Stimulating online reviews by combining financial incentives and social norms

Gordon Burtch, Yili Hong, Ravi Bapna, Vladas Griskevicius

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

124 Scopus citations


In hopes of motivating consumers to provide larger volumes of useful reviews, many retailers offer financial incentives. Here, we explore an alternative approach, social norms. We inform individuals about the volume of reviews authored by peers. We test the effectiveness of using financial incentives, social norms, and a combination of both strategies in motivating consumers. In two randomized experiments, one in the field conducted in partnership with a large online clothing retailer based in China and a second on Amazon Mechanical Turk, we compare the effectiveness of each strategy in stimulating online reviews in larger numbers and of greater length. We find that financial incentives are more effective at inducing larger volumes of reviews, but the reviews that result are not particularly lengthy, whereas social norms have a greater effect on the length of reviews. Importantly, we show that the combination of financial incentives and social norms yields the greatest overall benefit by motivating reviews in greater numbers and of greater length. We further assess treatment-induced self-selection and sentiment bias by triangulating the experimental results with findings from an observational study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2065-2082
Number of pages18
JournalManagement Science
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
History: Accepted by Chris Forman, information systems. Funding: The first author acknowledges funding from the 3M Foundation. SupplementalMaterial: The online appendix is available at

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 INFORMS.


  • Financial incentives
  • Intrinsic motivation
  • Online reviews
  • Randomized experiment
  • Social norms


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