YesterYear It Was About Aggregating Ratings and Reviews
Curating Gives Reviews A Target Audience
What we need are recommendations that are targeted for a specific audience. For example, “Best Korean restaurants in Hong Kong for diners seeking best value for money”, “Best Korean restaurants for those with finer tastes”, “Healthy diners’ guide to Korean restaurants”.
While publications like Tatler, TimeOut, SassyHK, and others provide curated recommendations targeted to their demographics, they are providing the recommendations from a single person’s perspective and they have an inherent conflict of interest – they are often paid by the businesses they recommend.
Today It’s about Crowd-Curation
We want curation, but from sources without conflicts of interest, and from people with some depth of knowledge in the field we’re seeking recommendations. Many people have begun seeking recommendations from online forums or community groups feeling that those venues provide more authentic suggestions with sufficient depth of knowledge. This is today’s trend: to get crowd-curation from like-minded people.
While online forums and community groups provide us with a channel to ask fellow group members, they are not designed for finding relevant recommendations. Location-based or product-based searches are generally not features in these channels.
A platform designed specifically for crowd-curation of recommendations is what we need. On this platform, users join groups with people with similar interests, values and lifestyle. Together, they share, validate and curate recommendations. Like most social platforms, posts would be inherently trustworthy as authors hold reputational risk, and they would also be contemporary as content will be sorted on recency and popularity.
What differentiates the crowd-curation platform from other community-based social platforms is its focus on recommendations, and its flexibility to capture, organize, curate and validate content specific to the fields of interest:
Recommendations for restaurants, for example, would need to capture data on: cuisine type, location, quality of food, quality of service, decor, pictures of food, pictures of interior, etc.
Curation of restaurants would have a couple of dimensions: the targeted audience based on the group the recommendation is posted in, and what it is being recommended for (e.g. “Best dim sum for your money”).
Validation of recommendations would be based on members voting and commenting on the recommendations.
We use Instagram to discover interesting places and products. People you follow often share pictures of delicious dishes at restaurants they visit everyday, and each time you see one of those posts you really want to go to the restaurant. However, if we want to make a simple query like “Show me recommended Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong”, this cannot easily be done in Instagram. Instead, users have to resort to bookmarking posts so they could later browse through the bookmarks to remember posts they found interesting.
Perhaps it’s more pertinent to ask if people want to use social platforms for getting recommendations at all. After all, there are apps made just for reviews like Yelp, Google Places, and Openrice. Well, if you ever tried to find a restaurant to go to on one of these apps, you’d know it’s not easy. They do not curate, and the reviews are not often updated.
And that’s why we often resort to branded articles such as Timeout’s “Top 10 Italian Restaurants in Hong Kong”. We like them as they’re generally well-written, and they’re often updated within the last few months – they’re relevant. We also tend to trust these curations given that they are branded recommendations. However, we also know that there’s an inherent conflict of interest in most publications; publishers are often paid by the businesses they recommend.
We know people want up-to-date recommendations from trusted sources curated to their tastes, but what solutions have worked that help people discover?
Online forums and community-based social apps provide part of the solution. They enable users to solicit recommendations from like-minded people in real-time thereby getting up-to-date recommendations, but they don’t organize recommendations for browsing and discovery later.
Xiao Hong Shu, a Chinese social platform that caters to people interested in beauty and fashion, enables users to share their experiences with products and services in the beauty and fashion industries and categorizes the shares. Users can then easily discover and search for reviews they are looking for. Because content is created by users that do not have conflicts of interest (at least not that we know of), people trust them. And because it’s used as a social platform, users post updated experiences everyday. Today, users of Xiao Hong Shu will perform a search and look at reviews on the app before buying any fashion, beauty products. Can an app like Xiao Hong Shu be adapted to recommend products, places and services other areas of interest?
A PLATFORM FOR SOCIAL-CURATION
A conceivable solution is a community-based social-platform that enables users to co-curate posts. Instead of having a single blogger or publisher create and organize content, having many passionate individuals with a common interest perform the categorization would be much more effective and valuable to other consumers.
Wikipedia, for example, has adopted this model. Users of Wikipedia can become moderators and help organize, curate and govern the appropriateness of content created by other users. The trustworthiness and general value of Wikipedia is very much directly attributable to the effort provided by the moderators and the contributors.
