Exploring the Mechanisms of Information Sharing

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Online product ratings offer consumers information about products. In this dissertation, I explore how the design of the rating system impacts consumers’ sharing behavior and how different players are affected

Online product ratings offer consumers information about products. In this dissertation, I explore how the design of the rating system impacts consumers’ sharing behavior and how different players are affected by rating mechanisms. The first two chapters investigate how consumers choose to share their experiences of different attributes, how their preferences are reflected in numerical ratings and textual reviews, whether and how multi-dimensional rating systems affect consumer satisfaction through product ratings, and whether and how multi-dimensional rating systems affect the interplay between numerical ratings and textual reviews. The identification strategy of the observational study hinges on a natural experiment on TripAdvisor when the website reengineered its rating system from single-dimensional to multi-dimensional in January 2009. Rating data on the same set of restaurants from Yelp, were used to identify the causal effect using a difference-in-difference approach. Text mining skills were deployed to identify potential topics from textual reviews when consumers didn’t provide dimensional ratings in both SD and MD systems. Results show that ratings in a single-dimensional rating system have a downward trend and a higher dispersion, whereas ratings in a multi-dimensional rating system are significantly higher and convergent. Textual reviews in MDR are in greater width and depth than textual reviews in SDR. The third chapter tries to uncover how the introduction of monetary incentives would influence different players in the online e-commerce market in the short term and in the long run. These three studies together contribute to the understanding of rating system/mechanism designs and different players in the online market.