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Reviews for the Little Guys
At online-auction site eBay, ProStores opens PowerReviews Express to its 40,000 small and midsized merchants.
Posted Mar 13, 2009
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Customer review solution provider PowerReviews announced yesterday that it has integrated PowerReviews Express with eBay's e-commerce platform ProStores. The standalone Express solution was released last December, targeting the enormous market of small and midsized businesses (SMBs). In an economy where consumers are careful with what they purchase, reviews have provided an added layer of confidence to the shopping experience. Because of this, small businesses are losing their once advantage of being "more approachable, more friendly, more transparent, more [informative]" than their larger counterparts, says Darby Williams, vice president of product management at PowerReviews. With this solution, he says, small businesses can get on board "at the flip of a switch."

The PowerReviews Express solution provides merchants with reviewing functionality and services, including:

  • Review Snapshot: a simplified "at-a-glance review summary" of the product for quick, easy viewing;
  • Verified Buyer: a label that identifies the customer as a product purchaser, but does not limit reviews to these individuals;
  • Affinity Views: the ability for consumers to find reviews from people just like them; and
  • Content Moderation Services: All reviews are read by a PowerReviews moderator and screened for inflammatory and non-product-related content.

With PowerReviews Express, Williams says, businesses are able to implement the solution and have it up and running within an hour. For PowerReview, with access to a potential 40,000 new customers, "It's a major push for us," Williams acknowledges.

"This is really about making the addition of ratings and reviews for the ProStore retailers very easy with the additional benefit of reducing an already very economical cost for the small-to-medium sized retailers on the ProStores offering," says Brian Walker, senior analyst of e-commerce at Forrester Research.

"Differentiation in the SMB marketplace space is a challenge," Walker says. "Consumers do not change their expectations of online retailers because they are small or on a marketplace platform." Based on research at Forrester, nearly 50 percent of online consumers regularly read reviews when researching or purchasing a product. From eBay's perspective, this goes beyond the buyer-seller reviews the site currently provides, and expands the solution to the product level. "This represents an opportunity for eBay to offer these to their merchants on the ProStores platform without developing them on their own," Walker adds.

Although ProStore customers are able to utilize Express independent of ProStores, companies that access the solution will get a $15 discount off the reasonable $80 monthly fee. The discount accounts for PowerReview's gain in what Williams calls, "an efficient marketing mechanism," whereby ProStores will be responsible for educating its customers on how to optimize the use of their product reviews, provide best practice materials, as well as customer case studies. "It's a channel of distribution," he says. "We get enormous leverage and faster adoption."

By now, few retailers can contest the value of incorporating customer reviews into their product pages. The number-one goal for product reviews is ultimately to increase conversions, Williams says. For instance, when consumers have to leave your Web site in search of product information, it hurts the likelihood that they will transact with you.

Moreover, companies need to not only have reviews, he says, but have a lot of them. "You need to get to the five, six, seven reviews per product to move the needle," Williams says. In an effort to solicit more reviews, PowerReviews also integrates with ProStores's e-communications solution partner, iMakeNews (IMN) to provide customers an automated follow-up email product called "Sales in a Click." The product sends an email to consumers three to four weeks after they've made a purchase, inviting them to write a review about the product. By going directly through links within the email, the solution attempts to provide a convenient, immediate, and transparent experience for writing reviews. Consumers coming through the emails are also identified with a "verified buyer" icon. "The process is dependent on getting those emails out," he says. This single email message alone, he asserts, could be the difference between having 2,000 or 20 product reviews in a six-month period.

According to an independent study by PowerReviews, nearly half (46 percent) of the 1172 respondents said that it would require a minimum of four to seven reviews to give them "sufficient confidence to judge that product." In other words, the more an item is reviewed, the more inclined consumers are going to believe that:

  • there's less of a chance every reviewer may be fraudulent; and
  • if there are problems with the product, there are enough opportunities to determine what those are.

Williams notes that PowerReviews will also be launching the integration of PowerReviews Express with its main revenue model, review-based e-commerce site Buzzillions, in the next few months.

The notion of labeling product purchasers "verified buyers" is intended to add another level of credibility to the system and increase consumer trust. Williams admits it does not resolve all the concerns associated with trust product reviews since un-verified consumers can still write a review. Even so, the rule of Web 2.0 is to never "prevent someone from letting their voice be heard," he says. Generally, consumers have read enough reviews to take a glowing recommendation with a dose of skepticism. "The crowd is pretty smart," Williams says. "It's the biggest protection out there."

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. You may leave a public comment regarding this article by clicking on "Comments" at the top; to contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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