Central to the co-curation platform is the ability for users to curate posts for any topic. To this end, the platform needs to support the ability for users to associate a post to two key dimensions. The first is an extensible categorization structure needs that users can use to categorize posts hierarchically. For example, a post about “Dim Sum” should be categorized in a hierarchy such as: Restaurants->Chinese Cuisine->Dim Sum. The second dimension that needs to be integrated throughout the platform would be the locational dimension. Posts need to be associated to a specific region so that users can find relevant recommendations.
Here is a diagram of a potential dimensional structure for a flexible curation platform:
The Bumping App is designed to enable social curation. The Bumping App is a community-based social-platform where users can co-curate content so that they and other community members can support businesses and topics that they deem important.s
There is just too much information for us to process nowadays. Even when we try to process them, we do not know what is authentic and what is not. There is also just too much fake information out there. We can all do with curated recommendations from people we can trust. Saves us time, and we feel a lot safer. That is why you should never leave home without your Bumping App.
The Bumping App gets you curated recommendations from like-minded individuals of your local community. It effectively mobilizes your community enabling community members, or Bumpies as we like to call them, to always be ready to help you navigate the world – both the physical one and the virtual. No matter what you are doing or where you are, your Bumping community is there to help ensure you are well-informed and, most of all, safe.
Looking for a dentist? Get recommendations from trusted Bumpies on where to go and with which dentist to make an appointment. Looking for a specific product? Get recommendations from your Bumping community for a vendor that carries it nearby. Need ideas for places you can bring your dog? See what recommendations your Bumpies has.
The Bumping App is designed to be used on the go in addition to when you are passing time. It is your friend, your local guide, your companion, your personal advisor, and your support group. It can give you recommendations for everything you need. You can ask for recommendations or simply search for previously shared ones. The Bumping App helps you organize your favorite things and places, and reminds you of places you want to visit when you are near. You really should not leave home without it.
Get Trustworthy and Relevant Recommendations with this New App
140 Years of Technology-Advancement Since the Telephone Directory…
The first British telephone directory was published on 15 January 1880. Prior to that, finding places and businesses was done only via word of mouth and actually walking around. Needless to say, we have come a long way in how we find places since 1880… or have we? Sure, we have the Internet and Google, Amazon, OpenRice and TripAdvisor now, but how do we really find many of the products, places and businesses we are looking for? How do we get trustworthy and relevant recommendations?
…And Word of Mouth is Still One of the Easiest and Most Trustworthy Ways we Get Recommendations
It turns out word of mouth is still very much the most effective way we have for discovering most things – 140 years later. Word of mouth is a significant channel for discovering brands, products and services – not just for brick-and-mortar places. A recent survey conducted by GlobalWebIndex shows that word of mouth is the source of discovery between 26% and 38% of the time, depending on generation. More importantly, the same article cites that 62% of marketing executives claim word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing. Why is this the case?
Let us think about it. How do we find new places? Imagine you are looking for a new dentist (for whatever reason: you just moved to a new town; you had a falling out with your old dentist; or any other reason). You start by doing a Google search. You get 30+ results back in your nearby vicinity. Each of them has a handful of reviews (some more, some less) and each of them has an average of around 4 stars. You then go through the reviewers text and look at pictures (if there are any), and, after some time and effort, you make your best guess and hope for the best. Alternatively, you ask your friends and family for a recommendation, and you go feeling quite safe. It is a trustworthy and relevant recommendation .
The above scenario is one in which you are actively looking for a business. What about how we discover new must-go places that are fun or serve fantastic food or have great products? It would seem likely that we would discover these places online via curated recommendations on social media – after all we spend so much time online on social media platforms. However, research conducted by the Keller Fay Group finds that only 7 percent of word of mouth happens online (via social media, blogs, email and chat rooms). Most of what we discover happens offline via word of mouth.
Whether we are actively seeking something or passively discovering what our friends have found, we still tend to rely on word of mouth despite 140 years of technology advancement.
Word of Mouth is effective Because It is Trustworthy and RElevant
In his book, Contagious, Jonah Berger explains that it is not that online platforms are ineffective, but that messages do not necessarily spread more pervasively online than offline – and actually statistically they spread less frequently online. He further explains that regardless of online or offline, the effectiveness of word of mouth is determined by how likely someone would tell others about what they seen, heard or read – emphasizing that it is the contagiousness of the message itself and not who gave the message.
