Consumer perceptions of online review deceptions : an empirical study in China

Ling PENG, Geng CUI, Mengzhou ZHUANG, Chunyu LI

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: To influence consumer perceptions, firms often manipulate online product reviews on their own websites or third-party forums by anonymously adding positive reviews, deleting unfavorable reviews or offering rewards to encourage favorable reviews. This study aims to investigate consumer perceptions of online review deceptions and how these perceptions influence their subsequent purchase behavior. In particular, consumers’ awareness, suspicion and detection are studied and specific manipulation tactics are evaluated.

Design/methodology/approach: Both qualitative and quantitative studies are relied upon to understand consumer perceptions of online review deceptions. In-depth interviews with 16 experienced online shoppers were conducted to collect the illustrative accounts concerning consumer awareness of online review deceptions, their suspicion, detection and evaluation of different manipulation tactics. A survey of 199 consumers was then followed to validate and corroborate the findings from the qualitative study and generalize the interview results onto the general public.

Findings: The results from in-depth interviews suggest that consumers take a negative view toward online review deceptions, but the degree of negativity varies across different manipulation tactics. Moreover, different types of manipulations vary in terms of perceived deceptiveness, ease of detection and unethicality, as well as their effect on consumer purchase intention and perceived helpfulness of online product reviews. The findings from the survey further confirmed the qualitative findings.

Practical implications: The findings have a number of meaningful managerial implications for industry associations and policymakers on whether and how to regulate online review deceptions.

Originality/value: This study applies and extends information manipulation theory and deception detection literature to an online context to increase the richness of the relevant theories. It is among the first to empirically investigate online review deceptions from a consumer’s perspective, as opposed to a firm’s perspective as previous studies have done.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-280
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Consumer Marketing
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • E-commerce
  • Information manipulation theory
  • Online review deceptions


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