This article was originally published on HotelExecutive.com. The original content can be found here.
By Alan Young, SVP, Marketing and Strategic Partnerships, TrustYou
The Changing Review Landscape
Ten years ago, travelers had to base their booking decisions on traditional advertisements and marketing. This was the only available information to go off of when booking. Then, user-generated content came along and changed everything, introducing user-generated content to the travel industry. Travelers could turn to the opinions of their peers to get an inside look at what the hotel was really like.
Now, there are hundreds of platforms where travelers can write reviews and voice their opinions. These platforms are home to an abundance of content – hundreds of millions of reviews. Traveler reviews have rapidly become a highly influential element of the travel shopping process – they can inspire consumers to hit the “buy” button or quickly sour the view of a property. The explosion of travel review content has dramatically increased transparency and provided consumers with a wealth of detailed information about individual hotel properties worldwide.
Yet the proliferation of user-generated content has also created new challenges. Travelers have so much information at their fingertips that many have trouble making sense of it all. For hoteliers, it has become increasingly difficult to keep track of the enormous volume of sentiments generated about their properties and even harder to anticipate or influence what travelers are reading.
According to an independent PhoCusWright study commissioned by TripAdvisor, 80% of travelers read at least 6-12 reviews before booking a hotel. While that may sound like a decent sampling, reading a handful of recent reviews for the average hotel often yields conflicting sentiments. While the “wisdom of the crowd” says that the truth will prevail, the way many travelers have traditionally used hotel reviews has made it easy for hotel shoppers to get the wrong idea. Even if the reviews are largely positive, they may do little to differentiate the property from other similar options. What’s more, reading this many reviews is time consuming and tedious for the average traveler. Who has that much time to spend doing travel research?
In the context of this content overload, hoteliers, intermediaries and traveler review websites are all recognizing the need to provide travelers with tools to help them more quickly and effectively assess a property’s value based on user-generated content. TrustYou’s mission is to positively influence traveler’s decisions – and to accomplish that goal we have developed technologies designed to help both travelers and travel companies make sense of the vast universe of online reviews and social media sentiments.
For example, TrustYou created the world’s first single score for a hotel or business – known as a TrustScore – that provides an easy-to-understand rating encompassing all online opinions of consumers around the world. Because this score provides a global, aggregate view of all ratings, it ensures that travelers are getting an accurate picture. But given the wide variation in traveler needs and preferences, we wanted to drill down even deeper to highlight the qualities that make each property unique. Enter the Meta-Review.
Meta-Reviews employ Big Data analysis and semantic technology to uncover key consumer sentiments about each hotel property..The end result is a simple, easy-to-understand overview of the property’s most important positive and negative attributes. Meta-Reviews enable shoppers and hoteliers to quickly and accurately assess the strengths and weaknesses of a given property via a simple text summary that show the most talked about and most relevant attributes of a hotel, along with some special, important-to-know ‘nuggets’ of information that are unique to that particular hotel.
For a traveler comparing two properties, knowing that one has a great location but average food, while the other has delicious food but a less-than-desirable location empowers them to choose the best property for them based on their own personal preferences.
Think of Meta-Reviews as the Cliff’s Notes for thousands and thousands of reviews; they give travelers the best possible summary of all reviews for faster, more informed booking decisions.
Personalization + Time Savings
Travelers increasingly expect a more tailored, personalized experience, and Meta-Reviews empower them to tailor travel plans to meet their needs. And with so many travelers now planning trips via smartphones and tablets, reading through dozens of reviews on a tiny screen to sort through the differences between multiple properties is just not feasible. Meta-Reviews are a really exciting development in the current travel-shopping environment because they use advanced technology to simplify and improve the traveler experience. For hoteliers, they provide a clear view of the overarching traveler rants and raves about their property.
When I talk about the best possible summary of reviews, I also talk about trust. We know that every reputation system is built on trust and Meta-Reviews are 100% objective. Our analysis is based purely on algorithms and math, without any agenda. Plus, with the sheer volume of content that is analyzed, Meta-Reviews are working with the law of big numbers, meaning that any outlier or small volume of extremely negative reviews is washed out.
