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Online Reviews | Truth, Reliability, Influence

We all have encountered them in some way or the other. Buying a new mobile, looking for a hotel, ordering food, we go for all the five stars, ensuring that we get the best of the best but does it actually turn out that way? In this post, let's discuss on how prevalent are online reviews and where are we heading to with these as our single source of truth.

What are online reviews?

I think most of you reading this post would be familiar with this. If you've ever heard back from your Uber guy, "Ma'am please give me 5 star" or just "5 star" or sometimes just a hand gesture, fingers spread wide, indicating five and requesting nods from the head, congratulations, you've successfully participated in the online review system. Needless to say this has become a very prominent part of our everyday life.

Why were reviews first introduced?

There are multiple reasons catering to multiple situations the service providers wanted to handle. While most of the reviews like those on Amazon, App Store, hotel booking sites, movies tell you about how good an expected service or show is, some of them are also helpful for the service providers to analyze the performance of their workers or partners like in the case of Uber or food delivery businesses. If you come to think of them, they exist because there's is no other possible way to accomplish the task, reviews intend to perform. Honestly, major decisions in our lives are dependent on reviews now. I book a room, a movie, order food, select a travel package, pick a doctor, ask for a plumber, go to a parlor, order a product all on the basis of reviews.

Why are they so popular?

Reviews are powerful, more than you think. Study shows that "84 Percent of People Trust Online Reviews As Much As Friends" and this only makes sense. We believe in hear say, we are biologically programmed in that way. If four people say it is good, no one said it's bad, we will believe it's good. That's mob mentality and sought after affirmation about an opinion or thing, something that is so deep rooted in every one of us socially and psychologically that often times we fail to notice the instincts that are actually at play when we go through reviews. Remember the article on psychological aspects while using social media, this one will chip in an a valid example there as well. Reviews are mending opinions everywhere, they are shifting customer base across businesses.

Are they reliable?

How was your last experience? This is dicey, especially because there is no way to validate the authenticity of the review. My personal experience says they aren't giving us a true picture. Review is a platform open for everyone, anyone with a profile can leave a review. While this openness and transparency is an inherent trait of this feature to work, this is also problematic in certain sense. Since reviews are so powerful in attracting customers, businesses have started investing in this area profoundly. While the major review providers like Yelp, Google etc have it in their guidelines that customer reviews shouldn't be bought, people still can find their workarounds. Countries like Bangladesh, India etc. where unemployment hits people hard buying real people into providing fake reviews doesn't look like an impossible scenario. Heard of CAPTCHA farms ? There have been frequent cases when the reviews and pics of the hotel room you see online differ significantly than how they look like in reality, when the "superb taste" food review is actually not relatable (though taste is abstractly personal). It's difficult to capture real reviews.

Until it's for product a false review is still tolerable but when it comes to hotels, a false review is a safety issue, when it comes to food, a false review might be a health concern.

Do you think there should be a standard or law around this and that we don't take the review system this casually when the repercussions are clearly significant.

What's your opinion? How'd you like to solve this? Do you think review systems will still be prominent ten years down the lane?

Let me know in the comments, also if you like this article, share and subscribe :)

I'll see you in next post soon, till then

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Cheers ~


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