bmy.guide Case Study
Users Behavior and The Influence of eWOM on Users. Comparative Analysis of bmy.guide and TripAdvisor
The development of the new means of communication has generated different information searching channels and feedbacks such as social networking sites, online review sites or virtual communities. Based on this, the traditional word of mouth (WOM) is transformed in electronic word-of-mouth (eWOM).
eWOM is “the positive or negative statement made by potential, current or former customers about a product or company” (Hennig-Thurau et al.) eWOM is found to be capable of influencing consumers attitude, behavior and choices. The impact is particularly strong in the industry and tourism sector, whose intangible products are difficult to assess before consumption (Cheung & Thadani, 2012).
Individuals generate eWOM through various media platforms to share their travel experiences, while relying more on eWOM generated by their peers to support their travel decision. Thus, as you can effectively stimulate and improve the consumer, the tendency to write and use eWOM is of great importance for eWOM Behavior.
Consumers are both eWOM receivers and generators. Whatever being eWOM receiver or generator, consumers’ attitudes toward eWOM communication will signiﬁcantly differ across media channels (Gvili et al., 2016). Further, we explore the factors determining individuals’ eWOM use and generation behavior from the IS (Information System) success perspective by including three dimension of quality perception of travel review website, namely information quality, system quality, and social quality. Generally, consumers’ attitudes toward eWOM communication will signiﬁcantly differ across media channels (Gvili et al., 2016). Further, we explore the factors determining individuals’ eWOM use and generation behavior from the IS (Information System) success perspective by including three dimension of quality perception of travel review website, namely information quality, system quality, and social quality.
Consumers are both eWOM receivers and generators. Whatever being eWOM receiver or generator, consumers’ attitudes toward eWOM communication will signiﬁcantly differ across media channels (Gvili et al., 2016). Further, we explore the factors determining individuals’ eWOM use and generation behaviour from the IS (Information System) success perspective by including three dimension of quality perception of travel review website, namely information quality, system quality, and social quality.
2. Research Framework
The valence (positive, negative or neutral eWOM), the emotional expression, or the volume will strongly inﬂuence the credibility of the eWOM (Filieri & McLeay, 2014; Pan & Chiou, 2011).
Further, we will focus on the comparison between travelers’ eWOM generation behavior and eWOM use in the travel review websites (TripAdvisor) and bmy.guide platform (A Search Engine for Environment) .
The service quality dimension in the IS success model is not included in the current research framework. Instead, social quality is incorporated into this model. This is because, service quality mainly captures the quality of typical service-related activities provided by IS, such as within organizations, or from online shopping websites. In this study, consumers’ eWOM communication behavior is more of a volunteer, non-commercial action within the social network of peer reviewers (Gvili et al., 2016). Therefore, social quality is incorporated into this model. Consequently, three quality dimensions are included in this study to explore eWOM generation and use behavior, namely information quality, system quality and social quality. In the following study we will refer to the quality dimensions as follow: the following study we will refer to the quality dimensions as follow:the following study we will refer to the quality dimensions as follow:
2.1. Information Quality refers to the quality of eWOM generated by customers (rather than other information output by the different review websites). The four sub-dimensions of information quality are:
- Accuracy represents a user’s perception about the correctness of information (Wixom & Todd, 2005). It is found that the accuracy of the eWOM facilitates individuals to use eWOM to support their travel-related decisions (Filieri & McLeay, 2014).
- Sidedness indicates whether a review contains both positive and negative comments on a product/service. Two-sided reviews have been found to be more credible and unbiased than one-sided reviews. With conﬂicting reviews available, travelers would be more likely to join the discussion if the given argument conﬂicts with their own experience.
- Timeless represents a user’s perception of the degree to which the information is up to date (Wixom & Todd, 2005).
- Completeness Completeness represents the degree to which eWOM on a travel review website provides all the necessary information (Wixom & Todd, 2005). eWOM with more complete information has been proved to be more useful and lead to consumers’ information use in the research context of online opinion platforms (Cheung et al., 2008).
