Believing Online Reviews
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,
Drugstore.com 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 drugstore.com’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:
Diapers.com 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 Diapers.com 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?