The Power of the Review

eCommerce has been a very large part of the internet since its inception. Hard to find products or sizes are always available online, and the stores never have lines or close. Now, online consumers want more than clear pictures of merchandise and snazzy descriptions. They want reviews.

Product reviews are nothing new. Consumer Reports has had a magazine dedicated to reviewing popular products for years and industry magazines report on products or merchandise constantly. Then a new trend started online.

Consumer Reports and other sites still had expert reviews of products. These sites were heavily searched for comparison shopping and information. But visitors were starting to look at a new form of review. They wanted to know about other buyer’s actual experience with the product.

The User Review
Amazon was one of the first to take advantage of our need to know a firsthand experience. The website allowed consumers to post their own review of a book or product. Now, almost every eCommerce site allows and encourages the same. And if they don’t already, the comments are in the pipeline, or should be.

Consumers want reviews. Industry experts can’t be trusted in our skeptical day and age. They might be bribed or otherwise paid for a positive opinion. But the mom down the street will tell you how it really is in the minivan, or if one stroller is better than another. Sure a book or movie might be an award winner, but is it totally boring? Readers will tell you the truth – they aren’t looking for awards or exclusive interviews with the author.

Not only do we like to read the reviews of others, we like to offer our own – especially on products that did not meet our expectations. Of course this might skew the review reports, but over time and with enough reviews, the numbers balance out.

Review Breakdown
The user review generally consists of two parts. The user is encouraged to pick a rating from stars or numbers; the higher the number, the better the rating. Then, the consumer is strongly encouraged to write out a little review of his own. These blurbs are often more useful than stars or numbers.

The little paragraphs, or sometimes pages, of information under a product can let you know in a matter of moments if multiple people are having the same problem with a product or if the overall quality is shoddy. Multiple glowing reviews can help offset the negative write-up by the person who couldn’t figure out how to turn the darn thing on.

Even if there is only one measly review, some high level studies have shown that the reviewed product will sell better than a non-reviewed one – assuming the review is positive, of course. For such a skeptical society, it’s ironic how much we value the opinions of others. Perhaps the collective experience of others like us simply has more bearing in our world than that of the expert. After all, what really makes an expert anyhow?

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