Consumer reviews are effective sales drivers, and a trusted source of information for users, but very few hotel brands seem to make use of them. 

Here, I've looked at some of the UK's hotel chains to see who is using reviews and, if so, are they doing it well. 

Why do hotels need reviews? 

It may seem obvious, as the case for reviews on ecommerce sites is beyond doubt, but it seems hotels are reticent about this. 

Perhaps anxiety around TripAdvisor is partly to blame. There are enough cases of fake and malicious reviews to make many hoteliers think twice. 

However, as a study published by Tnooz shows, reviews actually encourage people to spend more. 

  • If prices are the same, users are 3.9 times more likely to choose a hotel with higher review scores. 
  • When hotel prices are increased for those hotels with higher review scores, people are still likely to book. 
  • The study found that 76% of customers were willing to pay more for a hotel with higher review scores.

How do the UK's hotel brands use reviews? Do they use reviews? 

I've tried the sites of seven of the UK's top hotel chains. If I've missed a good example, let me know. 

Travelodge

There are no reviews to be found on Travelodge's website, maybe it thinks the prices alone are enough. 

However, judging by reviews on TripAdvisor like the one below, the hotel chain may be missing a trick here. This is valuable social proof

Premier Inn

It's the same story for Premier Inn. No reviews on site, but some very good average review scores, as shown in Google snippets. It does use reviews in its PPC ads though. 

Malmaison

I've found a hotel chain using customer reviews, but the manner of display is a little strange. 

For a start, it's easily missed, in the top left corner when my attention is on the booking process further down the page, and it's unclear what this review score actually means. 

I'm booking a room (well, pretending to) at the Newcastle Malmasion, so does this review refer to the hotel, or Malmaison in general? Is 82% good or bad? 

Upon further inspection, the review score refers to the Newcastle hotel and is based on an assessment of review scores places on various sites around the web. 

It's a good idea in principle, but the way it's applied on the Malmaison website is very odd. It only seems to appear when I'm in the process of booking a room.

It doesn't show up when I view details about the Newcastle hotel, and it provides no detail at all, or the ability to read reall reviews by real people. 

Also, unless you click the little 'i' next to the score, you'll have no idea what it means. Perhaps it works for Malmaison, but the application seems odd to me and, when you can't read the actual reviews, it doesn't really come across as authentic.

I wonder what users make of it. Perhaps it works, but it seems to be a slightly half-hearted attempt at incorporating reviews. 

Q Hotels 

There's an AA rating here, complete with a percentage score and some stars. However, there's no contextual information to explain what this actually means. 

Further down the page, we have an average TripAdvisor review score, which links to the relevant reviews page on the site. 

This is more useful, and people will recognise the TripAdvisor brand, though unfortunately it does take people away from the site. 

Britannia Hotels

A quick look suggests this site may be in need of a revamp. It looks very dated and it's no surprise that reviews don't feature at all. 

Thistle

A nice looking website, but no reviews. 

Best Western

Best Western uses TripAdvisor reviews, with an average rating and a link to read reviews. 

Unlike the Q Hotels implementation which takes users away from its site these reviews are shown further down the page. A much better idea. 

How should reviews be used? 

Let's look at Hotels.com for some good examples.

OK, it's an aggregator and is perhaps less concerned about negative reviews than the chains, but this is no excuse anyway. People know TripAdvisor exists and, if sites don't have reviews, they'll find them there anyway. 

Hotels should provide this information on site for those that want it and use reviews to drive sales. 

Here, Hotels.com is using review scores on the homepage: 

It makes even better use of reviews on search results pages. Star ratings are displayed within each result, backed up by the 'speech bubble' and links to the text of reviews. 

Even better, reviews are part of the filters so customers can search for hotels by star rating. 

This is all reinforced on the product page, with the average review score, some extracts from reviews, and a display showing TripAdvisor scores. All bases covered. 

In summary

Hotel sites have been slow to catch on to the potential of reviews, and as we can see, very few are using them. 

At least some are using the TripAdvisor scores, but a look through sites like Hotels.com should demonstrate how effectively reviews can be used. 

Graham Charlton

Published 24 September, 2014 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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James Robertson, Web Marketing Manager at www.venuebirmingham.com

My biggest problem with embedding Tripadvisor reviews onto my site is that they absolutely refuse to stop the links opening in a new window... - and not just in any old new window that defaults to a new tab, no: an totally, utterly 100% new window floating above the existing site.

This is a usability crime I refuse to perpetuate on my visitors and no amount of complaining to Tripadvisor has resulted in any action. I mean - if webmasters truly wanted to commit one of the most egregious usability crimes on their visitors then allow them to tick the "please annoy my customers by forcing links to open in a new window" box... - whereas the rest of us could go with the "do not open links in an new window option".