2.2. System Quality is deﬁned as a desirable characteristic of an IS (Information System) (Petter et al., 2013). Filieri and Willison (2016) found four dimensions of system quality:
- Reliability refers to the dependability of system operation and the technical availability of a system over time. A reliable system should have quick error recovery and less technical problems. The reliability dimension of system quality was tested to be a strong predictor of system use (Filieri & Willison, 2016).
- Integration refers to the way the system allows data to be integrated from various sources to enable effective decisions.
- Flexibility refers to the way the system adapts to changing demands of the user (DeLone & McLean, 2004). The ability to automatically adapt online reviews to match travelers’ circumstances is the main attractiveness of a travel review website. It is important for a travel review system to present only high quality and a limited set of relevant messages as retrieval result according to user’s request.
- Timeliness refers to the degree to which the system offers timely response to requests for information or action. Response time of website is important, as users are often unwilling to wait more than a handful of seconds for a response. According to a rational view, travelers economize on time and effort when they search for information (Filieri & McLeay, 2014).
2.3. Social Quality: The received social beneﬁt is one of the distinct motivations for consumers to engage in eWOM communication (Hennig-Thurau et al., 2004). eWOM is peer-to-peer communication via online channels. Therefor, there are two dimensions included in the social quality:
- Social presence is the extent to which a medium allows a user to experience others as being psychologically present (Gefen & Straub, 2003). Social presence is embedded in communication theory, and is characterized by some researchers as the capability of the medium to transmit information richness. It has a positive impact on the development of trust as trust is formulated within the social environment (Cyr et al., 2007).
- Social interaction creates the context for active communication, and enables the development of a sense of mutual interdependence and connection (Yadav & Varadarajan, 2005). Interaction with other reviewers/users on a travel review website could enhance the credibility of reviews, and associate with their adoption of peers’ eWOM.
Therefore, this study focuses on the comparative analysis of a review site (TripAdvisor) and the bmy.guide project (A Search Engine for Environment based on a Social Network for the Travel and Tourism Industry).
3. Comparative Analysis of TripAdvisor and bmy.guide in terms of Social Quality
Social quality determinants are illustrated as the category of variables related to the impact that others within a person’s peer group or social network influence an individual.
3.1. Social presence allows the user to psychologically experience a mood or a state of mine as if present; is embedded in communication theory and is characterized by some researchers as the capability of the medium to transmit information richness.
In our comparative analysis, we observe that both TripAdvisor and bmy.guide allow users to social engage in the process of communication. However, the method of allowing users to be social present inside the platforms is different. In TripAdvisor’s case we observe business profiles (in this case a restaurant profile) created and promoted with the sole intention of attracting more and new customers for the business itself. Users have the ability to share their thoughts and experiences by providing ‘reviews’ and ‘comments’. Their shared experiences appear as a part of the business profile being impossible for other users to have access to that specific information unless they access the restaurant profile page. In bmy.guide’s case, users are the ones who provide the information about a particular business, according to their interests and their experiences. In doing so, users upload photos or video, write reviews or journals and rate their experiences according to their own interest. Every aspect and information provided by the user goes directly to the business profile page, to the region/city that business is situated on and to the country page the business belongs to. The information provided is structured as a ‘postcard’ and has the capability to transmit information richness according with the user’s interest and not the business interest in promoting itself. The real-vibe is transmitted mostly by allowing users to post images or videos or write journals or reviews.
3.2. The Social interaction will enhance the credibility of reviews and will associate their adoption of peers’ eWOM. TripAdvisor’s social interaction is present on the reviews area of each business page. Thus, in order to interact, communicate and share experiences, user will have to search and find the profile page is interested in and ‘comment’ on the posted reviews. It is not necessary a wrong approach but is only suitable in case the user knows exactly what is searching for and involves a deeper research. As explained before, on bmy.guide, users are the ones to create the demand for a specific business/place/location. Their reviews appear as ‘postcards’ on a general timeline (named ‘GuideLine’) and in the same time on the region/city and country page that post belongs to. The interest and the value of a business/place/ location is the sum of all the positive and negative engagements of all the bmy.guide users. The higher the interaction is, the more visible the profile is on bmy.guide.
