In the digital era, costumers often peruse online reviews prior to purchasing a product or a service. These online reviews may not only influence purchase intentions, but also unintentionally shape the expectations that form later customer experiences with the product – a phenomenon defined as ‘marketing placebo effect’. Against this background this research aims to investigate a potential placebo effect of online reviews on a behavioural and neural level. While recording neural activity via functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), participants consumed a product after reading a well- or poorlyfitting online review of the product. The results indicate that well-fitting online reviews increased the liking of the product compared to poorly-fitting online reviews, and by doing so, constitute a placebo effect. In parallel, they induce increased neural activity in regions that are associated in neuroscientific literature with processing social information (i.e. medial PFC). In contrast, poorly-fitting online reviews increased activity in regions related to conflict resolution (i.e. lateral PFC). These results demonstrate that online reviews make for an effective placebo, influencing customer experiences on both, the behavioural and the neural level.
Gier, Nadine R.; Kurz, Jacqueline; and Kenning, Peter, "ONLINE REVIEWS AS MARKETING PLACEBO? FIRST INSIGHTS FROM NEURO-IS UTILISING FNIRS" (2020). ECIS 2020 Research-in-Progress Papers. 33.
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