Open Vs. Closed Review Systems


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What is the future of customer review sites?

I started thinking about this while researching travel destinations for an executive retreat. The exec team had just hit a major goal, so I was looking at hotels in fairly exotic locations—and I noticed something weird. I had a déjà vu moment reading a review. I was certain I had just read the exact same review, but for a different hotel. Being inquisitive, I selected the review text in its entirety and pasted it inside quotation marks into a Google search. Sure enough, the very same review showed up on four different hotels—word for word, all 400 characters of it!

This has always been my issue with online review sites. Anyone can write a review. No certification, verification, any-ification whatsoever….

Later that year, when Amazon made the decision to delete all customer reviews (except book reviews that were already part of their closed environment), I knew that the world had changed. Closed review systems would ultimately win the day.


An open review site is the type we are all currently familiar with. It is a review site that allows anybody to sign up and review anything they want to, even if they have never been to said location or partaken of said services. These sites are built on an honor system that once worked far better than it does now.

On the other hand, a closed review site lives inside a specific, controlled ecosystem. Take Amazon for example. They know who has purchased the product (Yeah, you have to actually buy it to review it now), and they know when it has been shipped. Usually a few days after it has arrived you will get an email to review that item. That link will work one time to allow you to review the product you purchased. This is a closed environment. The reviews come from actual customers.

So which do you trust more?


I was on the popular open review site Yelp the other day looking at reviews for my favorite lunch restaurant. As I write this, the site has 1 review for this location, which was listed in January 2012.

So why does it matter that no new customer reviews have come in? And that the only review is from January 2012? Even more importantly, why does it matter that my favorite lunch spot is rated as a 3-star joint?

Costa Vida 4.5 OT

Because it isn’t. Yelp is wrong. As is Urbanspoon, Citysearch, and every other exposed review site out there.

It is a 4½-star place.

How do I know? 39,866 people told me it was. All in the last six months. Not 10, or 8, or 6 random reviews in six years! And I know these ratings are coming from actual customers who eat at the same restaurant I do; they’ve purchased a meal, eaten it, and submitted their review through the Mindshare platform using a validation code on their receipt.


Let’s go back in time just a bit. Back to when our consumer choices started to become varied enough that we needed help making the decision where to eat, what to buy, where to go for fun. This was the genesis of review sites as we know them. Suddenly, and brilliantly, people began using the interwebs to enlist the help of others around the world. My thanks to the many peeps out there who made the world a better place by selflessly sharing their knowledge and experiences.

Sadly, that system is no longer working. Why? Because, to sum it up, money is the root of all evil. Yeah, money ruined our Utopia. Once money entered the equation, the world of reviews was victimized by an onslaught of unethical entries. Ironically, even with the addition of fraudulent and duplicate posts, open review sites still don’t generate enough reviews to show a representative and accurate rating for most listed business locations.

A change was definitely needed.

Amazon got it, as do many other secure ecosystems. Exposed review sites are doomed; they just don’t know it yet. They can’t exist much longer in their vulnerable state, allowing non-customers to post false information—especially when authentic reviews are in such short supply that a single false review can drastically skew ratings and reputation in any direction.



Reviews have become the go-to reference for shoppers. According to this 2012 study, 67% of local consumers have consulted online customer reviews of local businesses and 69% trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Those numbers only appear to be rising, with percentages being even higher for younger people.

Our options in dining, travel, entertainment, hospitality, and basically every other category out there are still multiplying. When it comes to making consumer decisions, we are more dependent than ever on the shared reviews of other customers.

The informative power of customer review sites remains in very high demand, but their survival depends on their ability to move to a controlled ecosystem—a closed system like the one available to businesses through Mindshare’s OpenTell.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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