All posts by Maria Abrantes

There are two kinds of people, which one are you?

Do you prefer Coke or Pepsi? Do you eat your burger with cheese or without? And what about coffee, Americano or espresso? Zomato ensures that every meal, for users with all kinds of preferences, is a great experience.

Zomato is an India-based restaurant directory startup, that provides detailed information regarding restaurants nearby, including scanned menus, and also user’s reviews and photos of their gastronomic experiences. Zomato also includes real-time information about the restaurant and lets users book tables through its iOS and Android apps.

The image bellow summarizes Zomato’s key features:


Zomato has 1,398,900 listed restaurants in 22 countries. With the recent acquisition of Urbanspoon, Zomato will break into the US market, competing against services like Foursquare and Yelp.

The business model is quite simple, Zomato hires people to visit restaurants and to send the data to the team, including up to date information on new openings and scanned copies of menus. Users can then share photos of their dishes and evaluate restaurants in order to help other users decide where to eat.

The detailed informations available for each restaurant is then a result of the combined inputs of both the Zomato’s team and the users.

Example of a restaurant in Lisbon. Source:
Layout of the information available for each restaurant.  Source:

At Zomato, user’s evaluation takes the form of both a rating, using a 5-points scale and a review. Given that consumers with more extreme opinions (very satisfied or dissatisfied) are more likely to rate (Li and Hitt, 2008), most restaurants have a score of either close to 1 or higher than 4, as  the image bellow exemplifies.

Results of restaurantes for breakfast in Lisbon. Source:
Results of restaurants in Lisbon. Source:

Product rating is crucial for Zomato given that it is an integral element of online businesses especially for experience goods (Tsekouras, 2015) and because they are a reflection of product quality (Hu et al., 2009). Also, consumers tend to trust more opinions derived from others customers than information provided by the vendors themselves (Chevalier and Mayzlin, 2006), which is why having a high number of reviews is a key success factor for Zomato.

Social surroundings are then of crucial importance given that the success of Zomato relies on the degree to which there is interaction between users, through comments, ratings and a community creation of “foodies”, and the degree to which network effects take place i.e. where a good or service becomes more valuable because more people use it (Katz and Shapiro, 1994).  As according to Grönroos and Voima (2013), the customer’s well-being of Zomato is increased through the process, as more user’s feedback is available for each restaurant.

As a startup, Zomato relies in eWOM in order to attract new users and generate brand awareness. Unlike traditional WOM, eWOM has much broader effects, in part because there is no need to have a pre existing connection between the sender and the receiver. As so, eWOM applies to Zomato since it operates in an online context whereas traditional WOM typically happens in a face-to-face context (King et al., 2014).

Zomato is providing value for the consumers whilst the consumers are also creating value for each other, through their evaluations and photos. This reflects a finding in the article by Saarijarvi et al (2013), which states that it is important to evaluate what kind of value is co-created and for whom, meaning that value can have a different meaning for different actors in the co-creation process.

Zomato also generates great value for restaurants. In fact it is one of the most cost-effective high-impact marketing platform for dining establishments.


Check out the best place for you at!


Chevalier, J. A. and D. Mayzlin (2006). “The Effect of Word of Mouth on Sales: Online Book Re- views.” Journal of Marketing Research 43(3), 345–354.

Grönroos, C., & Voima, P. (2013). Critical service logic: making sense of value creation and co-creation. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 41(2), 133-150

Katz, M.L. & Shapiro, C. (1994). Systems Competition and Network Effects, The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 8(2), 93-115.

King, R.A., Racherla, P., & Bush, V.D. (2014). What We Know and Don’t Know About Online Word-of-Mouth: A Review and Synthesis of the Literature. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 28(3), 167-183

Li, X., & Hitt, L. M. (2008). Self-selection and information role of online product reviews. Infor- mation Systems Research, 19(4), 456-474.

Saarijärvi, H., Kannan, P.K., & Kuusela, H. (2013). Value co-creation: theoretical approaches and practical implications. European Business Review, 25(1), 6-19.

Tsekouras, D. (2015) Variations On A Rating Scale: The Effect On Extreme Response Tendency In Product Ratings, working paper.



Last year I decided to invest on a financial product. I wanted to put in practice some of the finance concepts that I was learning on my masters, so I wasn’t looking for a standardize investment product. However, given my limited knowledge about financial markets and services, I needed professional guidance. Increasingly, firms are viewed as facilitators of the value co-creation process rather than as producers of standardized value (Payne, Storbacka, and Frow 2008), so I contacted my bank and met with an asset manager. Together we setup a portfolio taking into account my profitability and risk goals. I was very satisfied with this service, in part because I had a voice on the portfolio composition, but what about the manager?

I was satisfied to participate in the process of creating the portfolio because I had more control over the product and the outcome met my personal goals and needs. However, this implied that the manager had less power over the portfolio composition and more input uncertainty. In fact, customers’ increased involvement in the service process may shift more power from employees to customers, and thereby increase employee workloads and role conflict (Hsieh, Yen, and Chin 2004; Kelley, Donnelly, and Skinner 1990). Customer participation can increase task difficulty for employees, leading to role ambiguity (Larsson and Bowen 1989) and ultimately job dissatisfaction. So did I increase the asset manager’s job stress?

