Believing Online Reviews

Oct 19, 2009
Tom Ryan

By Tom Ryan

Online reviews –
even negative ones – have proven to increase sales and alert e-tailers to problems.
But online retailers are increasingly figuring out ways to increase the number
of reviews and add more creditability to them.

For example, according
to an article in The Wall Street Journal, in 2008 introduced a procedure that automatically e-mails customers
three weeks after they’ve made a purchase to encourage them to post a review.
The program led to more than a 300 percent hike in new reviews.

A side benefit was
that customers who responded to e-mails could be confirmed as buyers of those
products. “Verified buyers” are now noted next to the reviews, adding authenticity
to their opinions.

“Three or four years
ago, you were just happy if you found a review on something,” said Andy Chen,
CEO of Power Reviews, which has managed’s reviews for since 1998. “But
now you wonder if I can trust the reviews that I am reading to make a decision.”

The article pointed
to a number of other advances around online reviews:

  • is now using a feature offered by Power Reviews to distinguish
    one reviewer from another. Reviewers are asked to check terms such as “First-Time
    Parent” or “Grandparent.” Reviews show up on categorized
    under those headings. The site is now further drilling down to identify “Parents
    of Twins” and other classifications. The feature is designed
    to provide an edge over sites primarily ranking reviews voted most

  • Bazaarvoice, a software firm, is introducing a technology that links
    reviewers’ write-ups with their Facebook profiles to provide further
    information on those posting a review.

  • JC Whitney, the auto parts dealer, about two years ago added a feature
    asking shoppers to pose questions about products before they buy. Now,
    when a JC Whitney customer posts a question on the site, other customers,
    or JC Whitney employees or suppliers, can post answers that all shoppers
    can see. The shift didn’t boost sales but product returns decreased 23
    percent in the first year after the system was put in place because customers
    were buying the wrong items.

Discussion Questions: How can retailers further capitalize on the popularity of online reviews? What do you think of the efforts mentioned in the article to improve the credibility and number of reviews?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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7 Comments on "Believing Online Reviews"

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Doron Levy
Doron Levy
11 years 6 months ago

Keeping the review forum interactive is the best way to build credibility. When a negative review pops up, it is every retailer’s duty to correct the situation. If the review is bogus, you will quickly flush it out when you answer it with a possible solution.

W. Frank Dell II
11 years 6 months ago

Reviews are important to online retailers due to little or no human interaction. We all know that when the only difference is price, why stay in business? Differences in website design have shown significant differences in sales rates and customer loyalty. For example, eBay has every buyer rate the seller on receiving what they thought they were purchasing and the speed of service.

The best way to get reviews is to ask for them after the transaction has been completed.

Max Goldberg
11 years 6 months ago

Online reviews are no longer a “nice to have.” They have become essential. Consumers, for the most part, do not trust brand advertising messages. They want to hear from others. Encouraging reviews and then making it simple to post them all build consumer confidence in a purchase decision, especially when there are multiple products in a category.

Manufacturers can help in this process by responding to consumer complaints directly, online. Consumers can see whether a company cares enough to correct a problem and how the complaint was handled. That tells a lot about how they regard consumers and whether they will stand behind their products.

Ralph Jacobson
11 years 6 months ago

Online reviews can be taken at virtually every step of the shopping/purchasing process. Even prior to purchase, asking questions–or even better–posting a perception about the product or service, can give great insights to the retailer and CPG company. Knowing what the shopper thinks of the product or store prior to their purchase creates awareness of the perception of the product…and perception is reality.

Ensuring all SKUs have reviews is also important. Offering rewards of some small nature to encourage customers to leave reviews is well worth the effort. Also, making sure the reviews are legitimate requires dedication of your Web Team. Following up with negative reviews is key when the reviewer leaves their identity. But following up on positive reviews can be even more worthwhile, since it is easier to make a happy customer happier, than trying to turn around a dissatisfied one.

Bernice Hurst
11 years 6 months ago

Sorry but none of these so-called improvements convince me that the reviews themselves are any more reliable. Not that I’m sure what would. Short of knowing each and every reviewer and how much their preferences coincide with my own, I am always loathe to rely on the word of total strangers.

Ed Dennis
Ed Dennis
11 years 6 months ago

I recently bought a video camera via the web because it was dirt cheap. I am delighted with it as I didn’t think $29 could possibly buy a movie camera, but it did. However, NO online reviews could be found on this product before I bought. This was somewhat disconcerting as I almost always find an opinion on any product before I buy it.

The efforts being made to expand and encourage product reviews is commendable. The more independent information available, the better for all involved. I especially like the idea of a verified review. This keeps the trashing of a product by competitors to a minimum. I applaud every effort to provide consumers with information on products. This is a great start.

Shilpa Rao
11 years 6 months ago

There is no debate on the fact that pre-retailing has become a norm. Customers do research products on the net before they buy them. Often this process is time consuming and customers get more confused than informed. Retailers need to help their customers in the process of decision making. In a brick and mortar store, this has been traditionally done through visual merchandising. An online store offers more opportunities than ever to make this decision simpler.

One of the ways is through categorizing reviews. Retailers could categorize the reviews by:
a. Customer Segments like had segmented – first time parents, grandparents and so on.
b. Usage (What was the product used for/occasion it was used for).
c. Features (Feature wise opinion).
d. Services (Store pick up, after sales and so on).

Further. a summary of the review based on the “karma” of the reviewer could be provided. Karma could be based on factors like:
The reviewer has bought the product;
The reviewer is a customer’s friend on a social networking site like facebook;
The user votes for the review; and so on.


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