#RetailEXPO19: OpenTable talks online reviews and the empowered consumer

The rise of digital platforms has placed greater power into the hands of consumers, but rather than fear this companies should harness it.

One company with a great deal of experience in this area is OpenTable, which has more than 20 years of experience sitting in the middle of a dual-sided marketplace consisting of diners and restaurants.

OpenTable’s reviews platform is verifiable because business owners confirm a customer has visited the restaurant when they arrive, which bolsters the authenticity of the reviews.

Adrian Valeriano, EMEA VP of sales and services at OpenTable, believes there has been a shift in the dynamic that means reviews, likes and shares are no longer vanity metrics and have a clear commercial upshot.

“Information is now so readily available and people are literally consuming it on the go on their mobile phones,” says Valeriano. “The need to find your tribe or people that think like you is now critical.”

Valeriano argues every customer that walks through the door and interacts with a company should be considered a brand advocate.

He advises businesses to utilise positive feedback to promote their products and services because the message is more powerful when it comes from a third party rather than the business itself.

“There is a further evolution of that,” says Valeriano. “It is very beneficial if there are social tribes you can plug into and see on social media – whether they are on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or wherever.”

“People do not necessarily trust things that are five out of five, or one out of one, they try to understand what that middle score looks like and why"

Businesses also need not fear negative feedback and can in fact turn it to their advantage.

“In one way a bad review is not the end of the world, and if it is credible, it has a lot of really good stuff in there about how you can be better,” says Valeriano. “It helps you address whatever issue there may be, and helps you amplify and engage in a deeper way with the consumer.”

A measured public response to any negative feedback can in fact provide other consumers with the confidence to shop with a business.

“There is a voyeuristic fascination with seeing a business get upset and start cursing but other consumers do not really want to see that,” says Valeriano. “Ultimately what is valuable to making [a buying] decision is a lot more about seeing how the business dealt with the feedback.

People do not necessarily trust things that are five out of five, or one out of one, they try to understand what that middle score looks like and why.”

The rise of the empowered consumer can not be ignored because the public are now extremely willing to make their feelings known, whether positive or negative.

OpenTable’s data shows that over half of diners in Spain leave a review, while in the UK some 59% of Brits consult reviews from other diners when making their decisions.

The empowered consumer cannot be ignored, and nor should they.