4. Comparative Analysis of TripAdvisor and bmy.guide in Terms of Information Quality
Information search and the decision-making process of tourists have received great attention in tourism research literature, and both are considered to be important theoretical and practical topics. Tourists collect and use information largely for functional reasons or to plan and take trips, but there are also other kinds of information needs.
Assuming the traveler already chose the destination of the next trip, the process of gathering information has just begun. Information needs vary based on the destination a tourist is travelling to. Travelling to a new destination without previous knowledge requires more information search as a tourist cannot use internal information about the destination (Gursoy & McCleary, 2004). There are considerable differences between tourists in their information search behavior. Tourists will combine various available information sources in order to plan in detail every aspect of the next trip.
The traditional WOM (word of mouth) is still a strong player but knowing that 95% of the bookings are made online, eWOM (electronic word of mouth) is becoming a crucial factor in the process of accumulating information. Travel websites, such as, booking websites, review aggregators or OTA try to understand travelers’ process of making a decision. Websites such as booking.com or tripadvisor.com realized that information search is connected to the decision-making process and often these topics are discussed together. The general opinion is that information search leads directly to destination choice and purchasing. But the traveler needs much more than this. Choosing a destination and purchasing is a long process and require deep analysis. And because marketers have the ability to influence and affect the traveler choice through marketing and social environment, the traveler needs and desire is impaired and altered, which only prolongs the search for information.
The more useful information a tourist can find, the more they can enjoy their holiday. Communication among tourists as eWOM has a significant impact on tourist attitudes towards visiting a destination, subjective norms, perceived behavioral control, and intention to travel. Also, Wang (2015) argues that user- generated content (UGC) greatly affects consumers’ decisions. Wang (2015) emphasizes that UGC is an especially important information source for travelers to support their travel decisions, but Tham, Croy and Mair (2013) state that we are still in an exploratory stage when it comes to investigating the influence of social media on destination choice.
Destination image has often been regarded as a critical component in explaining why tourists choose a certain destination. According to Baloglu and McCleary (1999) “human behavior is reliant upon image rather than objective reality, which suggests that the world is a psychological or distorted representation of objective reality residing and existing in the mind of the individual”. The World Tourism Organization defines image as “an aura, an angel, and a subjective perception accompanying the various projections of the same message transmitter” (Konecnik, 2004). Destination image has even been named the most influential component in consumers’ destination selection (Ramkissoon, Nunkoo and Gursoy, 2009; Tasci and Gartner, 2007) even though there is no consensus of an overarching approach to measuring destination image (Ramkissoon et al., 2009).
Information quality has been proved to impact users’ information seeking and sharing behaviors. User generated reviews (and opinions) are lifeblood of travel platforms and crucial information for travelers while making a decision. The information quality of eWOM is considered to be the most persuasive information source determining traveler’s decision-making.
As a review aggregator, TripAdvisor offers travelers the possibility to review destinations directly on the business profile page. However, the process is complicated: user must search and find the business page, find the review section and write a review according to the platform-imposed criteria (such as number of characters). It is observed that a user cannot write a review with less than 300 characters or add an image to support his/her review. Not only the process of writing a review is complicated, but the process of finding useful information or reviews on Trip Advisor is a difficult. Pro and cons reviews are arranged in such a manner that rather make traveler even more confused than more informed.
bmy.guide understands how choosing a destination process works, how tourists search for information and make decisions and how important in the eWOM in all these aspects. Instead of making this process more complicated and longer, bmy.guide decided to offer the traveler what can be called the answer to all the questions. A search engine for locations and a social network platform — all in one place.