I know this will generate a lot of backlash, but please note:
- I am actually asking here for Tripadvisors content to toally replace my own: I specifically want people to go the the site they clicked on a link for - and to have the most clicked on button on the internet to still work - that is the "back" button
- everyone on this site will dismiss this usability issue: that's fine - I am used to this: you are all extremely expert users who have no problem managing multiple windows with multiple tabs in each on multiple monitors: every - and I do mean EVERY - usability test I have ever run has had people abandoning the purchasing process on my site if links open in new windows: people do not know how to judge their own expertise: almost byu definition if you are here on Econsultancy you are on the extreme right hand side of the web-expertise bell-curve
- "but Facebook does it" - yes I know they do: and when your site is as big as Facebook you can be as blase about usability issues as they are (and moral and ethical issues too - but that's a whole other rant.)

So: until; Tripadvisor bother to listen to me I will not be putting their reviews on my site. Linking to them yes: definitely.

about 3 years ago

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Heather Hopkins, Senior Analyst at Econsultancy, Centaur Marketing

Graham, Interesting stuff.

In particular I was interested in the stats on conversion rates (and price points) for hotels with reviews.

In our Where Content and Commerce Collide Report, RS Components said that products with reviews convert up to five times better than those without reviews. The power of reviews seems to cross industry.

about 3 years ago

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Depesh Mandalia, CEO & Founder at SM Commerce

From experience in the hotel sector, my view is that your hotel will be reviewed whether you like it or not and that most know of TripAdvisor.

The challenge is that many will use it to complain. So by actively asking users for feedback you can at least bulk up good reviews.

Having proprietary tools to host reviews on your own site creates a sense of distrust and this is where Tripadvisor aims to provide a level of authenticity to reviews.

Generally the travel sector has been much quicker than other sectors in adopting technology and best practice and I think its also to do with concerns around ops (managing reviews) and legit concerns like James points out above around how TripAdvisor widgets *could* lead to a loss of business.

I'd certainly advocate using reviews in some form or another but the operational aspect is certainly a consideration.

about 3 years ago

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Chris J. Arthur-Collins

This is a good piece, but as your examples show integrating it successfully is not a straight-forward process. User journey and experience is utterly paramount for hotel brands, especially when they are competing with aggregator sites such as Hotels.com. It is unfair to compare how they integrate TripAdvisor/customer reviews as they have absolutely no obligation whatsoever to moderate the reviews displayed nor show any loyalty at all to any brand or property. There is no way a hotel brand can possibly come any where close to how they have are making use of reviews.

As demonstrated in the Best Western example, by integrating the TripAdvisor API it is all to easy for negative reviews to gain a prominent position on your site.

I do however agree that having a the TripAdvisor (or similar site) rating is a good plus point for any hotel website. Displaying this without disrupting the user journey is tricky as by default it directs users away from your site and potentially in to either aggregators or even the competition.

about 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@James I agree, I wouldn't implement them either if the only way was to open a pop up window. On Best Western, the average score links to the text of reviews on the same page, so users don't have to leave the site at all.

Is this not possible on your site, or is TA not allowing this option for you?

about 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Depesh With TA so powerful in this area, perhaps its time for one of the established ecommerce reviews firms to move into travel sites?

about 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Chris The Hotels.com example is there to show what's possible - how reviews can be used to aid conversion away from the product page.

I appreciate that there is a difference when aggregators like this are neutral when it comes to the customers' choice of hotels.

However, what overrides all of these concerns is that people are going to read TA reviews whatever hotels do on their own sites. It can't be avoided.

Therefore hotels have a choice of displaying reviews on their own sites where they can have some control over the user journey, or take the risk that potential customers will head elsewhere to find reviews, perhaps never to return.

about 3 years ago

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James Robertson, Web Marketing Manager at www.venuebirmingham.com

@graham - could well be a solution: will investigate: just annoying to have to approach it on a piecemeal coding basis!

about 3 years ago

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Matthieu

Good article...

True enough, most don't "show" reviews, for many reasons:
- don't care
- do not want to display bad comments (which will mostly be discovered anyway, yes, but it also depends on the % of these bad reviews to decide to display or not)
- do not want to leave an open gate to Trip (traffic data tracked via their "free" widget, going-away guests to end up on a platform where your original guests will become Trip guests with many other options than you... at the "best", you end up with a booking via a PPC or an OTA, at the worst, this guests goes to another place ! As to get an xml feed like BW or OTAs, you need to be bigger than a single hotel)
- etc...

After, you have other options (don't know if I can say names, so...) to aggregate reviews without losing your soul (and guests), and yes the implementation of these reviews to be transparent shall be done neat and clean on the website...

But, and this is only my personal opinion, there is also much to do first/parallel to this on the websites (easy to use, responsive, clean pictures, translations, clean booking engine)

about 3 years ago

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