The Relevance of Product Reviews to an Ecommerce Site

The difficulty of online shopping for so many people, including myself, is the lack of something tangible. Beautiful 3D images and zoom features certainly help, but there’s no real sensory connection beyond the impression that may or may not resonate after looking at a picture and reading a product description. It is at that critical moment when customer written product reviews begin to make a notable impact on the purchasing decision of those who are looking for value in another shopper’s commentary.

Here are a few notes on the power of customer reviews.

The Good

-Can improve site credibility by allowing people the chance to talk about their experience

-Reading about another persons experience can offer valuable insight and a heightened sense of security

-Helps identify and highlight top selling products based not only on sales, but also on overall satisfaction

-Provides useful insight that can only come from owning a product (i.e. stability, quality, etc.)

-Helps marketing and merchandising departments identify ways to improve visual appeal and the context of product descriptions based on feedback

It’s also important to remember that everyone has their own preference when it comes to individuality, and that those preferences are sometimes not relayed in a customer review. Let’s use a 145-pound man who is 5’7” as an example. He buys a medium sized coat and leaves a glowing review. In fact it’s the only review. What he fails to mention, however, is that he loves to wear baggy clothes. In this situation, an enterprise ecommerce site better have a good sizing guide or a good return policy for the guy who’s 6’ tall and 175 pounds, trying to decide if a large or medium will provide him a nice, slim fit.

With that said, here are a few points opposing the benefits of a product review.

The Not So Good

-Single reviews or old reviews can appear deceptive or meaningless

-An upset customer who has the ability to mask himself behind a pseudonym may leave scathing remarks if they were less than satisfied with a product or experience

-Wading into a sea of inconsistent reviews could potentially distract someone from committing to make a purchase

-Slow moving products with no reviews may continue to go nowhere if surrounded by other products that have been reviewed

Even though I’ve moderately laid out both sides, it’s likely you already know there’s a clear winner.

Despite the short list of ‘Not So Good’, product reviews are valuable to both merchants and consumers. The level of involvement in analyzing reviews is no doubt a personal preference, but it’s evident that people want to discuss their options and share their opinions, and if a site doesn’t offer that capability there’s a good chance a shopper will go elsewhere to look for information. In fact, a survey conducted by Forrester Research a few years back even ranked the ability to leave a review as one of the most desired features on an ecommerce site.

The reliance of one consumer on another has provided the means for an online store to mine a wealth of information it previously had limited access to–pure consumer insight. Through monitoring and utilizing product reviews, an enterprise ecommerce business has the potential to extract and leverage information that can help improve onsite marketing and customer service efforts.

I can’t think of any place online that wouldn’t value that kind of insight.

Jared Matkin is a staff writer for HotWax Media with a background in PR, Branding and Marketing. He’s also a light-hearted and an opinionated character who will join other HotWax Media employees and advisers in periodically posting his thoughts on topics ranging from enterprise eCommerce to business and technology.

DATE: Jan 18, 2011
AUTHOR: HotWax Systems
Enterprise eCommerce