Amazon reviews: China vs. America

Amazon reviews: China vs. America

At this rate…

In the last ten years, we’ve seen a phenomenal explosion in the number of review sites.

From Amazon to Tripadvisor, it seems that we just can’t get enough. And there’s a psychological reason as to why that is – social proof, our instinct to follow the actions of the herd, is a powerful motivator when it comes to behaviour, both on- and offline. So powerful, in fact, that you’re significantly more likely to buy an item if it’s been (positively) rated by a complete stranger, than you are to buy an identical, un-rated item [1].

But not all ratings and reviews are created equal, and when it comes to the persuasiveness of their content, it turns out that what you might find compelling, may be a complete turn-off for fellow shoppers on the other side of the globe.

Culture clash

In a paper released earlier this year (2013), a group of psychologists found marked differences between the reviews that American and Chinese customers had posted.

Taking 120 customer reviews of 3 electronic products on (USA) and (China), the researchers analysed each review to assess which elements, if any, differed between the two cultures.

Here’s what they found:

1. Opinions

American customers expressed more opinions than their Chinese counterparts, and seemed more willing to provide feedback on products in general.

2. Recommendations

American customers also made more recommendations to others than Chinese customers, which may imply that persuasion styles differ for each culture.

3. Content

In their reviews, Chinese and American customers focussed in on different aspects of the products, suggesting that certain features were more important to one group than the other.

Business implications

If you run a business and have customers from all corners of the earth, simply knowing that they may have differing needs (based on their culture) can help you improve customer service and user experience.

Rather than providing a pic-n-mix array of elements that will cover the various needs of your customers, invest in your business by creating different websites (and content, including reviews and rating sections) that can be accessed by each country as necessary.

Yes, it means a lot more initial work on your part, but by creating different, culture-specific websites, you’ll be glocalising your business by encouraging your customers to do it naturally through their own reviews.

It’s a win-win.




[1] P. de Vries & A. Pruyn (2007). Source Salience and the Persuasiveness of Peer Recommendations: The Mediating Role of Social Trust. Persuasive Technology, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Vol. 4744, pp. 164-175

[2] J. Lai, P. He, H. Chou & L. Zhou (2013). Impact of National Culture on Online Consumer Review Behaviour. Global Journal of Business Research, 7(1), pp. 109-115


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Best-selling author of "Webs of Influence" (Pearson). International speaker, consultant, columnist at Marketing Week.