The information quality and completeness have a strong impact on traveler research behavior and well as the eWOM. Pro and cons opinions are more credible than one single perspective and the accuracy of the information will most probably satisfy traveler needs. bmy.guide aims to complete the development of a search engine for locations and a social network platform able to assist the tourist in all the aspects, starting with finding inspiration, research for information, choosing a destination, booking and planning, sharing the experiences and storing beautiful moments.
5. Comparative Analysis of TripAdvisor and bmy.guide in Terms of System Quality
With more information available but limited information processing capability, users need an IS with good features to minimize their efforts on processing information (Jones et al., 2004). The four dimensions of system quality in the context of knowledge management system are reliability, flexibility, response time, and integration.
Regarding system reliability, TripAdvisor was proven to be reliable to support a functioning operation system over time, from the technical point of view. bmy.guide aims to do the same. A team of professionals and devoted people working on the technical department ensures that the system will have quick error recovery and less technical problems.
In the matter of system integration, the difference between TripAdvisor and bmy.guide stands on the way the system allows data to be integrated from various sources to enable effective decisions. As a review aggregator, TripAdvisor integrates data from different travelers who decide to offer reviews based on their personal experiences.
However, the content provided is limited by the platform requirements and do not have the capacity to motivate users to use and generate eWOM. In the matter of integration, bmy.guide is different from all points of view. From its beginning bmy.guide realized that the way the user generated content is organized makes a huge difference for the travelers in the process of making a decision.
Bmy.guide organized the all the information and user generated content in a way that enables users to make effective decisions. All the postcards, reviews and journals contain the location the post was made from; this enables our platform to send every post to the location it belongs. For example, user X writes a review about Prato Restaurant from Brasov, Romania — this review will appear simultaneous on user’s guideline, on the general guideline, on Brasov’s page (city page) and on Romania’s page (country page). As a result, the provided information will be available for other users no matter if they are searching for Prato restaurant or searching for Brasov (or Romania).
While searching for a destination (i.e. Romania), the user is able to find a country page with all the postcards, reviews and journals made there.
The ability to automatically adapt online reviews to match travelers’ circumstances is the main attractiveness. It is important for a travel platform to present only high quality and a limited set of relevant messages as retrieval result according to user’s request. Therefore, bmy.guide integrates a powerful AI system to show users only the content they are directly interested in. The customized guideline is adapting based on the users interests and shows only relevant content that matter for the user. Moreover, the response time on bmy.guide is almost instantaneous.
As a social network platform, users will receive feedbacks from other users willing to offer help or share their experiences. In doing so, users can interact with each other by writing comments or by joining a real-time chat conversation. Chat application also allows users to connect directly with other users by sharing photos, videos, locations or links. As the first post from a location is made and the page for that location has been created, bmy.guide creates automatically a group chat dedicated to that specific page. As we observed that travelers are often unwilling to wait more than a handful of seconds for a response, they are now able to join a general chat conversation where thousands of other travelers are ready to offer help and support.
In this study we measured the success of the two systems (TripAdvisor and bmy.guide) based on the users behavior analysis and the implications of eWOM. We found differences in all the three quality dimensions for the eWOM behaviors. However, based on other previous studies, we found that only system quality (social interaction) and social quality (system reliability) have significant impact on travelers’ eWOM generation behavior on travel platforms.
The prevalence of social media and user-generated content has made social quality an important predictor of system use. In addition, social presence and social interaction with other peers in the travel systems are important attributes contributing to system success. The social quality of a system is another vital aspect for the effectiveness of a travel system. Since eWOM is a social phenomenon that occurs in group settings with electronic elements facilitated by new communication media, the more consumers’ interact in a virtual group, the more likely they will use eWOM (Lingreen et al., 2013).
Based on this comparison bmy.guide developers and designers decided to improve the system technical functions to be more reliable, dependable, and capable of integrating data from various sources.
The present case study was on behalf of bmy.guide.
Authors: Alexandra Nedelcu & Radulescu Alexandru
Publication date: August, 2019
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