Kmart Adds Shopper Reviews to Store Shelves

Discussion
Jul 14, 2010
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Consumers are interested in what others have to say about
the products they are thinking of buying. That appears to be at least part
of the premise behind Kmart’s decision to post reviews of various
video games next to products in its stores.

According to a blog post on MyKmart.com,
the chain began "placing snippets" of
reviews in stores about a month ago. The goal "is to bring the Kmart online
and in-store gaming communities closer together, and connect casual and more
hardcore gamers."

Kmart is soliciting game reviews with the prospect that
they could wind up being displayed at the chain’s stores. To be selected, reviews
need to be well-written, constructive and be able to speak to non-gamers as
well as those who live for gaming.

The blog post made sure to point out that
free games were not in the offing for reviews chosen. Bragging rights will
have to suffice.

Discussion Questions: Is there room (figuratively speaking) for customer product
reviews in stores? Is this a concept that will work beyond video games and other
entertainment products?

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16 Comments on "Kmart Adds Shopper Reviews to Store Shelves"


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Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Anyone want to bet on how many negative reviews show up at the shelves? I’m cynical enough to believe that just like store Santas (I’m thinking Miracle on 34th St.), the reviews will be used to push mediocre and bad games and give them cachet where it is not deserved.

Lisa Bradner
Guest
Lisa Bradner
10 years 9 months ago

Not only is there room, this is the next phase of shopper marketing as it needs to happen–tying the rich content people seek online with the in-store experience.

I expect the first executions to be a little clunky but as we really think through the promise of mobile and digital signage there are a lot of interactive ways for retailers not only to provide product information and reviews but to capture in stock positions, e.g. “the pistachio green washing machine is in stock and store X and can be delivered to you for a fee of $Y.” Consumers will continue to find ways to get the information they need to make a smart buying decision. Instead of fighting incursions from mobile players smart retailers should find ways to be curators of the content putting themselves firmly in the middle of the purchase decision by enhancing the shopping experience with the deep detailed information most consumers have to go to a website to find today.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Consumers’ reviews of products is something than anyone with a internet connection can seek out. Kmart is simply taking this an additional step by posting them next to the games in the stores.

I do have a couple questions. Will Kmart be willing to post both positive and negative reviews? If a manufacturer’s games are negatively reviewed, what happens to the relationship between Kmart and that supplier? Will the potentially longer reviews be posted on their web site? How will it use the names and other contact information acquired by those who register so they can post reviews?

Ben Sprecher
Guest
Ben Sprecher
10 years 9 months ago
I think this could be a positive move, but whether it’s a boon to sales or a bust will depend entirely on execution. Shoppers are very good at sniffing out a rigged system, and if only the shiny, happy, positive reviews make it through, then consumers will ignore them. If, on the other hand, Kmart publishes both positive and negative reviews, then the reviews (and Kmart) will gain the credibility to influence shopper decisions at the shelf. By way of example, Amazon’s reviews are extremely influential in shaping customer purchases, primarily because they are perceived as being honest and (largely) unfiltered. As an aside, wouldn’t it be neat if, some day, we could take another cue from online retail and apply a “search filter” at the shelf to get some sort of highlighting of those products that are, say, rated 4+ stars and are between $25 and $35? I don’t even know what that would look like (maybe LED indicators light up under all the matching products?), but it would certainly be a new way… Read more »
Warren Thayer
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Good idea, and I think it could easily work in other departments, such as TVs, electronics, computers, etc., where consumers so often seek out guidance. This could work especially well for high-ticket items bought by older people who are less tech-savvy. In games, I’d suspect a lot of the young buyers already have mobile devices and know how to use them, so they can compare things at the shelf without the help of Kmart. As has been said, the reviews have to be honest, and have a rating system that is unbiased, or it’ll all be worthless.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Online reviews are extremely popular and sometimes there are very many of them. There will not be room in the store for all the reviews so there will be a selection process. Posting these reviews in the store will only be successful if consumers believe that the reviews someone else chose for them are representative. The value of online reviews is that a consumer can read through all of them and pay attention to the ones that catch their attention. That is different than having someone else select “representative” reviews.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

This seems to be an idea better executed online where you have more “room”. In the physical space you are forced to edit and odds are the tough reviews will be removed making the whole process inauthentic.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
10 years 9 months ago

Not all hotels rated 4 or 5 star are really 4 or 5 star, not every coffee drinker believes that Starbucks is the very best. Nonetheless, opinions of others are still sought after.

