The Internet is full of reviews and recommendations but also rants about almost everything. Indeed, we may be increasingly reluctant to book a restaurant or order an item online that has not been thoroughly reviewed. But what drives people’s decision to share product and service experiences in the first place?
Why people share their experiences
Research across different disciplines has investigated why individuals share reputational information. Behavioral economists have investigated relevant motives using experiments on social interactions. They demonstrated that, for some people, altruism is the main motivator for sharing experiences, and reviewers simply want to help others in making better decisions. For others, reciprocity seems to be the driving force – for positive as well as negative experiences. For instance, hotel guests experiencing severe failures that ruined their holidays might be inclined to retaliate with bad word-of-mouth or reviews. On the positive side, a highly satisfied customer who enjoyed an exceptionally delicious dinner might be motivated to give something back and publicly praise the restaurant.
Another highly discussed factor explaining why people do (or do not) share reputational information is the costs of sharing. Preparing and verbalizing the information to be shared requires cognitive effort. Further, it takes time to actually publish or share the information, leading to additional executional costs. Lower cognitive and executional costs make sharing more likely.