Consumers Seek Advice from Strangers

Discussion
Aug 30, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Forget the advice to never talk to strangers. An increasing number of consumers are getting advice from people they don’t know on a daily basis as more people flock to the internet
for reviews on products and merchants.


According to a report by Jupiter Research, 48 percent on online shoppers look for retailers that post product reviews, and the number of consumers who saw reviews as the most
important feature of a site doubled between 2005 and 2006.


Brett Hurt, founder-CEO of Bazaarvoice, told AdAge.com, “One of two people is going to leave your Web site if you don’t have ratings and reviews.”


Mr. Hurt’s company manages customer feedback for major retailer web sites including CompUSA, Home Depot, Macy’s and Sears.


Bazaarrvoice is now looking to expand the reach of its consumer reviews to bring more shoppers to its clients’ sites. The company has recently begun trying to broker deals with
major shopping portals such as MSN, Froogle by Google, Pricerunner.com and others, where it provides the sites with partial consumer reviews. If consumers want to see the whole
review, they click on a link and are brought directly to the merchant’s site where it originated.


“Our value proposition is that if you have customers who are going elsewhere to look for reviews, why not put these reviews where they go,” said Mr. Hurt.


Martin Andersen, general manager of Pricerunner.com, said, “The merchants are our clients, and we’re getting very good content from them. And if we give them good traffic, that
will help us in the end.”


Discussion Questions: Do you see consumer product reviews continuing to grow in importance as part of shopping behavior? Are merchants missing an opportunity
by failing to make use of these consumer reviews in physical store environments?

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14 Comments on "Consumers Seek Advice from Strangers"


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Art Sebastian
Guest
Art Sebastian
14 years 6 months ago

Consumer reviews are important when making purchasing decisions, especially those that are more expensive. I was recently shopping for a new vehicle and really considered the reviews I read before making my final decision. Think of random reviews as a survey – people from around the world, typically with different demographic backgrounds. I certainly think it would be a mistake to make a decision based solely on blogs, but it should certainly be a component…

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

We all remember a favorite version of Miracle on 34th Street. Santa gave advice to Moms where they could find that toy that was out of stock and hard to find. As the story goes, that special Santa’s home base, Macy’s, received all sorts of kudos by the customer for trying to put “Christmas back in Christmas.”

Today’s internet retail sites are doing just about the same thing. Distributing the advice of users and other consumers about the pro and cons of products, as well as where to find them.

As long as these suggestions are genuine, and they truly deliver sound advice, the customer will listen to them and buy accordingly.

Anna Murray
Guest
Anna Murray
14 years 6 months ago

Manufacturers and retailers are now in a new world where they are not in as much control as they used to be over the messaging that goes to and from consumers. People are talking to each other about products online, people are skipping commercials, powerful new blogging voices are emerging.

I don’t think that many marketers understand how to harness the power of this new environment. Some are making attempts (with varied success) at buzz marketing, word of mouth marketing, and viral marketing. The truth is, the kind of messages that go from person to person are authentic and hard to re-create. I think the best opportunity for marketers is better tracking tools. What are people saying about their products? How much of this data is actionable? Currently, there are no good tools to collect and measure this stuff.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
14 years 6 months ago

No, no, no, no, no! Reviews are hokum, pure and simple. Who submitted them? Can you verify them? Or, did the savvy marketing team for the product or service “produce” them? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! As Paul Bettany (the luckiest man in the world as Jennifer Connelly’s husband) said in his role as Geoffrey Chaucer in the movie, “A Knight’s Tale,” “I don’t lie — I give the truth ‘scope.'”

The only reviews I would ever trust are those by professionals who are willing to provide their names.

John Lansdale
Guest
John Lansdale
14 years 6 months ago

eBay works because of its feedback system; the Amazon.com book reviews are always on the mark; Wikipedia, they say, is as accurate as the premium encyclopedia. It’s not just reviews, it’s the mass effect of reviews.

Mark Hunter
Guest
Mark Hunter
14 years 6 months ago

Consumer reviews are critical as they allow the consumer to gain information that they do not believe is tainted by the manufacturer or retailer. We’ve seen for a long time on Amazon.com where reviews written by readers can make or break the sale of a book. This really points to a bigger trend — that is the trend by consumers to do research on the internet but rather than buying it online, they go to a store to touch and feel and purchase. This gives the consumer the satisfaction of being able to make a more intelligent decision, yet still be able to use the product right away.