But opinions are usually personal things that are sought after more for reaffirmation than for enlightenment.

If product reviews were posted in stores, beyond shoppers, beyond the ardent games niche, would very many busy people really read them? And if so, would they initiate buying action? “Perhaps,” I say cautiously. Admittedly I might be an exception but if I were to read posted reviews and one, for instance, said broccoli was awesome and delicious to eat, would I buy it? No, and I would just stop reading posted reviews and go about my way with my shopping cart.

David Biernbaum
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

In my opinion, Kmart’s idea to add shopper reviews to store shelves is, simply put, a very bad idea. Best to leave the concept on the internet. For any number of reasons this on-the-shelf idea will reduce sales and not for any of the right reasons. Unreal that they are doing this.

Gib Bassett
Guest
Gib Bassett
10 years 9 months ago

I’m not so sure the typical game buyer will find a lot of value in screened reviews statically posted at the point of sale. Perhaps more so than other types of products, I would expect games are researched online before visiting the store, or buyers rely on recommendations/comments from public forums or social networks that are more or less unedited.

Given the generally greater technology sophistication of the game buyer, Kmart might consider directing customers to use their mobile phones to obtain the latest reviews from various sources instead.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Kmart continues to prove they know nothing about shopping dynamics. Consumer electronics, including games must be the most reviewed internet categories in the store. Add on top of that, the information that is shared among gamers. Who are these “snippets” for?

Maybe they are for me, who knows nothing about games and might want to buy a game for a present? But they are really not for me, because I wouldn’t dare try to buy a game without someone in the know telling me that the game as a present is the right one and is appropriate for the receiver.

Kmart continues to look for little solutions to BIG problems. Is it time to turn this store into a parking lot?

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Kmart/Sears’ habit of shooting the whole quiver at the target and hoping something hits continues…unfortunately, I think this is another miss: the goal of reviews is to separate the good from the bad, the goal of retailers is to separate you from your money; do these goals coincide? Probably not; if bad reviews appear, they will discourage purchase of the criticized items–duh!–and if only positive reviews appear, then the idea will lose credibility (I suppose you could have thoughtful, balanced reviews that point out both good and bad features–the bad made to sound good in that clever way that a disaster is rebranded as “opportunity”–but I can’t see KM pulling that off).

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

Lots of great insights (and only one Kmart bashing)!

This is a nice alternative to employee reviews which would not have nearly the same credibility at Kmart (or arguably, any retailer other than Game Stop).

I agree that courting the good, bad and ugly (would they dare categorize the reviews accordingly?) will be key to maintaining authenticity. I’ve blogged extensively on Sears Holdings’ ongoing contrarian moves and to me, this is one more page out of its topsy-turvy play book. Sears has been building new out-of-store platforms while everyone else obsesses on optimization–now they are bringing the best aspects of online into the stores.

That’s one dumb fox!

Chuck Palmer
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

I think it’s interesting that Kmart is taking a lead on this. Why hasn’t anyone else done this? The content and technology is there.

It’s not clear how the reviews are presented, but if they collaborate with their customers and vendors, this could create a very defend-able loop.

Whether printed or electronic visual communications, this will get out ahead of the casual gamer (sophisticated gamers already know what they want and probably don’t buy it at Kmart) and possibly preempt their desire to pull out their smartphone.

This technique has been used to grow the wine business for years. I’d like to see the research on the effectiveness of this effort.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 9 months ago

I am surprised it has taken so long for the retail world to get in on what the online marketers have been doing forever. I am also surprised that Kmart is the first to start the ball rolling. Others will be posting product reviews before we know it. It will be interesting to follow and see if the posts are not totally self serving.

Doug Stephens
Guest
Doug Stephens
10 years 9 months ago

The best and most successful retailers will inevitably be those who are able to merge their online and in-store experiences. Eventually, we’ll no longer make the distinction between the physical store and the web. They will collapse together to form a single brand experience across multiple platforms, simultaneously.

Clearly, a big part of this is bringing consumer reviews directly to the shelf. The only requirement is that they be seen as credible, authentic and uncensored. And if they can update in real-time, so much the better.

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