Online reviews have received much attention recently in the literature, as their visibility has been proven to play an important role during the purchase process. Furthermore, recent theoretical insight argue that the votes casted on how helpful an online review is (review helpfulness) are of particular importance, since they constitute a focal point for examining consumer decision making during the purchase process. In this paper, we explore the interplay between online review helpfulness, rating score and the qualitative characteristics of the review text as measured by readability tests. We construct a theoretical model based on three elements: conformity, understandability and expressiveness and we investigate the directional relationship between the qualitative characteristics of the review text, review helpfulness and the impact of review helpfulness on the review score. Furthermore, we examine whether this relation holds for extreme and moderate review scores. To validate this model we applied four basic readability measures to a dataset containing 37,221 reviews collected from Amazon UK, in order to determine the relationship between the percentage of helpful votes awarded to a review and the review text’s stylistic elements. We also investigated the interrelationships between extremely helpful and unhelpful reviews, as well as absolutely positive and negative reviews using intergroup comparisons. We found that review readability had a greater effect on the helpfulness ratio of a review than its length; in addition, extremely helpful reviews received a higher score than those considered less helpful. The present study contributes to the ever growing literature on on-line reviews by showing that readability tests demonstrate a directional relationship with average length reviews and their helpfulness and that this relationship holds both for moderate and extreme review scores.
- Product reviews, Readability tests, Review helpfulness, Word of mouth