Electronic word of mouth has grown in importance years as a tool for business development. In the recent past, prior to the development of technology as a major tool for communication, word of mouth was a popular tool for assessing the relevance of a particular business. Individuals trusted reviews gained from their peers and other people with credibility. In a similar way, the advent of technology has increased the use of the word of mouth’s scope to encompass the digital community. A large section of people is dependent on reviews derived from websites where the reliability of a source is dependent on the reviewer. A reviewer with greater affinity for the aspect of life that they represent is more likely to be trusted when compared with their less experienced counterparts. Businesses are thus increasingly becoming reliant on electronic word of mouth (e-WOM) in a bid to boost their customer numbers and loyalty towards the entities.
Efficient business processes play a major role in the marketing arena. Individuals are prone to become loyal to institutions with an efficient process when compared to those that exhibit instability. Additionally, marketing efforts are focused on finding individuals that can be defined as target customers. Therefore, various techniques are employed by individuals as they seek to gain a target market. For instance, a large number of restaurants provide coupons to individuals who eat at the establishments. While some of these individuals may visit the business entities only once to use the coupons given, there is a possibility that they may visit the restaurant in the future. As such, it is necessary to ensure that marketers have determined the target population to be enticed to eat at the restaurants where some of these individuals are prone to write reviews of their experience at the restaurant on online platforms.
Reviews written by individuals regarding a restaurant are dependent on the popularity of e-WOM where in recent years, various online review websites such as Google reviews and Yelp.com have grown in popularity. This is because a large number of customers look for restaurants to visit based on reviews that are elicited in major websites such as those mentioned previously, prior to settling with a particular place. Therefore, e-WOM plays a major role in determining where a customer is to go since highly trusted reviewers are likely to recommend a place that the customer would enjoy spending time and money.
On the other hand, business owners have grown increasingly reliant on online customer reviews. In this way, online popularity has grown in favour as it is currently considered an important aspect for many restaurants as their efforts are directed towards attaining greater popularity in sites. This may come in the form of posting pictures on SNS or writing reviews on Yelp.com. the latter site is popular with various industries such as the hospitality and catering industry, beverage industry and dentistry. While it also focuses on other businesses, many reviewers are in the hospitality and catering industry where hundreds of reviews could be garnered by a top restaurant. Nonetheless, other eating establishments also generate some views based on the level of professionalism and awe by customers, where some reviews do not focus on the food but rather an ambience of a location, giving it a high rate. Therefore, as customers would want to sample a restaurant that has good reviews from others, businesses have been prompted to improve their service provision as an incentive for customers to write good reviews regarding the establishments.
Additionally, it is important to consider the implication of review numbers towards the growth of a business. This is because a business is likely to attract more customers based on a number of reviews and rating scores elicited from these reviews. For example, such reviews are very important to new restaurants where it is helpful to collect a large number of reviews in a short while. However, while the ratings may be good for a particular restaurant, if the number of reviews is small, the restaurant may not appear among the top restaurants that people search for when reviewing online sites for e-WOM. In this way, it is common for restaurants to invite well-known figures to dine at their establishments. For example, a Power blogger, Editor or Elite member in Yelp.com may be sought to offer high-quality reviews for a particular business entity. Such individuals are helpful as they normally boost the image of a business through their popularity. However, it is important to consider the reality that customer reviews sourced from these individuals may be negative and thus lead to a drop in sales. As such, to cancel out the effects of bad reviews, a restaurant should also seek reviews from customers without a lot of social sway in a bid to develop their profile.
Therefore, e-WOM is an important tool for the determination of good restaurants where business owners would benefit immensely if they were able to predict potential customers with a standing in the online community. They would thus provide valuable promotional services where it would be an efficient tool to boost their online popularity while using minimal monies in the process.
The paper focuses on Yelp.com as an example of e-WOM use in contemporary societies where various features are focused on, that is, reviewer relevant features and restaurant relevant features. In previous studies, researchers have focused on survey analysis to gauge the intention of e-WOM and its manner of finding target customers. However, this form of study is tedious and thus posits issues when coming up with predictions for results. Therefore, Yelp.com is to be used in the current study to determine the type of individuals who would write reviews for a particular restaurant. The goal here is to gauge how a restaurant would predict its potential customers who write online reviews. Furthermore, it seeks to determine relevant feature to be used when gauging the accuracy of predicting potential customers who would write online reviews regarding a particular restaurant.
A reviewer should be inclined to look at the number of reviews that have been written by a customer. This will give them an overall picture of the familiarity that an individual has with a business. Moreover, it is important to look at the average rating afforded to a restaurant by the customer. Exceptional customers, that is, those with a high standing in the online community such as Elite users in Yelp.com should be sought after as they are likely to provide accurate results. E-WOM is also helpful in determining the relationship between a customer and their friends regarding the business entity while also assessing the number of fans that follow a customer. Lastly, it is prudent to gauge the total number of votes that a customer gets for all their reviews.
Furthermore, it is important to assess restaurant relevant features such as the similarities exhibited between a new restaurant, that is, their target markets, and those that have previously been reviewed by customers. In this way, it is important to determine features such as proximity of target restaurants and those previously visited by reviewers, the preference of a customer in terms of visited restaurants; category, that is, they could be Asian, American, Mexican, not to mention those from other places around the globe. It is also important to gauge the average price range of visited restaurants )1-4 levels) and a food menu that have been mentioned previously in other customer reviews.
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