According to the research study “Is Customer Participation in Value Creation a Double-Edged Sword? Evidence from Professional Financial Services Across Cultures”, (Kimmy Wa Chan, et al.) the answer highly depends on the cultural values of the employee and the customer.

The study analyzed (1) how customer participation drives performance outcomes (e.g. employee’s job stress) through the creation of economic and relational values and (2) how it differs across different cultures. The study used data collected from 349 pairs of customers and service employees in two national groups (Hong Kong and the United States) of a global financial institution.

Conceptual framework
Proposed conceptual framework

Customer Participation can drive service outcomes through the creation of either economic values (the benefit and cost outcomes of the portfolio co-created) or relational values (the emotional bonds between the asset manager and me) for both customers and service employees.

In order to understand how participants’ cultural differences have an impact on the effects of customer participation on value creation, the study analyzed three cultural value orientations: individualism, collectivism and power distance (Hofstede 1980).

The table above explains these cultural values orientations and shows countries in which they are verified.

Hofstede's cultural dimensions
Hofstede’s cultural dimensions

Customer participation may be a double-edged sword. If customers have high collectivist and power distance value orientations, they perceive less economic value and are able to enhance employee’s job satisfaction, through the creation of relational value. However if otherwise they are highly individualists or with a lower power distance value orientation, customer participation can indeed increase employees’ job stress.

Given the increasing globalization of markets, it could be worthwhile to match customers and employees by their cultural values, in order to maximize the benefits and minimize the costs of customer participation.


Kimmy Wa Chan, Chi Kin (Bennett) Yim, & Simon S.K. Lam (2010), “Is Customer Participation in Value Creation a Double-Edged Sword? Evidence from Professional Financial Services Across Cultures”, Journal of Marketing, Vol. 74 (May 2010), 48–64

Guerrier, Yvonne and Amel S. Adib (2000), “‘No, We Don’t Provide That Service:’ The Hararssment of Hotel Employees by Customers,” Work Employment Society, 14 (4), 689–704.

Hofstede, Geert H. (1980), Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

Hsieh, An T., Chang H. Yen, and Ko C. Chin (2004), “Participative Customers as Partial Employees and Service Provider Work- load,” International Journal of Service Industry Management, 15 (2), 187–99.

Kelley, Scott W., James H. Donnelly Jr., and Steven J. Skinner (1990), “Customer Participation in Service Production and Delivery,” Journal of Retailing, 66 (Fall), 315–35.

Payne, Adrian F., Kaj Storbacka, and Pennie Frow (2008), “Managing the Co-Creation of Value,” Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 36 (1), 83–96.




Minecraft aka Digital Lego

“It isn’t like other games. There are no instructions, no levels, no mission structure, no story, no lives, no points, no clear goal. The only aim is to survive”

User design and co-creation have emerged as a mechanism to build brand loyalty, to fit products to the heterogeneous needs of a market, and to differentiate the offerings of a manufacturer. More than ever, customers want to make their own choices and demand uniqueness. Minecraft was born in the context of our increasingly individualized and digitalized world.

You start Minecraft in the middle of a randomly generated, “blocky-looking” world about eight times the size of Earth and are completely free to do what you want. You can go exploring, or you can get creative.

Minecraft allows users to create their own environment and build new structures with the building blocks provided by the game designers. At the start of the game, the player is placed on the surface of a procedurally generated and virtually infinite game world. The game world is procedurally generated as players explore it. Minecraft also enables multiple players to interact and communicate with each other on a single world.

The game was created by Markus Persson and was recently sold to Microsoft for $2.5 billion. Without any advertisements, Minecraft had 1 million purchases, less than a month after entering its beta phase.

In addition to Minecraft, there are several games that allow users to generate content. For instance, Sim City lets players build up their own city within the game constraints. The novelty of Minecraft is that it offers infinite creativity and control!

Like in mass customization, in Minecraft users are active co creators and are the beneficiaries of their creations. However as some of the best Minecraft creations can be shared, they might benefit others (game developers, architects etc.) But why do customers benefit from playing Minecraft? Firstly because it’s fun, second because it enables users to create experiences that are tailored to their needs and finally, because it may fulfill their social needs, in particular when publicly showing their creations.

Check out some of the best creations:

“It offers infinite creativity and control”

By giving so much freedom, is Minecraft able to maximize users’ satisfaction? Given that Minecraft players may not fully understand their needs or may have different levels of skills, the game bears the risk of a “design defect”: a choice of design parameters that does not maximize user satisfaction (Randall, T., Terwiesch, C., & Ulrich, K.T. (2005). This design defect concept reflects a misfit between the game designed and the one that might have been designed, despite the fact that the user is in control of all of the design decisions. Minecraft mitigates this risk by including some default options that enhance customer satisfaction. For instance, gameplay by default is in first person, but players have the option to play in third person mode.


Randall, T., Terwiesch, C., & Ulrich, K.T. (2005). Principles for user design of customized products. California Management Review, 47(4), 68.