Consumers Get Critical
By George Anderson
Some consumers, considering the purchase of a product, like knowing what others who bought the same item thought of it. For these shoppers, Amazon and a host of other retailers offer customer reviews.
While review functions are becoming increasingly popular with consumers, they are also problematic for retailers. If consumers pan a product stocked by a retailer, how can the business sell it?
Some retailers, such as Newegg.com, have decided to withhold posting comments that could negatively impact sales, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.
According to the paper, a U.S. Army engineer, Peter Brig, had problems with computer storage discs he bought from Newegg.com. In response, he wrote two product reviews on the disks for the retailer’s Web site only to find that Newegg.com would not post them.
“I just wanted to tell other people about the incompatibility” he said. “But they didn’t allow me to communicate that to anyone.”
Newegg.com did follow up with Mr. Brig and offered him an apology and a refund but never posted his comments for others to see. As a result, he has developed a different view of Newegg.com’s online product reviews, saying he doesn’t “know if I truly trust their review process.”
Carrie Johnson, an e-commerce analyst with Forrester Research, said 26 percent of online retailers use product reviews because it is seen as a valuable service to shoppers. Some hold back for fear that posting negative comments may hurt sales.
Others try to balance the equation by editing and deciding not to publish some reviews. “That is one of the reasons why using reviews are so tricky,” she said. “Customers will feel duped when their reviews don’t get posted, and feel that there is censorship going on.”
Moderator’s Comment: Are customer reviews posted on a retailer’s Web site good for business or bad? How should retailers balance between the need to
sell product and the opinions of products expressed by its shoppers?
– George Anderson – Moderator