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Consumers find objective, comprehensive grocery reviews helpful

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When you go online, do you want a flowery review of groceries, or do you want a write-up that’s more straightforward and factual? A new University of Florida study shows consumers find the “just-the-facts” approach more useful.

Zhifeng Gao, an associate professor of food and resource economics, led a recent study of customer reviews on Amazon.com with his students, Yuan Jiang and Xuqi Chen, and research scientist Yan Heng, all with the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

People pay attention to these reviews, and retailers should do the same, Gao said. That’s because online shopping is growing in popularity. In the first quarter of 2017, U.S. retail e-commerce sales reached $105 billion, an increase of 4.1 percent from the fourth quarter of 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Online sales are expected to grow 9.3 percent annually by 2020, according to www.Forrester.com, a service that analyzes web marketing.

As online shopping increases, more people are buying groceries via the Internet, said Gao.

For the latest study, Gao and his team scoured thousands of reviews from Amazon.com, specifically focusing on consumer critiques of coffee. They found certain factors significantly affected how helpful consumers perceive online reviews, including physical features of the coffee, Amazon’s service, and flavor features.

Among other findings, researchers found consumers prefer reading about objective factors such as how the coffee is packaged and who makes the coffee over whether and why the reviewer likes the taste of the coffee. They see that as subjective.

Consumers also want more in the review than a terse, “I love this coffee,” Gao said. They want to know what makes the cup of Joe stand out.

“The findings are important because more retailers are developing their online platform for food sales, and customer reviews have been shown to have a significant impact on people’s purchasing decisions,” Gao said.

“Our findings indicate that retailers should encourage consumers who purchase the products from their website to provide more objective reviews about the products and give longer reviews so that other consumers can obtain more helpful information to make their purchase decisions,” he said.

The study is published in the Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services.


By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.


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