Jonah offers two reasons for why word of mouth is more effective than traditional advertising. The first is that it is more persuasive. Our friends, who spread the word of mouth to us, tend to be more objective and candid and therefore more trustworthy. Secondly, word of mouth is more targeted. It is naturally filtered for relevance and directed towards an interested audience.
What does it Mean to be Trustworthy and Relevant?
Whether we are actively looking for something or someone is introducing something to us, we want trustworthy and relevant recommendations. To elaborate, trustworthy recommendations are recommendations that are authentic and objective, and objectivity requires a knowledge of comparables or alternatives. For example, if someone recommended a camera to me, I would want to know that the person is not getting paid for recommending the camera. In other words, it needs to be an authentic recommendation. I also want to know that this person knows about all the comparable cameras available on the market, and therefore is recommending the best and most appropriate one for me, which leads us to relevance.
Relevance means that the recommended products or services are appropriate for the recipient of the recommendation – are aligned with his or her needs, interests, values and lifestyle – and, ideally, meet the specific needs of the recipient. This means that the recommender should like the same things the recipient likes, or should know what the recipient wants and values. Taking the camera recommendation further, I would expect someone recommending a camera to me to filter out from the universe of cameras those that are obviously not my style – like HelloKitty cameras, disposable cameras, cameras designed for scuba diving, and numerous other very worthy but inappropriate cameras for me. This would be the least I expect from a relevant recommendation.
If asked specifically the kind of camera I would like, my custom requirements would be a camera that takes high quality photographs with a full-frame sensor, has a high speed lens with autofocus, capable of manual and auto shutter and aperture settings, and small enough to travel with. I would then want to know my options fitting these criteria and their prices. My choice would be a balance between price, quality and features.
Recommendations from ONLINE Channels
Let us take a look at the popular online channels for finding recommendations. A social discovery platform is typically one where a user follows a key opinion leader (KOL) to get recommendations pushed to him or her. Because the user chooses whom to follow, there is a natural psychographic alignment; the KOL’s values, interests and lifestyle matches those of the follower. This alignment makes recommendations from the KOL more relevant to the follower. However, the push-based usage of the platform makes getting relevant recommendations when you want them difficult. Further, while the KOL is expected to have a good breadth of knowledge in the field of his or her expertise, the push-based recommendations do not generally give the follower transparency in the available options. In terms of authenticity, it depends on the KOL. KOLs are subject to conflicts of interest with marketers paying them to endorse products. Consumers, today, tend to use search/ratings platforms to find what they are looking for, and then use social platforms to look at pictures from friends for validation. Social platforms are not generally used to find products and services.
Search/ratings platforms are currently the most popular platforms for finding recommendations. They provide a comprehensive list of all places or products matching the user’s search string with the results ordered by the aggregation of customers’ ratings. The good thing about these platforms is that the ratings and reviews are user-generated content (UGC). UGC are generally more trustworthy because users should be objective. However, the aggregation of ratings that search/ratings platforms adopt to rank their results does not align with the psychographics of the searcher, and, moreover, exposes these platforms to a lot of false reviews. Further, providing users with a comprehensive list with unaligned ratings inundates users with too much information, and requires them to spend time and effort to research (through looking at social platforms).
An online platform that is growing in popularity for getting recommendations is community forums. Like search/ratings platforms, community forums have user-generated content, but, unlike search/ratings platforms, the recommendations in community platforms are naturally aligned psychographically. Users join communities in which the interests, values and lifestyles of the members match their own. By having a community of like-minded users, members are effectively accessing a pool of recommendation providers that have already filtered the relevant recommendations. The pathways, through which they have likely learned of the service, product or place, whether they be through social platforms, word of mouth, or having actual experience, would naturally filter the recommendation for relevance. Further, because community forums are designed for dialogue, community members can ask for bespoke recommendations in real-time.
Community forums are considered trustworthy as members are less subject to conflicts of interest, and they can be removed from communities if deemed dishonest by the moderators. Members seeking recommendations can also get sufficient coverage because of the many members within a community. As opposed to having a single person or KOL providing recommendations, users now have access to multiple sources of recommendations.
Community Forum Just for Recommendations
Community forums address many of the issues inherent in other online recommendation channels, but they have not been as well-adopted as search/ratings platforms for recommendations. This is because to date community forums have been designed around general discussions and not for recommendations and search.
