Reading reviews is an essential stage of the travel planning journey – so much so that half of the global TripAdvisor community wouldn’t book a property if it didn’t have any reviews.
As the world of online travel reviews continues to grow and evolve, so too does the way reviews are consumed. According to one study, TripAdvisor users read multiple reviews across several sources before making a decision on where to stay, visit or eat. In fact, 79% of TripAdvisor users will read at least 6-12 reviews across 4-10 properties before deciding where to stay. The research also illustrates that businesses with lots of reviews to choose from, fresh anecdotes from customers and thoughtful responses from staff are more likely to appeal to users. With the results revealing that four in five TripAdvisor users believe that hotels which respond to reviews care more about their guests. In fact, the entire travel planning journey is changing.
In a constantly connected world with endless options and multiple platforms to choose from, global TripAdvisor users are indicating that they are looking for a streamlined way to research, organise and book their trips. According to the findings 63% of TripAdvisor users want one convenient location to read reviews, compare prices and book.
“The majority of our users are coming to TripAdvisor not just to read reviews but also to compare options for their trip, make an informed decision and book,” said Barbara Messing, CMO TripAdvisor. “With travelers now finding the end to end solution they need on the site, peer generated reviews are as important as ever. Just as we continue to encourage our community to share their travel experiences, we remind businesses of the importance of engaging with travelers and responding to those all-important reviews.”
According to research company Gartner, as much as 15% of online reviews will be fake. Gartner published a report called ‘The Consequences of Fake Fans, ‘Likes’ and Reviews on Social Network’ which found many marketers engaging in both positive and negative review schemes using either cash, promotions or coupons as incentives to write a review.
Review sites now play an enormous role in the travel decision making process. Reading reviews from other travelers is the 4th most popular travel planning activity, for both leisure and business travelers. Knowing TripAdvisor has over 60 million unique visitors per month, and over 75 million reviews, it thus becomes a key driver in both traffic and opinion-making towards travel brands.
In another survey, 81% of travelers find user reviews important when determining which hotel to stay at during their trip. Most online travel agencies (OTA), i.e. Expedia, Bookings, Priceline, Travelocity, etc. have their own user reviews. Thus, reviews play an increasingly important role in the travel and hospitality world, but also in most industries where we seek recommendations from friends, colleagues or industry experts prior to a given transaction. In light of these recent findings, companies need to take action in order to protect their brand’s online reputation. Facebook has started cleaning up on its fraudulent accounts and alleged counterfeit “likes”.
But one should not expect this kind of clean-up with travel-related review sites anytime soon, so travel brands must take things into their own hands. Managing reviews is just an extension of the many activities a brand should engage in to properly manage its online presence. These activities include:
– Engaging on a consistent basis on your social media profiles
– Having a content-rich, transactional web site.
– A corporate blog
– Managing PR & Media communications, offline and online
– Monitoring forums, communities, industry blogs and chatrooms
– Monitoring and responding to review sites
– Responding to comments left in any of the above platforms, demonstrating genuine customer focus While some of these activities seem pretty obvious, only about 30% of travel brands actively manage their online presence. In other words, close to 70% of hotels, restaurants, transportation companies or attractions don’t bother answering comments, suggestions or complaints made. According to this LiveOps infographic:
– 60% of companies don’t respond to customers via social channels.
– 70% of all complaints made by customers on social media go unanswered.
Brands need to realize that managing their online presence goes beyond merely having a really nice web site, publishing regular posts on their Facebook account and tweeting auto-promotional information about their destination or resort. Customers expect a dynamic and engaged presence, on social media and review sites, which will demonstrate both care and empathy from the travel brand. It will also go a long away in countering fake reviews, if and when they do occur.