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Reviews, Reputation, and Revenue: The Case of Yelp.com

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  • Michael Luca

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    (Harvard Business School, Negotiation, Organizations & Markets Unit)

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    Abstract

    Do online consumer reviews affect restaurant demand? I investigate this question using a novel dataset combining reviews from the website Yelp.com and restaurant data from the Washington State Department of Revenue. Because Yelp prominently displays a restaurant's rounded average rating, I can identify the causal impact of Yelp ratings on demand with a regression discontinuity framework that exploits Yelp's rounding thresholds. I present three findings about the impact of consumer reviews on the restaurant industry: (1) a one-star increase in Yelp rating leads to a 5% to 9% increase in revenue, (2) this effect is driven by independent restaurants; ratings do not affect restaurants with chain affiliation, and (3) chain restaurants have declined in market share as Yelp penetration has increased. This suggests that online consumer reviews substitute for more traditional forms of reputation. I then test whether consumers use these reviews in a way that is consistent with standard learning models. I present two additional findings: (4) consumers do not use all available information and are more responsive to quality changes that are more visible and (5) consumers respond more strongly when a rating contains more information. Consumer response to a restaurant's average rating is affected by the number of reviews and whether the reviewers are certified as "elite" by Yelp, but is unaffected by the size of the reviewers' Yelp friends network.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Harvard Business School in its series Harvard Business School Working Papers with number 12-016.

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    Length: 40 pages
    Date of creation: Sep 2011
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:12-016

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    References

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    1. Ginger Zhe Jin & Phillip Leslie, 2003. "The Effect Of Information On Product Quality: Evidence From Restaurant Hygiene Grade Cards," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(2), pages 409-451, May.
    2. Raj Chetty & Adam Looney & Kory Kroft, 2009. "Salience and taxation: theory and evidence," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2009-11, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    3. Cabral, Luís M B & Hortaçsu, Ali, 2004. "The Dynamics of Seller Reputation: Theory and Evidence from eBay," CEPR Discussion Papers 4345, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    4. Ellison, Glenn & Fudenberg, Drew, 1995. "Word-of-Mouth Communication and Social Learning," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(1), pages 93-125, February.
    5. Kaufmann, Patrick J & Lafontaine, Francine, 1994. "Costs of Control: The," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 37(2), pages 417-53, October.
    6. Steve Tadelis, 1997. "What's in a Name? Reputation as a Tradeable Asset," Working Papers 97033, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
    7. Paul Resnick & Christopher Avery & Richard Zeckhauser, 1999. "The Market for Evaluations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 564-584, June.
    8. M. Kate Bundorf & Natalie Chun & Gopi Shah Goda & Daniel P. Kessler, 2008. "Do Markets Respond to Quality Information? The Case of Fertility Clinics," NBER Working Papers 13888, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Michael Luca & Jonathan Smith, 2013. "Salience in Quality Disclosure: Evidence from the U.S. News College Rankings," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 22(1), pages 58-77, 03.
    10. Gregory Lewis, 2011. "Asymmetric Information, Adverse Selection and Online Disclosure: The Case of eBay Motors," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(4), pages 1535-46, June.
    11. Ginger Zhe Jin & Phillip Leslie, 2009. "Reputational Incentives for Restaurant Hygiene," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 237-67, February.
    12. Guido Imbens & Thomas Lemieux, 2007. "Regression Discontinuity Designs: A Guide to Practice," NBER Working Papers 13039, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. David A. Reinstein & Christopher M. Snyder, 2005. "THE INFLUENCE OF EXPERT REVIEWS ON CONSUMER DEMAND FOR EXPERIENCE GOODS: A CASE STUDY OF MOVIE CRITICS -super-* ," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 53(1), pages 27-51, 03.
    14. Wang Zhongmin, 2010. "Anonymity, Social Image, and the Competition for Volunteers: A Case Study of the Online Market for Reviews," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 10(1), pages 1-35, May.
    15. Jonah E. Rockoff & Douglas O. Staiger & Thomas J. Kane & Eric S. Taylor, 2010. "Information and Employee Evaluation: Evidence from a Randomized Intervention in Public Schools," NBER Working Papers 16240, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. McCrary, Justin, 2008. "Manipulation of the running variable in the regression discontinuity design: A density test," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 698-714, February.
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    Cited by:
    1. Nicollier, Luciana A, 2013. "Reviews, Prices and Endogenous Information Transmission," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1029, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    2. Bar Ifrach & Costis Maglaras & Marco Scarsini, 2011. "Monopoly Pricing in the Presence of Social Learning," Working Papers 11-11, NET Institute, revised Nov 2011.
    3. Richards, Timothy J. & Tiwari, Ashutosh, 2014. "Social Networks and Restaurant Choice," 2014 AAEA/EAAE/CAES Joint Symposium: Social Networks, Social Media and the Economics of Food, May 29-30, 2014, Montreal, Canada 166112, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association & Canadian Agricultural Economics Society & European Association of Agricultural Economists.
    4. Sarigul, Sercan & Rui, Huaxia, 2014. "Nowcasting Obesity in the U.S. Using Google Search Volume Data," 2014 AAEA/EAAE/CAES Joint Symposium: Social Networks, Social Media and the Economics of Food, May 29-30, 2014, Montreal, Canada 166113, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association & Canadian Agricultural Economics Society & European Association of Agricultural Economists.

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