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 is not the primary reason why I ask my friends for recommendations. Right or wrong, when I see ratings from thousands of reviewers, I feel quite safe that the average rating is trustworthy. So then, what other reasons are there for why we ask rather than search?
I believe there are four reasons why I still ask my friends for recommendations:
The first is that we are not all alike. My interests, values, and lifestyles – my 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.
Second, 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.
Third, 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.
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.
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!