The Bumping App is designed around the benefits of community forums with a focus on providing a platform for community members to ask and search for and get trustworthy and relevant recommendations. It will change the way you discover the world. Take a look for yourself.
“Did I not clearly explain the circle of trust to you, Greg?… Then is there something you want to tell me?… See if I can’t trust you, Greg, then I have no choice but to put you right back outside the circle, and once you’re out, you’re out. There’s no coming back.” In case you didn’t recognize it, that is part of a dialogue between Jack Brynes and Greg Focker from Meet the Parents, 2000. It is a very funny movie. Highly recommended if you have not already seen it, but, more importantly, the “circle of trust” is a fun and memorable metaphor for how we can lose the trust of another, and, once lost, it is hard to get it back.
That is what consumers are feeling when it comes to influencer marketing – influencers have lost the trust of their followers. Influencer marketing has become such a popular channel among marketers over the past 10 years that people in all fields are trying to be a social influencer – like it is the new path to fame and fortune. Well, it is exactly that, I guess. The more followers a social influencer has, the more famous he or she is, and the more he or she could demand from marketers. But, it seems fame and fortune are at odds with trustworthiness.
Social influencers are not the gold standard for word of mouth marketing they used to be. Consumers have lost trust in social influencers. According to the Wave study from media agency UM, the majority of global internet users have little to no confidence in what influencers say online. Only 8% of people believe that information shared on social networking sites is true, and that drops to 4% when the content comes from influencers.
What happened? It is a question of authenticity. There are enough influencers that are willing to endorse everything they are paid for that consumers have become skeptical of the influencer’s authenticity especially when he or she is recommending something like a brand, a destination or a product. Take Gigi Hadid, a Victoria’s Secret angel, for example. She partnered with McDonald’s. Apparently, fans do not like it when their influencer endorses something that is obviously not something they would use – or, in the case of Gigi Hadid, eat.
The Gigi Hadid case is a rather obvious inauthentic endorsement – perhaps deliberately so by McDonald’s marketing team – but consumers are not blind lemmings. We follow influencers for their authority and authenticity in their field of interest. We would follow Gigi Hadid for her style and beauty, but not to get recommendations on fast-food.
Micro Influencers Are More Trusted
The influencer marketing industry has been evolving. Marketers have shifted from seeking the influencers with the largest number of followers to a particular segment of influencers they categorize as micro-influencers -influencers with 1,000 to 10,000 followers. This is because micro influencers have the highest engagement rate and now “perform the bulk of successful influencer marketing (at least 90% of it).”
In fact, statistically, the fewer followers an influencer has, the higher the engagement rate as shown in the results provided by SocialPubli.com below.
And it makes sense. Here are the main reasons why influencers with smaller followings have higher engagement rates:
Followers makeup: Their audience is still growing and made up of people they have met, people who have followed them from the beginning, people who generally love their content and people in their personal friends and family network.
Their ability to be personal with their audience: Micro-influencers cherish their growing community, and they are readily available to attend events, interact with followers, reply to comments, engage with their community and have a presence offline, as well as online.
Authenticity: Their audience trusts them, which is more uncommon when it comes to macro-influencers who regularly work with a wide variety of brands, and are known to take on paid advertising projects.
However, as micro influencers grow to become macro influencers, it is almost inevitable that they will experience some degree of decreasing engagement rates. Their new followers would likely not have been connected first-hand with the influencer, and the influencers would have less time and ability to interact with most of their followers.
For Recommendations, Authenticity is Key
The one area influencers could maintain control in their quest for engagement as they grow is to be authentic, but that would mean loss of marketing deals. It is a conflict of interest. How can an influencer get paid and still maintain objectivity? Is it not almost a like switch: as soon as the influencer posts a paid recommendation, followers become skeptical at his/her authenticity?
Well, not necessarily. It is possible to be a mega influencer and still convey authenticity. Take Austin Li, the top reviewer of lipsticks on XiaoHongShu with 3.2 million followers. Despite such a large following and knowing Austin is being paid to recommend and/or sell the lipstick, his recommendations can still garner 3.8% engagement rate (which is relatively high for such a large following). Austin has been able to do this because of his authenticity and authority on lipsticks. He appears impartial when it comes to recommendations. If he is not into a particular product, his blunt criticism of big brands conveys trustworthiness.
