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Can reels replace ratings on internet?
The relevance of ratings and reviews to gain trust!
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For starters, I’m Dharmesh Ba, a behavioural researcher uncovering insights around building digital products for India. This newsletter is my attempt to make actionable insights accessible to the startup community.
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Wanna discover authentic Chinese restaurants? - Look for a 3.5 rating
On Sept 2022, a viral TikTok in the U.S. claimed that the best way to discover an authentic Chinese restaurant was to go to yelp and look for restaurants with 3.5 stars. Not 3 or 5, precisely 3.5. But why? If the restaurant is rated 4 and above, it implies that too many white people like it. The taste and service are customised for them. Authentic Chinese restaurants are great in food, but their notion of customer service is different. The authentic ones do not actively come to the visitors and ask for the order or give out refills. Hence these restaurants are rated lower for their customer service. On the other hand, restaurants with a rating of 2.5 or lesser might be a bad sign for their food quality. Hence it is believed that 3.5 is the sweet spot to find authentic Chinese restaurants.
Online ratings and reviews have become increasingly important in the modern consumer experience. Customers rely on the ratings and reviews of others to help them make informed decisions about the products and services they purchase.
Except they could be misleading.
Loss of context:
The context is often lost when ratings and reviews are left online. Reviews are usually written by anonymous people and can be vague, giving no insight into their experience or the context of their rating. Moreover, people are more likely to feel compelled to express their anger and dissatisfaction when something has gone wrong. This behaviour is called negativity bias, which is the tendency for people to pay more attention to and remember negative information than positive ones.
In some cases, Indians rate an app they love with 1 star on the play store. That's because they equate 1 star to 1st rank or 1st prize. Here is a sample review from an Animall user.
Fake reviews and ratings:
Since rating and reviews have become our way to trust things online, businesses have cracked the art of manufacturing fake reviews. Fake review groups on Facebook allow business owners to request positive reviews in exchange for money. In such scenarios, it becomes challenging to differentiate the fake ones from the authentic ones.
This is not a big revelation. So, why am I talking about it? Ratings and reviews may not have changed much, but how we look at them is changing.
What's your context of rating?
I recently conducted an online research study with a final-year college student. I requested he book a resort in Goa to spend time with his friends for the New Year. The participant hovered over the photographs of the resorts and checked them out. I asked what he was optimising for?
He said, 'So first, I look for the exterior photos (of the resort). Since we are going on a trip, I prefer a slightly photogenic hotel. So that nice pictures could be clicked.'
I further asked him if taking photographs in front of the resort was standard behaviour among his friends. To which he replied.
'This is a general behaviour between my friends and everywhere. They post pictures of their stay whenever they go on a trip. Wherever they stay, they post their first picture on social media platforms. I generally look towards photogenic hotels, giving them a feel-good vibe.’
At this point, I understood that he was looking for a vibe check, and I nudged him further to understand his view on hotel ratings he said
'4.1 out of 4 is a very good rating. But it signifies more towards the services which are being offered for people who went to stay at that place. They liked that place, but I need to figure out who are the people who are staying there. They could be families. They could be old age people. They could be youngsters like me. So, until I don't know who rated it, I won't be looking that much towards the rating. If it is very, very bad, then again, I would like to go and see towards the comments that why if somebody has said it is very, very bad.'
I realised in this context, he was keener on getting the vibe right than being stuck with the ratings. Though ratings are a part of the decision-making process, they become secondary and are taken with a grain of salt.
Reels over reviews and ratings.
In another study about understanding urban food behaviour, I asked participants what influences them to try new places. Most of them replied that social media recommendations play a significant role, especially Instagram reels.
Instagram reels in the last two years have emerged as a go-to place to find serendipitous things online. Food influencers have leveraged reels to their advantage to gather more followers.
One of my study participants said that she has a list curated from the reels shared with her partner to make sure that they visit them during the weekends.
When I asked her the difference between discovering restaurants on Zomato vs discovering restaurants on Instagram, she said
'I used to discover restaurants through Zomato. We would browse the ones nearby and go through reviews. But Instagram has changed the way we experience food. You see the restaurant, and you see the food. They also give you recommendations for what you could order. It puts you into that space, pushing you and giving you the feeling of wanting to try something. This need not be just the prominent influencers, and even regular people have a similar impact on Instagram. I follow you on Twitter and have seen your posts about specific places. I ended up sharing it with my family, and we went about it, and ok, we should go here next. So it happens, even a friend of mine posted a story a few days ago just a meal that she was eating, and the meal looked delicious, and we wanted to go to that place. So it is too influenceable and impressionable. '
I loved her perspective and articulation. To think about it, even my food exploration around the city started after I religiously started following a few food influencers on Instagram. On the other hand, when I start searching for restaurants on Zomato for dine-in, it shows me what is popular with the highest ratings but what's the fun in doing the most popular thing?
Influencers on Instagram and youtube are not foolproof solutions to overcome fake reviews, but they cannot be manufactured at a scale. Also, when influencers recommend a place/product or a service, their reputation is at stake, making them cautious.
This trend of overlooking ratings and reviews might evolve in the coming years, and we may find a novel way to establish trust online. What has been your experience with ratings and reviews online?
Do share your views in the comment below.
That’s all for today. I hope you have a great week ahead. If you liked this post, you can show your love by sending me a book to read, or you could help me land this post on your WhatsApp groups or slack. Thanks for reading.
Thanks for reading,
With love Dharmesh Ba