The rapid growth in e-commerce has led to a concomitant increase in consumers’ reliance on digital word-of-mouth to inform their choices. As such, there is an increasing incentive for sellers to solicit reviews for their products. The literature has examined the direct and indirect effects of incentivized reviews on subsequent organic reviews within consumers who received incentives. However, since incentivized reviews and reviewers are often only a small proportion of a review platform (only 1.2% in our sample), it is important to understand whether their presence and absence on the platform affect the organic reviews from other reviewers who have not received incentives, which are often in the majority. We theorize two underlying effects that incentivized reviews can generate on other organic reviews: the herding effect from imitating incentivized reviews and the disclosure effect from the increased trust or skepticism by explicit incentive disclosure statements. Those two effects make organic reviews either follow or deviate from incentivized reviews. Using Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (BERT) to identify incentivized reviews and a natural experiment caused by a policy change on Amazon.com in October 2016, we conduct difference-in-differences with propensity score matching analyses to identify the effects of banning incentivized reviews on organic reviews. Our results suggest the disclosure effects are salient: banning incentivized reviews has positive effects on organic reviews in terms of frequency, sentiment, length, image, and helpfulness. Moreover, we find that the presence of incentivized reviews has poisoned the well for organic reviews regardless of the incentivized review ratio and that the effect is heterogeneous to product quality uncertainty. Our findings contribute to the literature on online review and platform design and provide insights to platform managers.
In this paper, we build on the network structural hole concept of organizational theory to theorize an individual firm-specific strategic competitive positioning (SCP) construct. We use unsupervised document embedding approaches to operationalize the SCP construct by capturing each firm’s relative competitive and strategic positioning in a strategic similarity matrix of all existing U.S. publicly traded firms’ annual corporate filings. This approach enables us to construct a theoretically driven firm-level SCP measure with minimal human expert intervention. Our construct dynamically captures competitive positioning across different firms and years without using artificially bounded and often outdated industry classification systems. We illustrate how the dynamic measure captures industry-level and cross-industry strategic changes. Then, we demonstrate the effectiveness of our construct with an empirical analysis showing the imprinting and dynamic effects of SCP on firm performance. The results show that our dynamic SCP measure outperforms existing competition measures and successfully predicts post-IPO performance. This paper makes significant contributions to the information systems and organizations literatures by proposing an organizational theory-based unsupervised approach to dynamically conceptualize and measure firm-level strategic competitive positioning. The construct can be easily applied to firm-specific, industry-level, and cross-industry research questions in many contexts across many disciplines.