Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Consumer Reviews on Ecommerce Websites

Great article in CIO-Today about how more websites, even those that sell products, are allowing consumers to provide reviews and feedback about the products, and even the website and shopping experience itself, right on their sites, despite previous fears of negative feedback appearing. They've found that it actually increased sales in tests they ran, and that more sites are offering them ("By the end of 2006, 43% of e-commerce sites offered customer reviews and ratings, almost double the 23% figure at the end of 2005, according to New York research firm MarketingSherpa"), and people are taking advantage of the opportunity to speak ("In a survey of more than 1,300 people, MarketingSherpa also found that as much as 50% of customers aged 18 to 34 have posted a comment or a review on products they have bought or used.").

In my early days at CoolSavings, around 1999, we talked about launching a similar community-type function where folks could share shopping and coupon tips and become more involved with the site. We didn't in part because of the technical challenge (and costs), and partly because of inability to control for content. We, too, didn't want numerous posts bad-mouthing the site and service. That is the chance you take, of course, but it doesn't seem to be happening that way too often. Plus, two immediate advantages of soliciting customer feedback in a forum setting that leap to mind are (1) It provides invaluable real-world feedback that you can gather very inexpensively and incorporate into your process quickly; and (2) it puts pressure on the business to improve the product and experience in order to decrease the number of negative reviews. Both these advantages should lead to improved sites and experiences for consumers, which is a win for both sides.

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