May 28, 2013 | Kevin Muoio

A Tale of Two Yelps


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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

Just like Charles Dickens’ classic novel A Tale of Two Cities, there is a duality afoot. This is no tale of peasantry and aristocracy of late 1700s London and Paris, but rather one set in the modern world of user ratings and reviews.

There were two incredible stories recently that set Yelp, and the user ratings space in general, back several steps.  With Dickensian flair, these stories are chockablock with intrigue, mistaken identities, threats of violence, heavy accents, etc. These two stories are everywhere this week and their details are too juicy to retell in detail here, but here’s a quick synopsis of each:

1) A Social Media / Ratings and Reviews “fixer” is recruiting senior Yelp reviewers for positive reviews

2) Amy’s Baking Company, a restaurant in Scottsdale, AZ received over one thousand negative Yelp reviews (most of them 1 star) based upon the restaurant appearing on the Gordon Ramsey TV show Kitchen Nightmares.   It’s a fantastic Kitchen Nightmares episode.  And everything else associated with this story is pretty friggin’ awesome as well.  In an attempt to defuse this ratings and reviews bomb, Yelp has deleted nearly all of the ratings and reviews added this week and are monitoring (deleting) most new ones.   Also, the restaurant has closed temporarily.

5 Star Reviews via XKCDSo, two awful setbacks for the ratings and reviews space, both coming on the heels of the FTC releasing over 700 complaints from restaurateurs about Yelp’s business practices, and this is what it boils down to: One Yelp that wants to build up restaurants (through payola) and One Yelp that seeks to destroy a restaurant with unearned (undeserved?) 1 star reviews.

What a week that was.  And what is the lesson to be learned here?

First off, I should start by saying that user ratings can be helpful at times to consumers that are looking for guidance in where to shop and eat. But the reality is that this type of user-generated feedback is really just that…feedback. Not measurement. And in the mobile world (especially in the mobile world), we need to get ahead of these experiences with predictive analytics powered by a scientific and proven methodology.

Through these tragic tales we learned that:

  • User generated ratings and reviews can be inflated or deflated in violent swings by people who have never been there or done that
  • Yelp is opt-in and reactive – plain and simple
  • Feedback is not representative of the experience of a random patron
  • There is no science to ratings and reviews

As a member of the mobile team at ForeSee, I can’t help but think of App Store ratings.   Why do these App store ratings matter?   They matter.  Big Time.  App Store ratings impact download volume and sales which is why developers beg users to review their apps, with the pleading beginning immediately after download in some cases.   Unlike Yelp, where reviewers don’t have to prove they’ve visited a restaurant, you must own an App in order to write a review on either Google Play or the Apple App Store.   Star ratings and reviews are still feedback…not measurement…but it’s at least a step in the right direction.   Measurement (especially good measurement) is random and representative: lovers, haters, and all those who fall somewhere in between.

But let’s face it – not every App is created equal or built to last. Some Apps don’t even have an expected App Store shelf life of a year.   Is your app built for the long haul?   If you measure, and measure correctly, within the mobile space you can offer customer experiences that will not only outlive the expectancy rate of other Apps but outshine competitors in the mobile space altogether for the long-term.  Why? Apps, more and more, are becoming key ingredients to a multi-channel strategy. And with a predictive methodology you can find and target areas of improvement that will help your App grow in value over time like a fine wine.

If you want to chat more about this or about mobile measurement, leave a comment below or email me directly.

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About the Author

Kevin is a Business Development Manager, Mobile for ForeSee. Early in his career, while working at Electronic Arts, Kevin experienced online gaming for the first time and had a feeling that the Internet just might be here to stay. Following this hunch, Kevin joined Jupiter Communications as a member of the company’s original sales team. Since joining Jupiter, Kevin has held both sales and sales management roles within the research and analytics space including a sales role on the launch team for the first company to measure the mobile consumer, M:Metrics, (acquired by comScore in 2009). As a hobby in the 2000s, Kevin launched iPod / iPhone gift retail websites which garnered global media attention (NYTimes, CNN, Wired). Recently, Kevin led fundraising efforts resulting in the reopening and restoration of the Greenwich Odeum, a vintage performing arts venue in his hometown. Kevin is based in Rhode Island with his wife, Sarah, their two children and rabbit Fluffernutter.

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