User reviews on travel sites can “dramatically increase” booking rates, and soliciting reviews can increase the number and rate of good reviews.
That is the view of Andy Phillipps, chairman of review site Reevoo and founder of accommodation site booking.com.
Phillipps told the Institute of Travel and Tourism (ITT) conference in Barbados: “The more review content you have the better the conversion rate.”
However, Conrad Advertising media and planning director Nick Henley said: “Reviews are deal breakers rather than deal makers.
“Reviews are rarely the medium that creates the interest [in a holiday or destination]. Travel reviews can be over-credited with creating conversion when they don’t monitor conversion.”
Phillipps argued: “Review content can dramatically increase sales, and being proactive nearly always brings benefits.”
He reported a survey which suggested 88% read online reviews before booking, and argued: “The likelihood of purchasing [a hotel room] is three times higher among those who look at reviews.”
Phillipps added: “There are nearly always better scores [on conversion] when [hotels] ask for feedback.”
The Reevoo chairman told the ITT: “A lot of customers are terrified of doing this. [But] bad reviews will be seen somewhere. If they are seen on your site, you can deal with it. Good companies monitor their bad feedback.”
Phillipps said: “If consumers don’t see bad reviews, they think you’re fiddling it. [But] consumers seeing bad reviews are more likely to purchase. They want to know what is wrong before they book.”
He added: “If you wait for feedback and don’t prompt it, the reviews are just by people who are pissed off. When sites are passive, 20% of reviews are bad. When active, 6% bad.”
Phillipps said a majority of users don’t trust even a “trusted brand” to give trustworthy feedback on their own products.
Yet he said: “Half the people who write reviews say they want to be engaged with a brand and will answer queries [about it]. Consumers are surprisingly willing to engage with a brand. You should let them.
“You get a wealth of information, not just increasing conversion. You have an ongoing consumer focus group if you engage.”
Henley said: “We asked 1,000 adults if they use reviews and 58% said yes; 22% [of those] said they would provide feedback without being asked.”
But he added: “The major source of information on holidays is still word of mouth [from friends and family].”