Decoding YouTube Video Reviews: Uncovering The Factors That Determine Video Review Helpfulness

Mohammad Alsharo, Yazan Alnsour, Anas Husain
Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge, and Management  •  Volume 19  •  2024  •  pp. 008

This study aims to identify the characteristics of YouTube video reviews that consumers utilize to evaluate review helpfulness and explores how they process such information. This study aims to investigate the effect of argument quality, review popularity, number of likes, and source credibility on consumers’ perception of YouTube’s video review helpfulness.

Video reviews posted on YouTube are an emerging form of online reviews, which have the potential to be more helpful than textual reviews due to their visual and audible cues that deliver more vivid information about product features and specifications. With the availability of an enormous number of video reviews with unpredictable quality, it becomes challenging for consumers to find helpful reviews without consuming significant time and effort. In addition, YouTube does not provide a specific feature that indicates a review helpfulness similar to the one found on e-commerce websites. Consequently, consumers have to examine the characteristics of video reviews that are readily available on YouTube, evaluate them, and form a perception of whether a review is helpful or not. Despite the increasing popularity of YouTube’s video reviews, video reviews’ helpfulness received inadequate attention in the literature. The antecedents of the helpfulness of online video reviews are still underinvestigated, and more research is needed to identify the characteristics that consumers depend upon to assess video review helpfulness. Furthermore, it is important to understand how consumers process the information they gain from these characteristics to form a perception of their helpfulness.

Following an extended investigation of the relevant literature, we identified four key video characteristics that consumers presumably utilize to evaluate review helpfulness on YouTube (i.e., review popularity, number of likes, source credibility, and argument quality). By employing the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM), we classified these characteristics along the central and peripheral routes. The central route characteristics require a high cognitive effort by consumers to process the review’s message and reach a logical decision. In contrast, the peripheral route assumes that consumers judge the review’s message based on superficial qualities without substantial cognitive effort. A research model is introduced to investigate the effect of central and peripheral cues and their corresponding video review characteristics on review helpfulness. Accordingly, argument quality is proposed in the central route of the model, while review popularity, number of likes, and source credibility are proposed in the peripheral route. Furthermore, the study investigates how consumers process the information they obtain from these routes jointly or independently. To empirically test the proposed model, a convenient sample of 361 YouTube users was obtained through an online survey. The partial least squares method was used to investigate the effect of the proposed characteristics on video review helpfulness.

This study contributes to the literature in several ways. First, it is one of the few studies that investigate online video reviews’ helpfulness. Second, this study identifies several unique characteristics of YouTube’s video reviews that span peripheral and central routes, which potentially contribute to review helpfulness. Third, this study proposes a conceptual model based on the ELM to explore the effect of central and peripheral cues and their corresponding review characteristics on review helpfulness. Fourth, the research findings provide implications for research and practice that advance the theoretical understanding of video reviews’ helpfulness and serve as guidelines to create more helpful video reviews by better understanding the consumer’s cognitive processes.

The results show that among the four characteristics proposed in the research model, argument quality in the central route is the strongest determinant factor affecting video review helpfulness. Results also show that review popularity, source credibility, and the number of likes in the peripheral route have significant effects on video review helpfulness. Altogether, our results show that the effect of the peripheral route adds up to 0.463 compared to 0.430, which is the impact magnitude of the argument quality construct in the central route. Based on the comparable effect magnitude of the central and peripheral routes of the model on video review helpfulness, our results indicate that both peripheral and central cues significantly affect consumers’ perception of video review helpfulness. The two routes are not mutually exclusive, and their cues can be processed in parallel or consecutive ways.

The study recommends creating a dedicated category for reviews on YouTube with a specific feature for consumers to indicate the helpfulness of a video review, similar to the helpful vote button in textual reviews. The study also recommends that reviewers deliver more appealing and convincing argument quality, work toward improving their credibility, and understand the factors that contribute to video popularity.

Identifying the characteristics that affect video review helpfulness on YouTube helps consumers access helpful reviews more efficiently and improves their purchase decisions.

Future research could look into different types of data that could be extracted from YouTube to investigate the helpfulness of online video reviews. Future studies could employ machine learning and sentiment analysis techniques to reach more insights. Future research could also investigate the effect of product types in the context of online video reviews.

review helpfulness, online reviews, video reviews, YouTube, elaboration likelihood model
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