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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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    3. Looney, Adam & Kroft, Kory & Chetty, Raj, 2009. "Salience and Taxation: Theory and Evidence," Scholarly Articles 9748525, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    4. 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.
    5. Imbens, Guido W. & Lemieux, Thomas, 2008. "Regression discontinuity designs: A guide to practice," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 615-635, February.
    6. 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.
    7. Luis Cabral & Ali Hortacsu, 2004. "The Dynamics of Seller Reputation: Theory and Evidence from eBay," NBER Working Papers 10363, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
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    11. 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.
    12. Paul Resnick & Christopher Avery & Richard Zeckhauser, 1999. "The Market for Evaluations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 564-584, June.
    13. 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.
    14. Michael Luca & Jonathan Smith, 2011. "Salience in Quality Disclosure: Evidence from the U.S. News College Rankings," Harvard Business School Working Papers 12-014, Harvard Business School.
    15. Steve Tadelis, 1997. "What's in a Name? Reputation as a Tradeable Asset," Working Papers 97033, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
    16. 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.
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    Cited by:
    1. 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.
    2. Liad Wagman & Vincent Conitzer, 2014. "False-name-proof voting with costs over two alternatives," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer, vol. 43(3), pages 599-618, August.
    3. Bar Ifrach & Costis Maglaras & Marco Scarsini, 2011. "Monopoly Pricing in the Presence of Social Learning," Working Papers 11-11, NET Institute, revised Nov 2011.
    4. 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.
    5. Nicollier, Luciana A, 2013. "Reviews, Prices and Endogenous Information Transmission," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1029, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.

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