When our family travels to a new place, we usually get restaurant recommendations from friends who have been there before; we check Lonely Planet tour guides; or, we look at the reviews on Google maps.
Have you ever used Google maps for local recommendations?
We only started using it recently. But, so far so good. We have found a couple of gems. And the recommendations of specific dishes to try (or avoid) have been quite helpful, too.
When judging the reviews, I consider factors such as the recency of the comment, the reviewer’s ranking, or the content of the review. I never considered whether the comment had been posted via a mobile phone or a desktop… but, according to a paper by Lauren Grewal and Andrew T. Stephen, recently published in the Journal of Marketing Research, for some customers that could a very important factor.
Grewal and Stephen conducted a series of studies to investigate whether the device from where the online review was posted (i.e., mobile vs desktop) had an impact on the effectiveness of the review (in terms of the reader’s intention to buy, after reading the review). Their studies were based on Trip Advisor reviews for hotels, and are reported in the paper entitled “In Mobile We Trust: The Effects of Mobile Versus Non-Mobile Reviews on Consumer Purchase Intentions”. The final version of the paper is available here. An earlier, free version is available here.
Based on their studies, Grewal and Stephen concluded that, in the case of positive online reviews, potential customers were much more likely to consider booking the hotel when they thought that the review had been posted from a mobile, than when they though that it had been posted from a desktop (Mean mobile = 3.70 vs Mean desktop = 2.65). I say “thought” because, in their experiments, Grewal and Stephen used a review that they had created, not a real one, where they could manipulate the label “via mobile’ vs ‘via desktop’:
The authors also ran a series of associated studies to try and unpack why the device had such an effect. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they concluded that the research participants perceived that writing a review on a mobile is more effortful than writing on a desktop. In turn, this perception triggered the ‘effort heuristic’ – i.e., it worked as a cue, or mental shortcut, for the research participants, leading them see those reviewers as more trustworthy and their reviews as more credible.
Now, let’s be clear, it’s not the device that matters. The key factor is the reader’s perception of the truthfulness of the review. And, in this particular context, in the absence of other indicators, the device worked as a proxy for the intention of the reviewer and, thus, the quality of the review. In other contexts, the fact that the review was posted from a mobile device might not make any difference, or it might even have the opposite effect. Nonetheless, it is clear that contextual information can trigger mental shortcuts, which shape how the reviews are perceived.
Reading this paper reminded me of a conversation with a friend, who is also a hotelier, about different online review platforms. He analyses carefully the comments that customers leave about his hotel, on different platforms. He noticed that the type of comment varies for different platforms, and we were wondering whether the readers of each platform might also pay attention to different aspects of the message. At the time, I thought that that was an interesting question… and this paper made me even more curious about the answer. Now, I just need to find a student that is also intrigued by this question!