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Research Insight | Q&A Sections Lead to Better Customer Reviews

Ecommerce platforms typically offer a customer Q&A feature—but is there any advantage in using one? This study shows that Q&As tend to be more objective and less sentiment-laden than reviews, and as a result, they facilitate better matches between consumers and products and lead to greater consumer satisfaction (reflected by higher ratings) downstream. Thus, retailers should consider incorporating the Q&A feature on their platforms and actively maintaining it.

Furthermore, the research shows that negative ratings often arise due to user–product mismatch rather than just poor product quality. Retailers should consider reporting a separate “fit score” and “quality score” instead of a simple average rating to give consumers a better sense of objective product quality and to better gauge the sources of consumer dissatisfaction.

What You Need to Know

  • Online retailers should incorporate and maintain Q&A technology.
  • Online retailers should consider the fact that negative ratings often indicate preference mismatch rather than poor product quality and track “fit reviews” and “quality reviews” separately. A lower “fit” average would alert retailers to invest resources in improving user–product matches, rather than investing in product quality.


This article studies the question and answer (Q&A) technology of electronic commerce platforms, an increasingly common form of user-generated content that allows consumers to publicly ask product-specific questions and receive responses, either from the platform or from other customers. Using data from a major online retailer, the authors show that Q&As complement consumer reviews: unlike reviews, questions are primarily asked prepurchase and focus on clarification of product attributes rather than discussion of quality; answers convey fit-specific information in a predominantly sentiment-free way. Drawing on these observations, the authors hypothesize that Q&As mitigate product fit uncertainty, leading to better matches between products and consumers and, therefore, improved product ratings. Indeed, when products suffering from fit mismatch start receiving Q&As, their subsequent ratings improve by approximately .1 to .5 stars, and the fraction of negative reviews that discuss fit-related issues declines. The extent of the rating increase due to Q&As is proportional to the probability that purchasers will experience fit mismatch without Q&A. These findings suggest that, by resolving product fit uncertainty in an e-commerce setting, the addition of Q&As can be a viable way for retailers to improve ratings of products that have incurred low ratings due to customer–product fit mismatch.

Shrabastee Banerjee, Chrysanthos Dellarocas, and Georgios Zervas (2021), “Interacting User-Generated Content Technologies: How Questions and Answers Affect Consumer Reviews,” Journal of Marketing Research, 58 (4), 742-61. doi:10.1177/00222437211020274