New research highlights motivations for review

Key points to remember:

  • An Airbnb experience reveals a more efficient way to generate reviews online.
  • Maintaining access to reviews for both the seller and the customer results in an increase in reviews, as well as greater review accuracy.

CATONSVILLE, MD, November 3, 2021 – Online sellers and marketers are familiar with reputation systems that seek to understand and shape online reputations, often in the form of online reviews.

Stay at an Airbnb property and you’ll likely be asked to provide feedback on your stay in the form of a review. This helps Airbnb and the host better understand what they have done well and what they could improve for future customers. It also helps other consumers make purchasing decisions based on the reviews they see.

But if you are the consumer, you are not the only one who can give your opinion. The host can submit a review on the guest. This helps Airbnb track and monitor the behaviors of its own customers, which can help the platform avoid issues with future stays involving the same customer. It can also help the platform create marketing incentives for “model” customers.

A challenge for online marketers is that not all reputation systems work the same, and the right strategy may depend on the rules of the reputation system. For example, reputation systems differ as to who is allowed to review and what information is displayed (eg, notes and text).

A group of researchers set out to assess one of the most common reputation system design decisions, which centers on when the user can see comments written about themselves.

The study, to appear in the November issue of the journal INFORMS Marketing Sciences, “Reciprocity and Unveiling in Two-Sided Reputation Systems: Evidence from an Experiment on Airbnb,” is the author of Andrey Fradkin of Boston University and MIT’s Digital Economy Initiative; Elena Grewal of Yale University; and David Holtz of the University of California, Berkeley, and the MIT Digital Economy Initiative.

“Online reviews provide valuable data for platforms and marketers,” says Fradkin. “But the problem is, for many platforms the reviews are insufficient, leaving both the platform and the marketer in the dark about what went well and what didn’t.”

The researchers decided to use a large-scale experiment on Airbnb to investigate a potential way to reduce the problem of missing and biased reviews.

Processing of the experiment featured a simultaneous revelation review system where guest and host each had the opportunity to meet again before criticisms were revealed. In the study control group, reviews were revealed to users and the public immediately after they were submitted.

“The design of the control group left open the possibility that the second reviewer could reciprocate or retaliate against the first review,” says Fradkin. “In the treatment group, this was impossible because the first opinions were hidden from the second reviewer. “

“Ultimately, we found that when reviews were masked until both parties had submitted their reviews, the time to receive reviews was shortened and reviews were more likely to be accurate,” said Fradkin. The authors argue that these effects are motivated by curiosity and commercial interest. Users want to see what has been written about them right away and quickly submit their reviews accordingly. Users may also want others on Airbnb to see these reviews.

Link to the study

About INFORMS and Marketing Sciences

Marketing Sciences is a leading, peer-reviewed, research-driven scholarly marketing journal using quantitative approaches to study all aspects of the interface between consumers and businesses. It is published by INFORMS, the premier international association for decision and data science. More information is available at Where @informed.

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