Authenticity plays a very important part in follower engagement rates, but not all influencers are or can be as authentic as Austin Li. The web is riddled with stories telling of social influencers asking businesses for discounts or services for free with the promise of sharing a favorable post on them. While this business proposal may be mutually beneficial for the influencer and the business, as consumers of the influencer’s post, we have to wonder, how authentic is this recommendation?
While there may be exceptions, the inherent conflict of interest between influencer and influencer marketing no doubt exists.
Avoiding Conflicts of Interest
As consumers, we should always be weary of conflicts of interest when someone is recommending something to us. We have to judge whether a recommendation is trustworthy or not no matter who it comes from. Influencer marketing is a difficult channel to trust given the inherent conflict of interest – at least when it comes to recommending things. Marketers and influencers need to find a compensation solution that does not dilute the authenticity and authority of the influencer and at the same time conveys the desired message to the intended audience.
One solution that influencers could do to maintain a sense of authenticity is to show on their recommendation post that it is a sponsored ad. This way it is more transparent. Followers can judge for themselves if the post is authentic knowing it is paid. However, for the same reason, it could hurt the marketer’s ROI, and so there may be pressure from marketers not to do so.
Community Forums, a Trusted Recommendation Channel
Reviewers, such as Consumer Reports, whose compensation is not paid by the marketers, are more trusted for recommending products, but, these review channels work best for hardware and have problems attracting the younger generation, because such reviews lack personal attachment.
Search apps, such as Google and Yelp whose reviews are generated by users, can be authentic, but they do not only lack the authority that influencers and professional reviewers portray, they also lack psychographic alignment and curation provided by those other channels.
Community forums like Facebook Groups and Reddit are good channels to get custom recommendations. Recommendations from community members are perceived as personable, authentic and psychographically-aligned, and, while they may not portray as high of a sense of authority as influencers, the reputational risk taken on by the recommender in front of his or her peers does provide a sense of assurance. From this perspective, I think community forums are most similar to influencers’ recommendations compared to the other alternative recommendation channels, and community forums are not subject to conflicts of interest – at least not yet.
However, community forums are a different kind of social platform. They are different from the likes of Instagram and Weibo where users follow influencers and discover recommendations. These Instagram-type social platforms are much more pushed based than pull. Whereas community forums are more equally pull and push. Members can ask questions, suggest recommendations, or simply discover what others are saying. Where push-based social channels are like watching your favorite celebrity on TV, community forums are like discussing what you just saw with your friends. I believe they are complementary. Your favorite celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsey, recommends his own chain of restaurants. Your foodie community members can tell you what they thought of the restaurants and suggest alternatives.
Can Marketers Leverage Community Forums?
We know marketers gravitate to social influencers. While community forums usually have a focus on a topic, as opposed to a focus on an influencer, they can still be great channels for marketers nonetheless.
If a community is formed on the basis of recommendations (as opposed to general discussions) then members are essentially there to “shop socially” with like-minded people. This particular type of community forum would be like a direct sales party – think Amway and Tupperware – but instead of just a party for one brand, it is an on-going party that members can introduce any brand. In this party, marketers can find existing members, who would be willing to try out their products and have them introduce the product to the community. While the member might not have the same authority as an influencer, he or she would likely be trusted and because he or she is more of a peer would foster more dialogue about the product.
Taking this direct-sales party model further, XiaoHongShu is effectively one large direct-sales community for fashion and beauty products and mega influencers have grown out of XiaoHongShu’s platform. So even within communities, assuming they are large enough, influencers can play a role. The problem is once it gets that big, the sense of a community may diminish, and the platform becomes more like that of a platform for following influencers rather than one for joining communities. To maintain the feeling of a supportive and engaging community members must feel they can always give and get open and direct feedback no matter how big the community gets.
The Bumping App – Recommendations from Trusted Communities
Having had a number of disappointing experiences dealing with service providers and witnessing how conflicts of interest result in questionable authenticity and hence trustworthiness, we decided to create a tool that aims to provide consumers with trustworthy recommendations. To this end, we have designed the Bumping App to leverage the trusted and engaging characteristics of community forums with a focus on recommendations. We want to make giving and getting recommendations as trustworthy, efficient and relevant as possible. The Bumping App is designed to make you feel you have the validation of your support group no matter what you are doing. Give it a try today!
