Why we’re fucking better than Yelp
“People don’t want to read anymore.”
Those are the words of Alexis Maybank, Co-Founder of Gilt, speaking at Digital Summit 2012 last week. When discussing why at Gilt they put so much emphasis on compelling imagery (they have 12 studios littered across Manhattan), she explained it’s “because people don’t want to read anymore.”
This is true. Fact is: people don’t want to think anymore. We have the attention span of gnats and are constantly searching for the smallest possible nuggets of information to help us make decisions and find what we’re looking for. This is where the existing models (Yelp, Amazon reviews, etc) fail.
A recent study showed that when people make purchasing decisions, they consult online marketplaces such as Amazon and online review sites like Yelp more than they do traditional word-of-mouth channels like friends and family:
Where Amazon’s focus is on products, Yelp is a treasure trove of reviews on restaurants, nightlife, shopping and entertainment. The problem is when you get reviews like this:
If you read closely you’ll notice this user was displeased with his experience at El Pollo Loco. Yet he rated it 5 stars. Here’s a suggestion for Yelp: Next to “Was this review…?” add a tab for “Coma Inducing” because this guy just fucking fried our brains like philly blunts.
To understand why reviews like this even exist, you have to first understand how Yelp works
- They favor long form reviews - Yelp is optimized for SEO which means the longer the reviews the better. These aren’t easy to digest.
- They allow biased reviews - Many of Yelp’s reviews are written by the owner, friends and family or the competition. There’s an incentive by business owners to get their ratings up.
- They emphasize ratings - What does fuck 3.5 stars mean anyway? And how is that different from 3.6 stars? What if my friend highly recommends a place but it has 1 star on Yelp? Which carries more weight? Just sayin’, friends give hugs. Stars are cool but they don’t give hugs.
Now, we know this goes against the “we need to make this so easy my mom could use it!” mentality but we like to assume people (including our less than tech savvy mothers) are smart. A smart person would know that the El Pollo Loco review above is bullshit. That person would also learn to take these reviews with a grain of salt to avoid such bullshittery. They’ll start triaging reviews and ask themselves things like:
- How many people have reviewed this place?
- Does this review sound biased?
- Can I trust this reviewer?
The list goes on…
This process, grain of salting, requires more thinking - that which these platforms should be trying to eliminate. We believe this can be done by bridging the gap between traditional word-of-mouth recommendations and online reviews. Recommendations should be built on trust, guide you in the right direction and help you find what you’re looking for faster. When recommendations serve their function, they naturally eliminate thinking. That’s just fucking common sense.
With Awessome! we’ve built a platform where you save and share things you love with your friends. Since you know your friends, it removes the “trust problem”, and the only things posted are those that have a 6 star stamp of approval. There are no ratings or grades or numbers. Just an image and a short, positive, and easy to digest review made by the people you trust. Take for example the recommendation below. Our buddy Kiran (a chef), recommended Tasty China in Atlanta. These are the kinds of recommendations that are useful. They’re personal, have a point of view and just make us fucking happy.
We’re not trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator. We want to help people make qualitatively better decisions by providing reviews that are, as Rocky so eloquently put it, “personally relevant, not universally irrelevant.”
And that’s why we’re just fucking better.