November 9, 2012

Recommendations - Snake Oil or Gold

I recently read a comment by Valorie Maltoni suggesting, "We are witnessing the dissolution of the traditional sales role, as recommendation commerce store fronts become wherever you happen to be, doing whatever you happen to be doing...the Storeless store and the Saleless sale." While I don't think it's entirely true or affecting every industry yet I do think the online recommendations are wildly popular, especially in the hospitality industry. The obvious reasons are convenience, instant availability, and perceived reliability. The problem is cheaters- businesses that misrepresent themselves with false information then regurgitate the information through recommendation commerce. They get away with it over and over again until it becomes a perceived truth. Most cheaters eventually get exposed, but the damage is already done to consumer and the industry making recommendations seem suspect. In order for recommendation commerce to thrive there will have to be a semi-altruistic intent of reliability within the industry. In other words it's ok to be cool, make money, and achieve notoriety; trustworthiness and reliability will need to rule. Online businesses that make recommendations must mind the store, deal with problems swiftly, and make sure snake oil sales are squashed. Even if you didn't make the recommendation, misrepresenting a product or service is unacceptable. Simply allowing it to be posted on your website is sanctioning it. Sorting it all out is a bit of a conundrum though. To insure that it does not become as severe a problem as the old acceptable margin of false advertising, recommendation commerce must police itself. It isn't possible to catch everyone cheating. Giving consumers reporting options is a good start. Its like having a neighborhood watch (at the very least a good deterrent), because it is never okay to perpetuate a falsehood when consumers have put their faith in your recommendation.

As more useful applications and social media inroads develop online recommendations will become the most powerful form of marketing hotels, restaurants, and attractions... viral word of mouth. Recommendation commerce is a great marketing tool as long as it is reliable.

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