Before We Have Teleportation, This App will Help You Go to New Places
Difficult to Discover Brick-and-Mortar Businesses
Those of you who have been to Hong Kong know there is a shortage of space here. For a lot of small and medium-sized businesses, this means they have to locate on upper floors of buildings to be able to afford the space. As a result, their locations are out of sight of “curbside” traffic. A consumer really has to know the business is up there to go there. That is why a lot of small businesses struggle in Hong Kong. Rent is extremely high, and businesses have to be very creative to attract customers to their store. After all, it is risky to go to new places.
Ecommerce Marketers Gravitate to Influencers
An effective solution for ecommerce businesses to attract consumers has been influencer marketing. However, influencer marketing has not been the panacea for brick-and-mortar businesses. How then can physical businesses attract consumers to go to their place?
In its most innocent form, influencer marketing is simply a friend telling us about a product he or she finds good and is relevant for us. Yet, that is arguably the most effective form of marketing. When a trusted friend tells me about a product, I tend to look it up online, discuss it with him or her, and see what it is and why it is so great. I might or might not buy it – depends on a number of factors – but at least I checked it out, got familiar with the brand, and would probably talk to my friends about it later. How awesome is that for the marketer? When it works, it results in a very efficient, seamless customer journey as shown in the flow diagram below.
Notice how the flow diagram above does not show the consumer Googling for competitive comparisons and social proofing, and price comparisons? These are steps we often take when we are left to our own devices without a trusted influencer or friend to recommend something. This is because, when our friends make a recommendation, they take on some reputational risk. If what they recommend is not good – they look somewhat foolish. So we feel our friend must be quite convinced of the product or service before recommending it. For the same reason, we also expect their recommendation would be relevant to us since they know us, know what we like and our lifestyle. In other words, we no longer feel the need to read reviews on the product or comparison shop.
So, for brick-and-mortar businesses, how effective is influencer marketing? A recent survey from TouchBistro shows 91% of restaurant customers have gone to a new restaurant solely due to a friend’s recommendation. So being able to get friend’s recommendations on where to go is valued, but why have not brick-and-mortar businesses benefitted as effectively from influencer marketing as compared to ecommerce? While I have not been able to find specific statistics on influencer marketing’s effectiveness on helping users discover brick-and-mortar businesses and resulting in their arrival to the location afterwards, practically all of the “Ultimate Guide to Marketing Your Brick and Mortar Business” publications that are available online suggest businesses should implement their marketing strategy through optimizing local search followed by brand building and local content marketing. Recommendations for brick-and-mortar businesses to use social media are mainly for social-proofing, and not for helping consumers discover their business.
Influencers cannot Break BARRIER TO ACTION for Brick-and-mortar Businesses
Brick-and-mortar businesses in different industries would get different value from influencers, but common to them all is one glaring issue: brick-and-mortar businesses require the consumer to go to their location. This poses a barrier to action. While recommendations to go to new places by a trusted individual still confers reputational assurance and relevance, when we are at home browsing social platforms, being inspired to go to a location or a store is not immediately actionable; we would need to transport ourselves from our homes to the location somehow. That is a large effort to overcome – it is a barrier to action – unless we could teleport there and back easily! As opposed to having a seamless integration between the recommendation and the location, we would have to store the recommendation in memory and recall it at the time when we need it. This of course does not usually happen. We tend to forget.
When we need recommendations We Do not have them, So We Use Search Apps Instead
We as consumers typically look for services or businesses when we need them or when it is convenient for us. The need motivates us to invest the effort to find the place, and it is usually not triggered by advertising but at our own timing . At that time, we usually use a search app to find a list of relevant places (as we would have likely forgotten any prior recommendations), but search apps do not provide curated recommendations for us. We have to spend time and effort sifting through the result list to find something that might be okay for us. It is risky.
Another time when we could do with recommendations is when we are outside where it would be much more convenient to visit the recommended businesses. At that time, the barrier to action is effectively lowered, and we would be much more inclined to pay the business a visit if only we recalled the recommendation while we were there, but again this doesn’t usually happen.
So Brick-and-mortars Rely on Search Apps
As a result, many brick-and-mortar businesses to attract consumers to their location focus their marketing efforts on SEO, SEM and Review apps, because, well, we use them. But, as mentioned earlier, these apps require effort and still leave us feeling at risk every time we venture to a new destination. Brick-and-mortar businesses do use influencer marketing and social marketing, but more so for customers to get social-proofing after they have arrived at the store, and not for attracting consumers to venture out to go to new places.
