A new study shows when online retailers should encourage users to leave an image with a review

Reviews have become an essential decision support in online shopping, as consumers like to rely on other customers’ experiences with a product or service. More and more companies encourage users to not only leave a written review and to add images to a review, as these tend to increase review helpfulness.

A new study co-authored by ESSEC marketing professor Raoul Kübler finds that the impact of images on review helpfulness (and consequently on shopping behavior) is not necessarily positive. Online retailers should thus account for specific product-, review- and reviewer-characteristics, before encouraging users to add an image to a review.

In their study, based on over 97,000 Amazon reviews and over 6000 images, the four authors find that companies should especially encourage users to leave an image when the review is very positive, as this boosts review helpfulness by 85%.

Furthermore, they find that when the review authors have a positive reputation, adding images to a review can increase review helpfulness by up to 400%. In addition, the study reveals that especially in the case of hedonic products, adding images can increase helpfulness by up to 50%. The analysis also showed that users found it especially helpful when images show a product being used. This is particularly true if accompanied by a long review.

The study’s results also underline that images do not always increase helpfulness, and may also decrease helpfulness. This is especially the case for negative reviews and experiential products such as fashion and cosmetics.

Reflecting on the study, Dr. Kübler said: “Online retailers can proactively offer tutorials demonstrating how users can craft insightful and useful review images that accentuate the significance of product application. Our results further indicate that such incentives and tutorials should be provided to reviewers who tend to produce longer reviews.”

Featured Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash.

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