Hotel reviews on sites such as TripAdvisor, Hotels.com and Yelp have transformed the travel experience. Mihaylo Assistant Professor of Management Ellen Kim examines who reads reviews and how readers process positive and negative reviews.
Take a look at your favorite online review site and you will be deluged with competing positive and negative testimonials. What do you do when you see one positive review followed by one negative review? Do you really trust the reviews anyway?
Consensus vs. Sequence of Reviews
Mihaylo Assistant Professor of Management Ellen Kim conducted a 2015 study, “How do consumers process online hotel reviews? The effects of eWOM consensus and sequence,” to determine how the consensus and sequence of hotel reviews impact consumer attitudes toward hotels. The study appeared in the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Technology.
“I was interested to know how people process all of the competing reviews they read online,” says Kim. “We found that consensus among reviews overrides the sequence in the minds of consumers.” This means that if the majority of the reviews are negative, the reader will get the message even if there are one or two positive reviews. Yet if the reviews paint an evenly mixed picture, whatever message displays first is what consumers are likely to base their decision on.
To conduct the study, Kim and Chung Hun Lee of the Department of Hotel and Tourism Management at Sejong University in Seoul, Korea, created hotel reviews based on TripAdvisor content, though modified as desired for the study. Undergraduate student participants from the two universities were asked to imagine that they were looking at the hotel reviews to determine a place to stay while on a trip to another city. After reading 20 reviews, the participants reflected their attitudes toward the hotels and the likelihood that they would stay at the establishments on a seven-point bipolar scale.