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09/15/2008 The Customer Speaks


Just saw an article that Sephora.com, like a growing number of online retailers, is adding a customer ratings and review feature to their site. I’ve always been a big fan off allowing customers to give feedback, even if it’s constructive (read negative) feedback. The stats show that people seem to want and need this more and more in making their purchase choices.

Sephora chose Bazaarvoice, the same company providing ratings to online stores from Macys to Home Depot. One thing I noticed in a short jaunt through those sites was: Where are all the ratings and reviews?

I found more on Home Depot than on some of the others, but still not that many. Somehow, I would expect people to review hardware more than clothes (although that may be my own gender shortcoming). I mean, you want to know that you bought the same refrigerator or tool set as someone else to make sure it works okay and that you’re not buying a lemon.

Clothes, on the other hand, are so personal and help us to stand out, rather than to blend in. Do you really want to recommend something so someone can look just like you?

On the other hand, the lack of ratings and reviews on all of these sites makes me wonder if customers feel suspicious that the site might censor their honest reviews. What is the tolerance and policy toward negative comments? I couldn’t see any spelled out.

Or maybe most of us just don’t have time or interest.

I wonder if we could increase ratings reviews in a couple of ways

  1. Reward people for their effort. Some type of points or rewards system might jump-start this. Since they’ve invested the money in the system, how about investing in the reviewers themselves?
  2. Outsource it. Maybe there’s a business model for an honest ratings and review broker to ensure that there’s no censorship. It would even offer a way to compare stores.

If you build something people want, and no one uses it, then something is clearly not working.

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