Here’s How it Works
The Meta-Review takes into account the broad range of sources used worldwide, weighting verified reviews more heavily than unverified reviews and more recent reviews more heavily than non-recent reviews. Reviews are written across hundreds of sources. Beyond the top few sources, the remainder of hotel reviews is spread across a Long Tail of websites whose smaller number of reviews may yield an incomplete view. The Meta-Review provides a summary of a hotel’s reputation across all verified reviews worldwide. Furthermore, hotels may invest in improvements over time, so the Meta-Review places more weight on the most recent reviews written about a property to ensure that the summary accurately reflects what travelers are saying about a property.
The law of big numbers minimizes the impact of outliers and scoring variations across sources. Average ratings for hotels often vary dramatically depending on the source. TrustYou analyzed average ratings for 50 hotels in each of 25 major U.S. cities across popular hotel review sources. A comparison of the sources with the highest and lowest average hotel ratings (on a scale of 1-100) for each city revealed wide variation in ratings across sources.
When analyzing scores from across ten popular review sources, the range between a hotel’s highest and lowest average score was nearly 16 points – a significant difference that suggests travelers may get a very different view of overall hotel quality depending on which hotel review source they access. By analyzing the entire universe of hotel ratings and reviews, Meta-Reviews provide a more accurate global view of consumer sentiment.
A summary of pros and cons lessens the power of small numbers of negative reviews. By summarizing the most important pros and cons across all reviews, Meta-Reviews put highly negative comments in the proper context. The two examples below include excerpts from a negative and positive review for 1) an independent hotel in Paris and 2) a branded hotel in Tokyo. Instead of having to decide which individual review to believe, travelers quickly get a global view of “Tops and Flops” for each property via the Meta-Review.
Independent Hotel in Paris
Negative Comment: “This place is terribly run down, smells of mildew in the few rooms we saw and the employees were actually polite (in tone), but provided some of the worst service either of us has ever experienced (and we both travel extensively).”
Positive Comment: “I would not hesitate to recommend this hotel to anyone who is looking for comfort, convenience, cleanliness and a helpful staff at a reasonable price.”
Chain Hotel in Tokyo
Negative Comment: “This is the smallest hotel room in the last 15 years of travel. A matchbox is bigger ... This hotel doesn’t understand guest service.”
Positive Comment: “Service is impeccable … The rooms are not too big for standard rooms across the world, but are considered a good size for Tokyo.”
Meta-Reviews Make For Better Search and Filtering Possibilities
Not only do Meta-Reviews provide travelers with a trusted overview of a hotel, but now all of this big data from reviews is structured. This means that it becomes simple to set up searches and filter results for hotels that fit a traveler’s specific criteria. So, for example, if I am looking for a family friendly hotel with clean rooms and a central location in Bangkok, I could search for only hotels that fit those exact requirements. It creates a more personalized experience during the search-shop-buy process by giving travelers the chance to drill down to the most relevant results in the least amount of time.
Smarter Travelers, Better Travel Experiences
Currently, TrustYou’s Meta-Reviews have a broad reach, with more than 50 million monthly impressions from more than 120 intermediaries, OTAs, Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs), Convention & Visitors Bureaus (CVBs) and GDSs. As this number grows, more and more travelers are able to make more informed, smarter travel decisions in the shortest amount of time. The way I see it, the future of how we evaluate reviews is bright, with smarter travelers making better travel experiences.
Alan Young began his hospitality/travel technology focused career 25 years ago when he began working in an operational capacity with Four Seasons Hotels based in Toronto, Ontario. During this time his interest in the technology aspect of the hospitality industry intensified and he began to work towards moving from operations into the tech side of the business. Mr. Young has held executive level positions with Newtrade Technologies (Expedia), Hotel Information Systems (Softbrands), Hotel Booking Solutions and IBS Software focused on marketing and selling software applications to the global hospitality industry. Mr. Young can be contacted at 214-377-1102 or email@example.com Extended Bio...
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