August 23, 2006, 12:00 AM

Consumer-generated content moving toward wider adoption online

Think putting customer feedback online will only surface bad reviews? Think again – a Jupiter report finds shoppers are more likely to share good experiences than bad ones.

Online retailers who think consumer feedback on their site or on the sites of third parties will serve primarily to surface criticism about themselves or their products should think again. A new report from Jupiter Research finds that online shoppers who provide feedback are more likely to report on a positive experience than a negative one.

According to Jupiter’s Retail Marketing report, “Driving sales through consumer-generated content,” 9% of shoppers polled reported writing a product review on a store site about a product they liked, versus 4% who did so about a product they didn’t like. Consumers also were more likely to take an online survey about a research or purchase experience if their experience had been good – 43% of those surveyed reported doing do – than after a bad experience, which 17% of online shoppers had done. The number of consumers who sent e-mails to customer service after either a bad or a good experience was the same, 12%.

While about a third of online shoppers don’t share their shopping experience with the retailer, a third-party site, or even friends, most – 65% -- do, Jupiter found: to retailers, to third party sites, or to friends. “Online shoppers who have used product reviews are looking for peer validation of the claims retailers and manufacturers might make about their products,” according to the report’s author, Patti Freeman Evans.

That said, however, the perceived value specifically of online user-generated reviews and ratings varies among online consumers. 77% of those surveyed by Jupiter consult them when making purchase decisions but only 48 consider them useful. Online shoppers’ view of the utility of consumer-generated rating and reviews also varied with product categories, being viewed as most pertinent for product categories with complex attributes, such as consumer electronics and computers, followed by books, software music and DVDs.

Jupiter notes that online shoppers aren’t demanding consumer-generated review features on retailers` web sites, with 42% of customers who provided online feedback doing so only after being promoted by the retailer. With the deployment of ratings and reviews features currently limited to a few categories, the feature will take some time to be more entrenched on retail sites, according to Jupiter, particularly in categories where consumers now find the reviews less useful.

Nevertheless, the trend is moving toward wider adoption of consumer–generated reviews and ratings. Jupiter found that the number of online shoppers who cite such content as a shopping site feature they find most useful while researching and buying online more than doubled since last year. Consumers ranked ratings and reviews rated second in importance only to the ability to organize site search result by product attribute, according to Jupiter’s report.

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