Interesting new entry in my published papers alerts: a paper on Herd behavior in purchasing books online
, which attempts to prove that information on sales and user ratings positively influence purchasing behavior. Which is pretty obvious, if you think of it; with so much informationa available, if you buy a book with low ratings you're on your own.
Although the general idea of the paper was interesting, I didn't like how it was carried out; instead of using real data from a real online bookseller, they used students who had to decide whether they would buy or not; thus, what you are measuring is not really purchasing behavior, but purchasing intention.
Besides, I think that the phenomenon is a bit more complex. Reviews influence not only sales (but not always, as shown by my -now defunct- HP7 statistics site
), but also other reviews; even with declining sales, average reviews were surprisingly stable, which points to a retro-feedback effect that is broken for external reasons.
Besides, another problem is that it really does not prove herd
behavior; there's no flocking, no follow the leader, or nothing pointing to a madness of crowds
behavior. All in all, a bit disappointing. But interesting as a first step.