consumers' Need for Uniqueness: A Cross-Cultural Validation," IIMA Working Papers WP2014-03-20, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, Research and Publication Department.
  9. Caroline Elliott & Rob Simmons, 2008. "Determinants of UK Box Office Success: The Impact of Quality Signals," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer, vol. 33(2), pages 93-111, September.
  10. Beck, Jonathan, 2009. "Diderot's rule," MPRA Paper 17404, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  11. Tucker, Catherine & Zhang, Juanjuan, 2007. "Long Tail or Steep Tail? A Field Investigation into How Online Popularity Information Affects the Distribution of Customer Choices," Working papers 39811, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  12. Neeraj Arora & Xavier Dreze & Anindya Ghose & James Hess & Raghuram Iyengar & Bing Jing & Yogesh Joshi & V. Kumar & Nicholas Lurie & Scott Neslin & S. Sajeesh & Meng Su & Niladri Syam & Jacquelyn Thom, 2008. "Putting one-to-one marketing to work: Personalization, customization, and choice," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 19(3), pages 305-321, December.
  13. Goknil N. Kocak & N. Serdar Sever, 2011. "Should I Take It or Should I Not? Exploration of Students’ Course Choice as a Product," International Review of Management and Marketing, Econjournals, vol. 1(1), pages 1-7, April.

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