Citizen Reviews Rule the Many Vendor’d Web

citizen reviewerDon’t underestimate the power of customer reviews to influence buyer behavior and impact product sales.  New studies are confirming this message to online vendors, including book publishers.  As reported on e-Marketer, recent studies conducted by PowerReviews, the e-tailing group and Avenue A / Razorfish found that most online buyers seek out one or more user reviews before making a purchase.

Here are some of the interesting findings:

  • Over 43% of respondents said that they read product reviews prior to making a purchase
  • Over 46% said they read 4-7 reviews  <show graph> 
  • The use of user reviews trounced both comparison charts and expert reviews 55% to 22% and 21 %, respectively. 

In the world of consumer e-commerce, consumer generated media, in the form of reviews, clearly are more influential than expert opinion. 

Dave Chaffey, an Internet marketing specialist, underscored the power of reviews on page views, sales conversion rates, total sales value and for online customers.  (His site also provides some useful tips on how to best utilize customer ratings and reviews.)  Another good source of advice on how to use the reviews your product gets can be found in a post by Bryan Eisenberg, How to Use Customer Reviews to Increase Conversion.

In fact, BazaarVoice, quoting a study from comScore / Kelsey in October, 2007, indicated that Consumers were willing to pay between 20 to 99% more for a 5-star rated product than for a 4-star rated product, depending on the product category.  This can translate into greater customer satisfaction.  According to another, Foresee Results, reviews drive 21% higher purchase satisfaction and 18% higher loyalty.

Lisa EdeOf course there are now citizen book reviewers who make a career (unpaid) out of reviewing books.  In some respects, they are becoming the new expert reviewers, gatekeepers to consumer wallets.  Awhile back, Lisa Ede shared here thoghts about the motivations and techniques of these new inflencers in an interesting interview with Paul Bausch.  A more detailed examination of the citizen reviewer is available on her blog, The Writing Way.

confused customerUltimately, a customer’s purchase decision is based on trust.  The long tail of e-commerce has put more choices in front of customers.  As advertising, expert reviews and even the testimonials of experts printed on book covers, have become ubiquitous, tiresome and suspect, the advice and guidance of anonymous peers has assumed a greater standing in the buyer’s trust hierarchy. 

Caveat vendor!

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