January 8, 2012

The value of reviews

As The History List is developed, one of the features we'll add are reviews. 

A recent and very frank comment on a LinkedIn group showed what can result when someone is disappointed by their history-related event experience, in this case, a walking tour of an historic area:.

 A recent review that appeared in a LinkedIn group.

Use and impact

 One of the companies that provides services for large companies that want to include reviews on their site compiled statistics that show the extent to which people use reviews and the impact that they have on purchase decisions:

  • 61% of people rely on user reviews for product information or research before a buying decision is made. (Razorfish, 2008)

  • 67% of shoppers spend more online after recommendations from online community of friends. (Internet Retailer, September 2009)
  • Consumer reviews are significantly more trusted -- nearly 12 times more -- than descriptions that come from manufacturers, according to a survey of US mom Internet users by online video review site EXPO.  (eMarketer, February 2010)

  • 90% of consumers online trust recommendations from people they know; 70% trust opinions of unknown users. (Econsultancy, July 2009)

  • When asked what sources "influence your decision to use or not use a particular company, brand or product”  71% claim reviews from family members or friends exert a "great deal" or "fair amount" of influence. (Harris Interactive, June 2010)

  • Friends still play an important role in influencing consumers. Eighty-three percent of online shoppers said they are interested in sharing information about their purchases with people they know, while 74 percent are influenced by the opinions of others in their decision to buy the product in the first place. (Manage Smarter, September 2009)

While these describe product purchases, it wouldn't be surprising to learn that reviews are at least as important in selecting destination travel and events.  Among other reasons, this may be the only opportunity the person has to visit a particular site, and unlike products, you can't return a bad experience with a trip.


One of the questions I've received from my earliest experience with companies marketing online dates to early 1995 and the issue of fairness.  Working with one of the world's leading adventure travel companies, the question they raised is what happens if someone unreasonable goes online and says disparaging things about their trip.

The fact is that an unreasonable person is usually as easy to recognize online as they are in-person.  The problem only arises if there are no other reviews and if the provider being reviewed doesn't have a chance to respond. 

In the example shown above, the comment was posted within the last 12 hours and it was the only comment about that tour.  It will be interesting to see if the tour organizer responds or if others post comments or reviews.  The most credible comments and reviews will come from satisfied customers or visitors, and organizations can use a few different approaches to encourage them to post.

January 10, 2012 update: Lori did respond.  Read the rest of the story in this post.

Designing the ratings and reviews system for The History List

Our goal is to create a way that is easy for people to do the following:

  • Post ratings and reviews--Among other things, we'll provide at least three variables to rate, such as content, logistics (e.g., parking and lines at the ticket booth), and value. 
  • Ask and answer questions--Such as recommendations for when to arrive or how to plan their day that so that they're able to take in as much in at a large event as possible.  

These will help ensure high-quality content:

  • Using real names
  • Flagging inappropriate content
  • Marking comments and answers from those responsible for an event, exhibit, or venue so that they stand out visually

If you have questions or suggestions about the design of this feature, please send them in.

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