Customer Reviews at Stores
By Tom Ryan
Borrowing a page from online sellers, some brick & mortars have begun featuring customer reviews on displays at their retail locations. The big difference is that most of the reviews are positive.
Customer reviews have proven to be effective sales tools for online sellers such as Amazon.com, eBay, and other big sites. And having both negative and positive reviews offers the customer some reassurance in their product selection.
“Customers are the most candid. They’re telling it like it is,” Michelle Wagner, a 32-year-old Alameda, CA, resident told The Wall Street Journal. She had recently bought a stroller and maternity clothes based on customer reviews at babycenter.com.
But most brick & mortars have only chosen positive reviews – akin to movie ads that only show winning reviews from film critics.
At Cabela’s stores, for instance, customers can find a sign for a Texsport combination fan and light displaying a ‘five-star’ consumer rating along with a July 16 review from AlanK of Kansas City, Mo. He wrote: “As someone who does a lot of summertime tent camping, I can’t begin to tell [you] how valuable this little combo is. I hang it over my cot every night and I have a bright reading light and a cool breeze to go with it.”
Brookstone Inc, a specialty gadget retailer, also offered only positive reviews in its holiday e-mail blasts and January catalogs. “We’re not going to pick a one-star [rating],” Steve August, Brookstone’s operational vice president of customer marketing, told The Journal.
On the other hand, Staples, which began using customer ratings and reviews for the first time this holiday season on its printers and some of its paper shredders, features both positive and negative reviews, Display tags on the products feature customer ratings on a scale of 1 to 5 with three “pros” and three “cons” about the product that the retailer itself has written based on feedback from customers.
Discussion Questions: What do you think of using customer ratings and reviews as a merchandising tool at the store-level? How can stores capture what seems to be an effective sales tools for e-commerce providers? Does the display of only positive reviews of decrease the likelihood that consumers will find the postings credible?