Retail Customer Experience: Four ways to get online shoppers to contribute reviews

Jan 12, 2010

By James Bickers, editor

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from Retail
Customer Experience
, a daily news portal devoted to helping retailers differentiate
the shopping experience.  

Online reviews, which once
gave brand managers and marketing executives stomachaches, is now pervasive,
and becoming more important with each passing day. According to a recent
Nielsen study, 70 percent of shoppers said they trust consumer opinions posted
on retail websites.

With the help of Viewpoints
Network, which operates the consumer-facing review aggregator,
Sears launched two social networking community websites, and The sites has since registered more than 400,000 users and see
two million monthly visits.

Rob Harles, Sears’ vice president
of community, said that in the early days of the sites, motivation for shoppers
to contribute reviews was simply the ability to be heard. Shortly thereafter,
they implemented a reputation system that gives “badges” to users based on
their level of involvement — users that write a lot of reviews or get a lot
of friends will receive corresponding kudos to display on their profile pages.

“And we’re gradually experimenting
with small incentives — usually not monetary ones but soft benefits like
sneak peeks and advance notice of things that are hard to get,” he added.

Also key to the sites’ success,
Mr. Harles noted, is the ease with which users can go from casual user to
active contributor. “We are one of the first major retailers to sign up for
Open ID,” he said. “We’re going to intercept people where they are. You can
use your Facebook or Twitter or Yahoo or Google account to log in, if you

Retail consultant Mike Wittenstein
offers these four practical tips for retailers wanting to turn their browsers
and buyers into generators of content:

  1. Just
    ask. Go through product registration
    cards and invite people, especially those with multiple purchases in a single
    category and those who have shopped online in the last six months. Among
    that group, home in on store credit cardholders first, inviting them to join
    an “advisor’s circle” to kick-start the community pages.
  2. Offer
    an incentive. When review aggregator
    Kudzu launched, for instance, they paid for the first few entries under each
    company. Manufacturers and brands could potentially foot part of the bill
    for this.
  3. Use
    data mining to determine which products
    already have online reviews (on the manufacturer, brand and/or distributor
    websites). With proper permission and attribution, port those reviews over
    to get the flow of content started.
  4. Enhance
    contributor profile pages, without
    revealing personal information, so that browsers are attracted to reviewers
    with similar interests — for instance, a review of a dishwasher might resonate
    with parents if the reviewer is designated as “Mother of three, two of whom
    are infants with lots of bottles to rinse.”

Discussion Questions: How critical
are customer reviews becoming a part of the online shopping experience?
What do you think are the best ways to get online shoppers to contribute

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

11 Comments on "Retail Customer Experience: Four ways to get online shoppers to contribute reviews"

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Marc Gordon
Marc Gordon
12 years 4 months ago

This all sounds really great except for the fact that there is no mention of what Sears will do with the information they retrieve from contributors’ reviews. I also have to wonder if there will be any filtering to avoid scathing reviews appearing on the site.

And what about small retailers? Without the resources to undertake a program like this, how can they find out what’s on the minds of their customers?

Anne Howe
12 years 4 months ago

Online reviews are fantastic for online shopping, but the big news is that they are becoming even more vitally important to brick and mortar shopping, as almost 50% of consumers accessed content about brands and retail offers on their mobile phones while holiday shopping IN STORES this year. Sears and Kmart are ahead of the curve in this area; kudos to them.

Shopper advance planning is the most notable outcome of shifting culture regarding the way we spend our money, and it makes sense for brands everywhere to encourage shopper feedback that is accessible to the seekers/planners wherever and however they choose.

What I like the most about this article is option #4 – when relevance is added as a way to filter through review posts, everyone wins. Give me a direct hit to “scenic, affordable, challenging but playable golf courses for boomer women” and I am yours.

Max Goldberg
12 years 4 months ago

Consumer reviews, provided that they offer concrete information, are valuable to the online and offline shopping experiences. They provide potential buyers with advice from people like themselves who have used the product. Manufacturers are not going to highlight shortcomings in their products, but consumers have no such qualms.

Many of the best ways to get the review process going are highlighted in the article. The most common sense approach is to just ask. Ask current shoppers. Ask past shoppers (although make sure their reviews are for current items). Paying for reviews is not a good idea, as this must be disclosed and these reviews do not inspire trust.

Transparency is key. Every product will get good and bad reviews. Consumers are going to talk about your stores and the products you carry anyway. Retailers should provide a forum for those conversations.

