How to say it to earn better online reviews? The Effect of Firm’s Communication Language on Word-of-Mouth: The Case of Mobile Applications

Primary author: Seyednasir Haghighibardineh
Co-author(s): Chadwick Miller
Faculty sponsor: Chadwick Miller

Primary college/unit: Carson College of Business
Campus: Pullman


The importance and impact of online reviews continues to increase in both online and brick-and-mortar businesses. Based on the annual survey conducted by BrightLocal (2018)—a search agency focused on Local Search Engine Optimization tools—86% of consumers read reviews for their desired local businesses (this number further increases to 95% for ages 18-34). Additionally, the content of these reviews makes a difference in consumption decisions. For instance, consumers read 10 online reviews, on average, before putting their trust in a local business and 57% of consumers will only use a business if it has at least 4 stars. In this study, we suggest that how a firm describes its products—in terms of the level of analytical language used in the description—affects the valence of online word-of-mouth (WOM) as represented in consumer reviews. Further, we explore how the product’s price moderates this relationship. Applying text analysis tools, we test our hypotheses using data from the mobile applications industry. We analyze the sample of 2,396 mobile games and apps with more than 6 million online reviews in total. We find that using a description with analytical language has a negative impact on WOM—operationalized as star rating. Also, we find that price strengthens this relationship. These findings contribute to the marketing literature by expanding our knowledge about the drivers of WOM. Specifically, this study enables marketers to design and implement marketing actions-in terms of product descriptions and pricing strategies to improve consumers’ reviews of the products.