Sending mixed signals: How congruent versus incongruent signals of popularity affect product appeal

Sarit Moldovan, Meyrav Shoham, Yael Steinhart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A high volume of sales or online reviews can make a product seem more popular and established and consequently enhance its appeal. But is it advisable to display both metrics? We focus on the interplay between volume of sales and number of reviews and explore what happens when these signals are perceived as congruent versus incongruent. Five experimental studies and an analysis of field data demonstrate that consumers find products with congruent (vs. incongruent) ratios of reviews to sales more appealing. We distinguish between two types of incongruities: when the volume of sales clearly exceeds that of the reviews (over-purchased products) versus many reviews compared to sales (over-reviewed products). We argue that both reduce consumer confidence in the product's merit, but that the latter has a more pronounced impact. However, the effects are attenuated when contextual cues explain the incongruities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)881-897
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Research in Marketing
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023


This research was supported by research grants from the Jeremy Coller Foundation, the Henry Crown Institute of Business Research, the ISRAEL SCIENCE FOUNDATION (grant No. 1197/15 ) and The Open University of Israel's research fund (grant no. 514249).

FundersFunder number
Henry Crown Institute of Business Research
Open University of Israel514249
Israel Science Foundation1197/15
Jeremy Coller Foundation


    • Confidence
    • Incongruity
    • Number of reviews
    • Sales volume


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