W. Frank Dell II, CMC
12 years 4 months ago

In local retail shopping, friends and family referrals are a factor in selecting which store to shop in. This is more important in non-food than food stores. With the internet the shopping is no longer local. With the thousands or millions of sites consumers can shop, friends and family are unlike to have experience with many. This makes the reviews important. It provides the support for doing business with someone you cannot see or communicate with.

Early on there was mistrust of reviews. Were they planted? How come there were never negative reviews? Today, I think sellers see the value in honest reviews. If they are negative, it represents an opportunity to improve. One bad review followed by 10 good ones helps the shopper. Showing customers you value their review is key.

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
12 years 4 months ago

Great move by Sears/Kmart. Here are some of the benefits for both Sears and shoppers:
1) Reviews help a shopper decide what they want. By Sears/Kmart creating this powerful database of reviews, they will become the go-to location for product reviews and hopefully convert them to either online shoppers or brick and mortar Sears/Kmart shoppers.
2) By becoming the go-to location, Sears & Kmart are building shopper trust and goodwill that can also convert into sales
3) Reviews on items can then be converted into suggestions for other items a shopper may want. Amazon does this really well.

Sears is smart to give soft incentives like sneak peeks instead of monetary incentives. This will help protect the integrity of the reviews. The idea of power reviewers is great and something Wikipedia does really well. If you have people that are willing to take the time and review items, reward them with a title so other users know this is an active reviewer.

Bob Phibbs
12 years 4 months ago

I am about to do this with my own products and speeches. This is the future; the more we can be trusting, the more we will be trusted. Those who want to edit reviews to only be positive will be seen as frauds.

Doron Levy
Doron Levy
12 years 4 months ago

Online reviews are critical to the success of any e-store. They have to be easy to find and organized. The big problem is the lack of response from the retailers when it comes to positive reviews. It’s a given that you have to respond to responsible negative feedback, but what about positive reviews?

This is part and parcel of the customer engagement strategy. 2 way communication will prompt the customer to give feedback, whether positive or negative. The first thought in the customer’s mind is: “Why bother? No one is listening or reading it anyways.” (Which in Sears case, may be true.) Creating more of a community with constant updates will prod customers to participate, especially if they are really happy with the product or service.

Mark Burr
12 years 4 months ago

Just like any other form of reviews, they are posted, or not printed and filtered. Just as with blogging. It’s no different with online reviews or anything else. Buyer and reader beware. Readers should take care in using, just as with anything else.

Reading a recent review of a motel that I have used for years and years revealed this more than I had ever seen. If one had never stayed there or knew nothing of it, they would have appeared negative. However, knowing the place, then reading the reviews, there is a different story. While the majority of the reviews were negative, none were looking for what the place really offered. Fair or unfair? The reader decides. Those who made a decision based on them missed out on a great place. But then again, they weren’t looking for it–or were they?

Anne Bieler
Anne Bieler
12 years 4 months ago

This could be an opportunity for Sears to reach out to consumers and get information about what motivates and delights (or not!) shoppers. Customer reviews are powerful, and can influence others.

The idea about data mining for product can add depth, giving more concrete points of interest and comparison. Key is to give valuable information, and reasons for a Sears community of shoppers to actively participate.

Jonathan Marek
12 years 4 months ago
Right now, the data just barely exists. It is a huge pain to access high quality reviews of most products. The exception is items with decent sales frequency on Amazon. The reason Amazon is such a great source is that it centralizes a vast range of products. With locations (restaurants, stores, hotels), it is a bit easier between Yelp, TripAdvisor, and the like. But clearly the answer here isn’t more companies creating their own databases…it is some form of database that centralizes this type of information. Once that is done well, maybe then someone can start to segment the info (a la #4). Second, there was a comment earlier about people using mobile phones to access review info. For products, that problem isn’t solved either. (Again, it is much better for reviews of restaurants and other locations). A killer app is out there waiting to be created. This idea has been around for awhile, but no one has done it well. It’ll be interesting to see whether Google/Android or Apple truly get there first.
Jerry Gelsomino
12 years 4 months ago

Go back to the top of the responses and I think Mr. Gordon hit the nail on the head. As retailers are getting more successful with getting responses from shoppers, it becomes the responsibility of retailers to do something valuable and consumer-centric with the information they gather. Otherwise, the customer will quickly stop sharing.


Take Our Instant Poll

Of the four suggestions mentioned in the article, which one do you think will do most to encourage online shoppers to contribute reviews?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...