When you’re looking to purchase an item, do you read reviews about the product before making a decision? If you answered, yes, you’re among the the 78% of American’s aged 18-64 who say product reviews help them decide whether or not to buy a product. (Source: RetailWire)
I include myself in that number, as I tend to always read reviews before buying. But, I’m not one to sit down and write a review, unless I feel very strongly one way or another about the product I just bought.
The product review topic came up today on one of the eCommerce forums I frequent. The original poster, who just had reviews installed on his store, was asking others if they allowed reviews from non-customers to be displayed on their store.
Some of the eCommerce store owner’s answers to the question went like this:
“My site isn’t a forum for disgruntled people to vent on every place they can find to trash a product. Coherent negative reviews are fine if from a customer.”
“A review, any review, from a customer should be published as long as it’s on topic. Non-customer reviews should not.I wouldn’t take non-customer reviews of any kind.”
“… [if] the person does not seem to be a customer, and you feel the review does not add value to the product description or seems to be totally out of line, or is hurtful to your business, I would delete it.”
Maybe it’s me, but I think some of the answers given were contradictory to why we install product reviews on an eCommerce website!
First off, product reviews are designed to provide prospective buyers with some form of “real world” examples of how the product is working for people who bought it. If I’m dropping $500 on a new Dyson vacuum, I want to read the fluffed-up marketing copy (aka product description) but I also want to hear from actual users who bought it. I want to read whether someone with a shedding dog is having good or bad luck removing fur from carpeting because I’m looking for a vacuum to do just that. If I read a few reviews from people who say this particular model isn’t picking up dog hair very well, chances are I may look at a different model.
Whether or not the review was written by someone who purchased the vacuum from that particular store or not, isn’t a concern of mine. My concern as a potential buyer, is whether or not the damn thing works good or not!
As an eCommerce store owner, my concern with a review written by a non-customer shouldn’t be whether or not I should allow the review on my site or not. The decision to post a non-customer review should be based on whether or not the review provides valuable information that can help a potential customer make a purchasing decision.
Nothing more. Nothing less.
So what about a negative review? Lets face it, there will never be a time when every single customer is going to be happy with an item they purchased. The underwear I bought last weekend, well, they’re like a cheap hotel. No ballroom. But, I’ve worn this particular brand of briefs (yes, briefs) for years and they’ve kept the boys happy. If I choose to write a review, I may point out that the last batch I bought seems a little more “basket enhancing” than other pairs I own, but does that mean the store owner should not publish my review?
If I wrote something along the lines of, “Bought these, and they suck. Never again!” Well, that review should never see the light of day on any website.
Consumers expect to see a mix of good and bad review for any product, and it’s up to them to sort through them and base their ultimate decision on their overall impression of what others thought of the item. If a consumer sees only positive reviews from customers, chances are they’re going to give less weight to the validity of those reviews and may go elsewhere.
So, what about product reviews? Here are my three rules for product reviews:
- Accept and publish well written, coherent reviews that provide useful information that will help the customer make an informed purchasing decision.
- Accept reviews from both customers and non-customers as long as they meet the criteria described above. Most product review features available for eCommerce stores, including Star Product Reviews from Solid Cactus, identify “verified customers” with some sort of graphic to show that this person actually bought this item from the store who’s website you’re on.
- Negative reviews should be vetted just as if it were a positive review using the same criteria described in bullet point 1. If the negative is inflammatory in nature or you feel it was written as a “revenge” review, trash it.
Ultimately, the decision to trash or publish a review on your site is yours. But reviews are designed to provide transparency between what the product claims to do and what it does in reality. By not giving your potential customers the ability to see the good and bad side of a product, you’re forcing them to look through frosted glass.