Thursday, April 12, 2012

Verified vs unverified reviews

Our good digital friends at Travelbug appear to have a bit of a quandary. 

Should they continue to allow an open feedback policy, where any member of the public can upload reviews on Travelbug's accommodation subscriber listings? Or should they restrict this function to consumers that have experienced a stay after making a reservation via the website?

At the moment Travelbug differentiates the reviews on its site as "Verified"  - reviews prompted with an email sent to bookers AND "Unverified" - reviews that can be posted by anyone willing to leave a name and an email address.

Interestingly, Travelbug have been crunching the numbers and by using 12 months of data they have concluded that unverified reviews are over twice as likely to post a negative review. From verified reviews, only 6 percent are negative compared to 14 percent of unverified reviews.

Should we be suprised by these results? Would it be fair to assume that guests that receive a personalised email prompting a review on their previous stay would be less likely to respond negatively than someone that is self-motivated? 

Is it naive to assume that there is some skullduggery from the collective source of unverified reviews, because the percentage of "negative" reviews are higher than verified reviews? Would we expect unverified reviews to have a higher proportion of negative reviews? Is 14 percent excessive?

In a study on consumer online feedback behavior, Spain-based ReviewPro decided to look at every one of the 90 million online reviews it had on its system to establish whether travel-related reviews left all over the web are generally positive, negative or somewhere down the middle.

From this massive data-mining exercise, the reviews, including those in ten different languages from around the world, came in as follows:
  • Positive – 60%
  • Neutral – 28%
  • Negative – 12%
The data was analysed from 65 review sites including the dominant accommodation review site,  TripAdvisor that dwarfs all others. Interestingly this has given some insight as to what the likely breakdown of reviews that are posted on TripAdvsor that have have simply maintained the line that the majority of its reviews are positive.

Although they don't allow "Neutral" reviews, Travelbug's stats to me look like they are about industry standard and in my opinion the current regime is probably painting an overall reasonable picture of the guest experiences at their accommodation subscriber properties.
Travelbug are letting its social media followers decide if unverified reviews should be dumped, by running a poll over on their Travelbug Facebook page and the results will be interesting to follow.

Like many OTAs, Travelbug's quandary is to satisfy the end consumer by providing compelling content AND accommodation providers that provide room inventory.

This can be a difficult balancing act.

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