How reviews are displayed matters when it comes to online shopping

By our African Marketing Confederation News Team | 2024

Researchers discover that the display format of online reviews can have a notable influence on consumers’ purchase decisions.

Online reviews significantly influence consumer decisions, marketing research shows. But when it comes to visual displays, not all online reviews are equal, and their differences might influence product sales. 

Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay


This is according to a study by Javad Mousavi, Assistant Professor of Marketing at the University of Arizona in the US, which found that consumers respond more positively to information displayed in simple bar graphs, rather than graphs appearing as proportions of a whole. 


The study, titled ‘Unveiling Stars: How Graphical Displays of Online Consumer Ratings Affect Consumer Perception and Judgment’, has been published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Marketing Research. 


Though previous research has indicated that consumer decisions are significantly influenced by online reviews, most of this work has focused on attributes not fully controlled by e-commerce firms. Limited research has examined how controllable attributes, such as review display formats, affect consumers. 


Neglected aspect of marketing research 


“We address an important yet neglected aspect of online word-of-mouth,” Mousavi says. “This study is a systematic examination of how displaying ratings in various bar graphs significantly affects consumers’ evaluations of products, which may have consequent impacts on sales.” 


Drawing on visual perception research, Mousavi examined the effectiveness of two prominent graphical display formats used by major e-commerce platforms.  


One format displayed ratings in proportional format, that is, as a percentage of the whole, as can be seen on Amazon. The other format, used by Google, displayed ratings in a simple bar graph representing its peak share. 


Across nine studies, Mousavi found compelling evidence that e-commerce consumers prefer ratings displayed in a simple bar graph. Consequently, consumers who consider purchasing a product might think twice when the same ratings are displayed in proportional bar graphs. 


A proportional bar chart, also known as a proportional stacked bar chart, is used to show the size and proportion of data at the same time. A simple bar graph is the most basic graphical representation of data in the form of bars. 


You can find out more about the study here. 

Dr Kin Kariisa

Group CEO - Next Media

Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
With an esteemed academic journey, Dr. Kariisa’s accolades include an Honorary PhD in exemplary community service from the United Graduate College inTexas, an MBA from United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Huazong University in China, and a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from Makerere University.
Dr. Kariisa pursued PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. As a dynamic educator, he has shared his expertise as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at both Makerere University and Radboud University.

Dr Kin did his PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radbond University in Nigmegen, Netherlands. He previously served as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Radbond University in Netherlands.

Dr Kin did his postgraduate courses in Strategic Business Management, Strategic Leadership Communication and Strategies for Leading Successful Change Initiatives at Harvard University, Boston USA.

  • Other current and previous roles played by Dr Kin Kariisa:
  • Lecturer of e-Government and Information Security to graduate students at Makerere University, Kampala and Radbond University in the Netherlands
  • Director of Eco Bank Uganda Limited, one of the largest banks in Africa
  • Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, an umbrella industry association for all Television, Radio and online broadcasters in Uganda.
  • Chairman of Board of Directors of Nile Hotel International, that owns the leading hotel in Uganda, Kampala Serena Hotel.
  • Chairman of Board of Directors of Soliton Telmec Uganda, the leading telecom company in Optic fibre business managing over 80% of optic fibre in Uganda.