Chinese researchers have published results of an investigation into how content and source attribution of online reviews influences hotel booking intentions of business travelers based in Mainland China.
Journal citation: Zhao, Xinyuan (Roy), Wang, Liang, Guo, Xiao and Law, Rob. (2016). The Influence of Online Reviews to Online Hotel Booking Intentions. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 20(27), 1343-1364
Researchers were able to identify a number of potentially significant attributes of online reviews: usefulness, reviewer expertise, timeliness, volume, valence (positive or negative) and comprehensiveness.
Usefulness was defined as the degree to which consumers believe the review would facilitate booking decisionmaking.
Unless the review Web site publishes reviewer ratings, consumers' assessments of reviewer expertise tend to be based on numbers of relevant reviews posted.
Timeliness is a factor because consumers tend to believe that reviews become less valuable as time elapses.
Researchers believe that a high volume of reviews for a given hotel may induce a perception of lowered risk for consumers.
Previous research had found that consumers place more weight on negative reviews than on positive ones.
Comprehensive - detailed and complete - reviews may produce more bookings by enhancing the connection between reviewer and consumer.
Regression analysis found significant positive causal relationships between five of these attributes and online booking intentions: usefulness, reviewer expertise, timeliness, volume and comprehensiveness; and also significant negative relationships between negative reviews and booking intentions. But no significant positive correlation was found between positive reviews and booking intentions.
(So bad reviews produced significantly fewer bookings, but good reviews in and of themselves didn't produce more bookings.)
Researchers created a 29-question survey and tested it on a sample of 109 undergraduate students at Chinese universities. They found correlation coefficients ranging from 0.620 to 0.874 between the survey-instrument questions and the identified review attributes. (So responses to the survey questions should be reasonable predictors of booking behavior as influenced by the various review attributes.)
Survey data were collected from 303 respondents of whom 269 provided "complete and reliable" questionnaires.
Of the 269 respondents whose data went into the final results:
- 58.6% were male.
- 60.1% were aged 25-30 years.
- 93.6% held a bachelor's degree.
- 90.8% reported being savvy Internet users.
- But only 36.8% had ever booked a hotel online.
Correlation analysis of the final data found significant relationships between all review attributes except positive valence and booking.
The two review attributes having the most effect on booking were:
- Negative valence (leading to not booking)
The reviewers point out that a potential weakness of their study lies in the fact that interrelationships among the various review attributes were not considered. (Like: how many positive, comprehensive reviews by expert reviewers does it take to overcome the effect of a negative review posted by an unknown?)
Regarding actionability of the results, the reviewers say:
"Hospitality practitioners could enhance consumer review management by applying the six underlying factors of online review in the present study to find out the ways of increasing consumers’ booking intentions in the specific hotel contexts."
This is interesting research and I think it really is globally actionable (to a point) despite some limitations imposed by the size (269 respondents) and demographics of the survey population (college-graduate Chinese business travelers aged predominantly 25-30, of whom fewer than 100 had ever before booked a hotel online).
- It's good to have a lot of recent reviews.
- Negative reviews must be avoided - keep the guests happy
- Make sure - by linking or whatever it takes - that potential guests can find reviews of your hotel on all sites where expert reviewers hang out and write useful, comprehensive reviews.