Keeping Pace With the Explosion in Popularity and Innovation of Online Consumer Reviews
While most retailers now accept customer reviews as an essential component of product content, there have been plenty of missteps along the way. First merchants tried to ignore reviews, until sites like Epinions and later Angie's List and Yelp gained enough credibility with consumers to make that impossible. Some sought the easy way out by buying fake reviews, but savvy consumers and researchers quickly caught on. (So did the New York attorney general, who last year cracked down on such "astroturfing.")
Others tried to get tough on negative reviewers by threatening to take legal action, which didn't turn out to be such a good PR move, either.
Forward-thinking retailers, meanwhile, came to view online customer reviews as a key tool to help shoppers gain confidence in their purchases and drive conversions. Instead of being threatened by reviews, they embraced them, integrating them into their sites and social outposts and honing techniques to make them as authentic and useful to shoppers as possible.
In short, they practiced the customer-centric approach we at MarketLive call customer-driven commerce.
Now reviews are increasingly widespread, but the ubiquity of reviews and the increasingly savvy online consumers who consult them require merchants to up their game. Here are a few ways to make sure your customer review program is best-of-breed:
1. Seek reviews from those in the know. It turns out that shoppers base purchasing decisions less on the star ratings, which the "astroturfing" scandals have made suspect, and more on the actual text of the review itself.
According to a 2013 study of more than 18,000 Amazon.com reviews, positive reviews with a more credible linguistic style had more impact than generic reviews displaying no particular expertise about the product. In essence, shoppers can tell when reviewers know what they're talking about. To enhance the credibility of your reviews, encourage submissions from frequent or long-time buyers who are best able to evaluate and compare products.