Interacting with User Generated Content Technologies: How Q&A Influence Consumer Opinions

This article examines question-and-answer (Q&A) technology for e-commerce platforms, an increasingly popular form of user-generated content that allows consumers to ask product-specific questions and receive responses, either from the platform or other customers. Using data from a major online retailer, the authors show that Q&A complements consumer reviews: unlike reviews, questions are asked primarily about pre-purchase and focus on clarifying product attributes rather than discussing quality; The answers convey information about relevance in an often emotionless manner. Drawing on these observations, the authors hypothesize that the Q&A mitigates uncertainty about product suitability, leading to better product-to-consumer matches and, in turn, improved product ratings. In fact, when products with a fit mismatch start receiving questions and answers, their subsequent ratings improve by about 0.5 stars, and the portion of negative reviews discussing issues related to fit decreases. The extent to which the rating increases due to the questions and answers is proportional to the probability that buyers will encounter a favorable mismatch without the questions and answers. These findings suggest that by resolving uncertainty about product suitability in an e-commerce environment, adding questions and answers can be an effective way for retailers to improve ratings of products that incurred low ratings due to product mismatches with the customer.

Key words: E-Commerce, Question and Answer, reputation systems User Generated Content

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