Print Friendly, PDF & Email

By Lia Samson
Eller MBA ’13

While qualitative user reviews online may yield the most useful data to a firm, analyzing and extracting insight from those consumer sentiments is challenging. While most product review research focuses on convergence of opinion expressed by aggregated reviews, Assistant Professor of MIS Zhu Zhang, Associate Professor of Marketing Yubo Chen, and Xin Li of City University of Hong Kong take a different approach.

Yubo Chen

Associate Professor of Marketing Yubo Chen.

In a new paper published in ACM Transactions on Management Information Systems, Zhang and his coauthors focused on the information revealed in divergence of opinion.

Online product reviews generally offer two methods by which consumers may express opinions of a product they have purchased — a quantitative method such as a star ranking and a qualitative method such as a comment forum, including through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Focusing on divergence of opinion, Zhang said, capitalizes on the fact that not only does a community of consumers have differing opinions a product, but the individual consumers might also have mixed feelings.

“Divergent opinions can provide more useful information overall than convergent opinions in the product market considering no product matches all consumers’ preferences,” explained Zhang. “What matters most for consumers might not be the central tendency or valence of consumer opinions, but the divergence of consumer reviews.”

Zhu Zhang

Assistant Professor of MIS Zhu Zhang.

Using data from Amazon ( and Barnes and Noble (, the researchers were able to prove the validity of the metrics-based tool they developed for mining the text of qualitative reviews. They showed an improved assessment of a product’s sales as it compared to its customer reviews by focusing on opinion divergence. This work and its results can lead company marketing managers to understand and manage their social media-based forums better. While research demonstrates that negative product reviews and comments should not be quashed on social media, companies may now learn how to manage this feedback and further drive sales.

Learn more about the dynamic faculty and research of the Department of MIS and Department of Marketing.