Thumbs up or thumbs down: Customer ratings on the Internet now play a major role in purchasing decisions - this applies in particular to travel and hotel bookings. A study conducted by the IUBH University of Applied Sciences together with the tour operator TUI and the rating platform TrustYou has now investigated the exact extent of this influence on "digital natives" and how ratings should be integrated into websites. The results show that the vast majority trust customer ratings. Travel businesses should therefore see ratings as an important decision-making factor that provides their customers with trustworthy, authentic and instructive information.
Online reviews play a crucial role in the booking process
"Rating platforms on the Internet give customers the opportunity to present their views about a trip easily and anonymously to a large readership," says Prof Dr Ina zur Oven-Krockhaus, head of the tourism department at IUBH Dual Studies, who co-authored the study together with her colleagues Prof Dr Pascal Mandelartz and Jan Steffen. "As a mini influencer, the consumer thus elevates him- or herself to the role of a travel expert." At the same time, customer reviews are perceived as trustworthy and authentic, especially by 18 to 28-year-olds. Consequently, ratings play an important role in the purchasing decision. The most important results of the study can be summarized as follows:
- Significance: For 83% of the digital target group, online ratings play an important or very important role in determining their own booking decisions. 40% rate their own travels as satisfactory, 42% as dissatisfactory. 34% always rate their own travels.
- Characteristics: Young travellers find an authentic style of writing (73%), detailed information (69%) and ratings that are not older than 3 months (66%) to be particularly trustworthy.
- Source of evaluations: For hotel bookings, customers particularly trust the ratings on Booking.com (68%), followed by Google (61%), TripAdvisor and Expedia (30% each).
- Presentation: 68% of respondents prefer numerical scales for the presentation of ratings due to their clarity. 51% prefer a combination of visual (e.g. stars) and text formats. 29% prefer widgets – i.e. graphical windows that open as an extra window in the browser by clicking on a symbol embedded in the website.
Conclusion: Customers want clarity and authenticity when obtaining information
"Anyone who uses the Internet is permanently surrounded by a mixture of classic advertising, social media postings, advertisements, product placements, as well as misinformation," is how Mandelartz describes the context. "According to our study, in times of information overload customers want less complexity, simple and clear design and verified authenticity.” It is therefore crucial for travel companies to provide customers with information that is easy to consume and easy to compare. "Summaries and highlights of the most relevant features of an accommodation on the basis of reviews, scores and widgets combined with the travel company’s professional visual content and user-generated content appeal to young travellers and help them to make the best possible booking decision," is how Prof Dr Ina zur Oven-Krockhaus sums up the results.