Examining the Impacts of Positive and Negative Online Hotel Reviews

By Shahin Sharifi Lecturer, Macquarie University | February 17, 2019

These days, consumers are likely to read online consumer reviews to learn about others' experiences and thoughts regarding a concept of their interest. Consumers were and are exposed to communications from firms (e.g., hotels) in form of promotional materials in different channels. The difference nowadays is that a consumer also has access to communications from real consumers who have tried services promoted by hotels and can attest whether or not a hotel delivered what they had promised or at least their services had been up to scratch.

In the clash between communications from hotels and communications from other customers, a prospective customer is likely to trust a fellow customer more than a focal firm, because a fellow customer would be considered an ingroup, while a hotel would be considered an outgroup. Accordingly, a hotel's success and sometimes even their survival may heavily depend on consumers' evaluations of their online consumer review.

Following the aforementioned clash in communications available to prospective customers (i.e., hotels versus their customers), it is critical to uncover how prospective customers would react to a facility versus their customers. That is, for a hotel, it would be pivotal to understand how much prospective customers would trust them upon reading a review about them. Notwithstanding, to a greater extent, it would be imperative to uncover how much a prospective customer would trust a review in the first place. For example, if a prospective customer did not trust a review for some reasons, then would it affect his or her evaluations of the hotel? Would any measures to address consumers' positive and/or negative feedback affect prospective customers' evaluations of consumer reviews.

Most of the existing research on online consumer reviews focuses on consumer trust in a focal facility upon reading a positive or negative review about them. The issues in the current knowledge regarding reactions to online reviews are bifold. Firstly, many reviews may conceivably be a mix of positive and negative pieces-that is, a mixed review. Overlooking the evaluations of mixed reviews significantly limits our knowledge about the impact of online reviews on consumer behavior and choice.

Secondly, before trusting a facility of focus in a review, a prospective customer needs to trust the review, per se. Hence, a precursor to consumer trust in a focal facility is the credibility of reviews-that is, the processes underpinning the evaluation of online consumer reviews may even weigh more than the outcome of such reviews, an issue overlooked in the existing research on online consumer reviews.

The current research argues that prospective customers of a hotel would consider a negative review a reviewer's retaliation against a hotel. Conversely, they would consider a positive review a reviewer's gratitude for quality services by a hotel. Relatedly, they would consider a mixed review a mix of both; however, owing to the asymmetry inherent in mixed reviews, prospective customers would have difficulty assessing whether the experience in a mixed review was positive or negative. Hence, this may reduce the credibility of mixed reviews. In this sense, the findings revealed that consumers trusted positive reviews the most, followed by mixed reviews, and then negative reviews.

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.