The agony and the ecstasy of online product reviews

March 30, 2012 | by James Bickers

Today's xkcd comic is a pretty brilliant illustration of just how frustrating online product reviews have become for consumers.

Setting aside for the moment the topic of intentionally funny reviews – a wonderful world unto itself – the real frustration comes from intentionally misleading reviews. The time between the launch of the first online product review platform and the first time that platform was gamed was probably negligible, and now, consumers need to apply analytical thinking when looking at reviews to determine whether or not they can be trusted.

But the problem is, most consumers don't know that yet. They look at the number of stars and make their decision. I was at a conference not long ago and heard a restaurant operator bemoaning his one-star review on Yelp. The reviewer said something along the lines of, "By the time they brought the check to the table, I was so angry I didn't want to pay."

The restaurant in question doesn't have table service – customers pay at the counter. This person had obviously not set foot in the restaurant, and yet his one-star critique was actively driving people away.

Retailers, I'd like to know what your approach to this is. If you offer your customers the ability to write reviews, how do you police them, if at all? Do you allow anonymous posting? Do you have one or more staffers whose job is to moderate? Or is this a problem you have not yet found a solution for?

Topics: Consumer Behavior , Online Retailing , Product Reviews

James Bickers / James Bickers is the senior editor of Retail Customer Experience, and also manages webinars for Networld Media Group. He has more than 20 years experience as a journalist and innovative content strategist, with publication credits in national, international and regional publications.
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