This study aims to adopt a cognitive heuristic approach to investigate the interaction effect of a message source characteristic (reviewer expertise [RE]) and two message structure characteristics (review rating consistency [RC] and review valence [RV]) on the perceived credibility of hotel online reviews.
Data were collected from 242 university students and were analyzed by three-way analysis of variance through a 2 × 2 factorial experiments using a simulated hotel review page on TripAdvisor.
Results show a three-way interaction effect of RE, RC and RV on the perceived credibility of hotel online reviews. The main effects of the three factors are also determined. Higher perceived credibility scores are found for negative reviews, reviews written by experts and reviews with a consistent rating.
This study adopts an experimental approach and is the first to investigate the three-way interactions of message source and message structure characteristics of online hotel reviews. Data were collected from students in a university in Hong Kong. Results may not be generalizable to other markets.
Results suggest that reviews written by experts have higher perceived credibility. Hotels should pay attention to the content of online reviews and the expertise level of reviewers. Efforts should be exerted to create positive experiences for hotel guests that motivate expert reviewers to write positive reviews. Note that negative reviews have higher perceived credibility than positive ones. Hotels should promptly address negative reviews and provide professional responses to reviewers. Platform operators of user-generated content (UGC) should create well-defined reviewer profiles that can serve as cues that communicate the different expertise of reviewers.