The Effect of Product Recommendations on Online Investor Behaviors

24 Mar 2023  ·  Ruiqi Rich Zhu, Cheng He, Yu Jeffrey Hu ·

Despite the popularity of product recommendations on online investment platforms, few studies have explored their impact on investor behaviors. Using data from a global e-commerce platform, we apply regression discontinuity design to causally examine the effects of product recommendations on online investors' mutual fund investments. Our findings indicate that recommended funds experience a significant rise in purchases, especially among low socioeconomic status investors who are most influenced by these recommendations. However, investors tend to suffer significantly worse investment returns after purchasing recommended funds, and this negative impact is also most significant for investors with low socioeconomic status. To explain this disparity, we find investors tend to gather less information and expend reduced effort in fund research when buying recommended funds. Furthermore, investors' redemption timing of recommended funds is less optimal than non-recommended funds. We also find that recommended funds experience a larger return reversal than non-recommended funds. In conclusion, product recommendations make investors behave more irrationally and these negative consequences are most significant for investors with low socioeconomic status, which can amplify wealth inequality among investors in financial markets.

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