An interesting statistic – about 50% of people in the US have written online reviews at least once in their life. Yes, that’s right. Over the half of population has generated reviews on whatever products/service they experienced (or not), which I find amazing. But wait a minute…. what about the other half? – People who have never written any reviews? Why do only half write something online about whether they liked the products? Why not 70, 80% or even 100%? Of course, we have to exclude some people who don’t have much access on internet or don’t care about technology etc…. But still there is a significant big portion of people who never write reviews online. Why? I can think of a couple of hypotheses here:

The first hypothesis is that the ‘this other half of population’ are simply different people from those who write reviews online. Some people nowadays point out that there is certain motivation to make people write online reviews; 1) monetary and non-monetary (loyalty scheme) incentives, 2) status in the community, 3) ego factor (looks good, intelligent among peers), 4) incentives to help others from their reviews etc… There would be more things to motivate people to write online reviews but something we can draw from this is that some just don’t react on these factors or the current level of incentives is just not enough for them. For example, monetary/non-monetary incentives people get from writing reviews such as some kind of reward points could be just nothing to some people. Community status such as Yelp Elite may be completely uninteresting to some.

The second hypothesis is that experiential factors would matter to ‘this other half of population’. Humans naturally have both the hesitancy as well as the curiosity to try out new things. Hence, to some people, they can’t write online reviews because they never tried. It sounds ironic but many people have experienced this kind of conversation; “Why don’t you try out this new hobby (or whatever it is)?” “I can’t. I’ve never done it before”. “Man, just try out. I will show how easy it is.” “Hm… But I guess it is easy for you because you’ve done it before already”. You see the point here? On many occasions, the mental cost of trying out something for the first time is much higher than cost of doing it again. It is applicable to writing online reviews for the first time as well.

The last hypothesis is about online identities. Even very opinionate people offline are not interested in writing their opinions online because they don’t think they have to be consistent on their behavior between online and offline.  Actually in reality, we sometimes find that very active online reviewers are actually very shy people offline and vice-versa. What does this mean? Don’t we think very opinionate people offline should be similarly opinionated online as well? Why is there a gap between their online and offline behaviors? Generally anonymous environments help people write reviews freely. But maybe for certain people, disclosing their identity on online would be helpful to push themselves to match their online behaviors to offline behaviors; if certain people are very active in offline, they may want to be very active in online in this condition to keep their identity consistent.

We can find some implications from these hypotheses. If you want to convert the ‘other half of the population’ to write online reviews, you may want to 1) rethink about what can actually incentivize these people to write reviews and how to customize this incentive 2) consider how to create an environment and infrastructure to facilitate first time  reviews3) in some occasions, disclosure of offline identity to push people to be more active online.


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