What Do Consumers Want?
Ok… Another solution would be to have a Jeeves, a know-it-all butler who is always in tune with the rhythm of the city, knows our preferences, and is always by our side giving recommendations when we need them, and informing us of things we would be interested in without our asking. When Jeeves recommends something, we would feel confident that it is not only relevant to us but also the best option out there as he is informed of all the options available for all topics.
If we had a Jeeves, I believe he would solve the barrier to action as we could get curated recommendations when we needed them and be notified of interesting things when relevant. In other words, we overcome the barrier to action by getting relevant recommendations at the right time.
Now, needless to say (but I am saying it anyways), we could not all afford a Jeeves (even if he exists) so the next best thing would be to simulate a Jeeves. A simulated “Jeeves” would have the following characteristics for providing recommendations:
Ok. Sounds great… So the big question is how do we provide our simulated Jeeves with trustworthy sources of recommendations that are psychographically aligned with each of us and with sufficient coverage across most if not all industries?
Just-in-time Trustworthy and relevant Recommendations
At Bumping App, we believe communities are the answer. Instead of looking for an incredibly connected and knowledgeable Jeeves who knows each of our values, interests and lifestyle, we connect ourselves with a community of like-minded individuals who would provide us with recommendations that are relevant to us and the community. Since there are many individuals in communities, we can feel more assured that there is sufficient coverage of businesses. We then store and organize recommendations as they come enabling users to search for relevant recommendations when they need them. We can also deliver relevant recommendations to the user when the user is nearby the recommended location, or when the recommendation is relevant timing-wise.
Until teleportation is a reality, the Bumping App providing trustworthy and relevant recommendations at the right time might be the solution we are looking for to get us to go to new places.
Fake Reviews are Pervasive. How do You Avoid Them?
By now, we are all aware that there are less scrupulous businesses that post fake reviews. We all want to avoid fake reviews, but how? Fake reviews are very pervasive; a recent article (Nov 6th 2019) by BrightLocal cites the following statistics:
• 74% of consumers have read a fake review in the last year • 89% of 18-34-year-olds have read a fake review in the last year • One in seven TripAdvisor reviews could be fake • 61% of electronics reviews on Amazon are fake • 55,000 fake reviews are generated on Facebook per month • UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) estimates fake reviews potentially influence £23bn of UK customer spending each year
I took a look at a fake reviews spotter tool called https://www.fakespot.com/ and ran a few products on Amazon.com through it. It is quite shocking how many fake reviews there are. Take the one below as an exmaple. A JBL Bluetooth speaker with a “Amazon’s Choice” mark. It has 7,953 ratings giving it an average of 4.5 stars. I then ran this listing through Fakespot’s analysis tool.
The results of the analysis is shown in the diagram below. According the Fakespot, only 46.1% of the reviews for this product are reliable. It determined that there is “high deception” involved. Take a look for yourself: http://www.fakespot.com.
Fake reviews outnumber real ones. Fakespot reports that inauthentic reviews actually dominate the product categories above. In other words, there is a greater percentage of fake reviews than legitimate ones:
Fake reviews are a serious problem not only for consumers, but also honest businesses. Honest businesses are adversely hurt by not participating in the fake review game. As of today, there is not an effective way for review platforms to combat fake reviews.
What can we do to Avoid Fake Reviews? Ask Friends?
Review platforms and business competitors will tell you to report suspicious reviews to the host platforms, and the platforms would punish or ban businesses that purchase reviews. However, fake reviewers are getting more savvy, and it is not easy to spot them. If they were easy to spot, then the statistics shown above would not be so pervasive.
But for most of us, we do not know enough people to get sufficient coverage of all the types of places and products we would like to get recommendations for. For example, what if you wanted to find a good, authentic Korean restaurant in Hong Kong? What are the chances your friends, accessible to you now, know most of the Korean restaurants in Hong Kong? Chances are they know a few Korean restaurants and perhaps one they consider authentic, but there could be others that are better. Our immediate circle of friends generally does not have first-hand experience at a sufficient number of establishments for us to feel that we would get comparably-good recommendations.
