August 4, 2008, 12:00 AM

PowerReviews to test customer reviews service for smaller e-retailers

The company will launch a test next week that will allow small and mid-sized retailers to add customer reviews to their sites. PowerReviews hopes to introduce the service this year and expects to price it around $100 per month, says CEO Andy Chen.

PowerReviews Inc., which enables customer reviews on some 2,800 e-commerce sites operated by nearly 350 larger retailers, has developed an option for small and mid-sized merchants.

The company plans to launch a test next week in which fewer than 20 retailers will begin using the service, says CEO Andy Chen. He says PowerReviews has simplified the set-up and integration process, and that any web site that can work with Google’s popular ad-serving service AdSense should be able to integrate the new PowerReviews service by cutting and pasting code into product pages.

The service will provide many of the features PowerReviews provides to its existing clients, Chen says. PowerReviews will host the service and monitor the reviews customers post. Retailers can customize the look and feel and specify terms that they want filtered out, such as profanity and competitors’ names. While the price has not been finalized, Chen expects the service will cost retailers about $100 per month.

Chen says the idea for a service like this arose during the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition last year when many smaller retailers expressed interest in PowerReviews’ technology. “The mid and smaller market is not well served,” he says.

With its existing client base of larger retailers, PowerReviews provides its technology and services for free in exchange for being able to post the reviews on PowerReviews’ Buzzillions.com shopping site. Each review contains a link back to the retailer, and PowerReviews receives an affiliate fee for each sale that comes through Buzzillions.com. PowerReviews clients include Staples, No. 2 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, No. 43 Toys ‘R’ Us, No. 62 Recreational Equipment and No. 82 NetShops.

While reviews from such large retailers generate enough revenue for PowerReviews that the company can cover its costs, that would not be the case for smaller retailers, which is why PowerReviews has come up with the new service, Chen says. The company plans to expand its beta test of the new self-service option to several hundred retailers after the first month. Retailers interested in participating can call PowerReviews or fill in information in the “contact us” portion of its web site, Chen says.

He says he expects the new service will be generally available in time for retailers to add reviews to their web sites before the 2008 holiday season.

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