Jeremy Sacker
Guest
Jeremy Sacker
14 years 6 months ago

Technology changes too fast (product introductions, feature changes, etc.) for our “network” to keep up. It is natural to seek advice before a purchase, and if your network cannot provide the advice, or cannot provide it when you need it, then these online reviews are a great substitute.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

Best example of bricks and mortar in-store customer guidance: best seller lists posted in bookstores. Every browser, confronted with an infinite assortment can easily make priorities for gifts or for themselves. They see the most popular business book, mystery, etc. Nothing stops supermarkets from posting most popular Halloween treat lists or most popular birthday cakes or most popular cold cuts. By seeing the most popular, people might consider something they haven’t tried before. Shelf assortments are often so robust they’re confusing. Why not tell everyone what’s most popular? It could even become an entertaining game. And people like to read each other’s comments. Enhancing “community” would make any bricks and mortar location a more interesting place to shop.

Why not keep a public scrapbook of customer birthday parties showing your cakes in the pictures?

W. Frank Dell II
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

One real weakness of the Internet is the majority of information presented has not been validated. The Internet is not our trusted library. For CPG companies and retailers this can be a major negative. The difficult task is determining how to get valid information into the minds of consumers. Companies doing business on the internet must monitor what the general public is saying or typing. At the same time, you must be prepared to mount a rebuttal when damaging information is spread. Still, trying to spin everything in your favor will likely fail. The best example I have seen to build internet confidence is eBay’s vendor rating.

Warren Thayer
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

This sort of feedback is gaining importance as it becomes more common. For instance, I never buy on eBay or Amazon if someone’s feedback rating is below the high 90s. I’ve been burned by those with ratings in the 80s with sufficient frequency. Travel sites that review hotels are also very useful, when you read all the reviews and come up with a consensus. I remain somewhat leery; it’s easy for people to ask their friends to go online and rate their product or service high.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
14 years 6 months ago

Great idea from Mark Lilien about retailers promoting lists of their bestselling products. That could actually add some FUN to the shopping experience. I love Amazon’s rankings and think they should be more prominent and promoted more aggressively. By the way, RetailWire has its own version of this – the top 100 discussions list – a link to it is near the top right hand corner of the discussion pages. Number one topic for the past 365 days – Marshall Field’s conversion to Macy’s.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
14 years 6 months ago

Again, there is the issue of consumer differences. Some consumers will be greatly influenced by the “most popular” item. Other consumers don’t care if the item is popular, they want the “best product.” For those who want the “best product,” whose advice do they believe? Who has credibility for them? Other consumers need to see a large group of responses and are likely to be influenced by the opinion that is stated most often. Posting any review is not necessarily effective. Posting reviews that have no credibility with your consumers can hurt. Posting reviews that do influence your consumers can be extremely beneficial. However, the same size does not fit all.

Andrea Learned
Guest
Andrea Learned
14 years 6 months ago

I agree that it would be worth it for most companies to figure out how to take in, display, and acknowledge feedback/reviews/comments. Customers (esp. women, in my opinion) tend to respond to that sort of transparency from brands. (i.e. “we heard from so many of our reviewers that X could be better redesigned, so that’s why this year’s model has a new and improved Xsquared.”)

Whether good or bad reviews/comments: someone took the time to write it, and that is a possible connection from which your store/brand can build on with a potential customer or influencer.

And – there’s also the fact that people might start to get familiar with one or two particular reviewers likes/dislikes, and really look for that name on product reviews in the future.

It might not make sense that so many consumers turn to customer reviews by people they don’t even know, but it seems to be human nature.

Laura Davis-Taylor
Guest
Laura Davis-Taylor
14 years 6 months ago

This is such an important trend and it frustrates me that we as an industry aren’t doing more to acknowledge it across channels. If people want peer reviews, why can they only get them easily online? And, what does it say about their trust in brands in general?

In most cases, the people sharing opinions are either passionate about their experience or had a negative one. Unless corporate sponsored, they have no agenda other than sharing their truth. What “we” as brands think is valid information doesn’t matter if it differs from the experience they are having…experiences that they take valuable time out to share.

We need to change how we think and focus on creating better brand experiences and products that people like sharing positive feedback about. This — not pushing out the information that we want them to believe — is the only way to create better consumer generated buzz.

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