Not Enough Friends? Ask People Like You Instead
An alternative to having a lot of friends who would be willing to provide recommendations is to have a community of people who share the same values, interests and lifestyle as yourself. Asking community members for recommendations is evidently effective. Just look at Facebook Groups, Reddit, and Quora to name a few. Community members tend to provide trustworthy recommendations because members of a community are not anonymous – instead most communities require invitations to join. By not being able to hide behind anonymity, members’ reputation are at stake when making recommendations.
We created the Bumping App so that we can avoid fake reviews and feel safer about getting recommendations. The Bumping App fosters communities of like-minded people to share recommendations on places, services and products, and curates the recommendations so that finding what you are looking for and discovering things and places that interests you are trustworthy, easy and fun.
With Google at our finger tips, why do we still ask our friends for recommendations?
Why do we prefer asking our friends for recommendations when review apps like Google, Amazon, OpenRice, TripAdvisor, and Yelp are widely adopted?
I do not think it is for fear of fake reviews. I mean, we should be weary of fake reviews – there certainly is a proliferation of fake reviews – but, at least for me, that has not been the primary reason why I ask my friends for recommendations. (Having said that, I found out recently that even when a product has thousands of reviews, a significant portion of them could be fake. Use fakespot.com and see for yourself.)
I believe there are five reasons why I still ask my friends for recommendations:
Friends are generally more trustworthy in terms of authenticity and objectiveness. They are not trying to sell me anything.
The second is that we are not all alike. My interests, values, and lifestyles – psychographics – are likely different than say a young teenager’s. What one person likes does not mean others will like the same thing. When I see thousands of reviewers giving high ratings to a particular restaurant, I still need to read the reviews to get some assurance that a like minded individual finds the restaurant good, because the thousands of reviewers could all be tourists with different tastes from mine. Recommendations from a friend, on the other hand, would likely be more in line with my psychographics as he or she would be familiar with my interests, values and lifestyle.
Third, I often find myself looking for something specific based on how I feel or on my needs at the time. For example, I might be looking for a vacuum cleaner that can be serviced in Hong Kong that is good for cleaning carpets in households with yet-to-be potty-trained puppies. I might be looking for a dentist who is good with kids. When my request is this specific, I do have to ask my friends or end up calling a whole bunch of places to ask them.
Few Reviews for Non-Social Places and Things
Fourth, not all business types get reviews. I find that social establishments like restaurants and tourist locations get a lot of reviewers whereas less sociable establishments like dentists, doctors, plumbers, faucet retailers do not receive many reviews if at all. Again, for these businesses, I end up having to ask friends and family.
Inundated with Too Much Information
Lastly, there is a lot of information out there (perhaps not for non-social businesses), and trying to sift through all of them simply is not possible for someone with very little patience like myself. I rely on others whom I trust to curate this information for me.
Well, in short, I think recommendations are more trustworthy, more suitable, more relevant and easier to get when we ask a friend for them. Sounds obvious? Yet, I can’t help but wonder in this day and age with data abound, ubiquitous access to mobile computers, artificial intelligence, and behavioral tracking software, why do we still resort to asking friends for recommendations? Why has not technology provided a solution that addresses the above issues? I guess it is not that big of an issue if you had a lot of friends who are always available to give you recommendations, but for me that unfortunately is not the case.
Risk of Not Getting Recommendations
I started this journey of trying to solve this issue several years ago when I ordered a generous amount products from a bathroom supply retailer. I was renovating my apartment, and needed a bathtub, faucets, sinks, etc. I put a 50% downpayment and expected the products to be delivered shortly. Months went by and no delivery. I called. I went to the store. I complained and complained. Many, many times over a period of several months. The retail store staff said it is not her fault, she sent the order to the manager. The manager said it is not her fault, the brand supplier was not delivering, and so forth. (I learned a Chinese saying then which translates to “pulling a cat’s tail”.) At the end, finally after much delay in the renovation and plenty of frustration, the products were delivered. The store staff finally admitted that it was her manager who for some reason did not want to send out the products (probably for cashflow reasons).
After that experience I really wanted to give some serious feedback to the public about the store, but there is no active BBB in Hong Kong and Yelp was not widely used in Hong Kong at the time. Google Place reviews were not yet around either. I had no recourse, and that experience is how I have come up the Bumping App today.
The Bumping App is a tool that curates recommendations from individuals with similar interests, values and lifestyle as your own, and provides them to you when you need them. I believe it addresses all the concerns I listed above about why we still ask our friends. Give it a try and let me know what you think!