Buying product kudos will undermine shopper confidence

I get hundreds of emails with hundreds of people sending me “stuff,” but when a very accomplished doctor sends me something … my interest is certainly piqued.

The New York Times article, "For $2 a Star, an Online Retailer gets 5-Star Product Reviews," was intriguing enough to make the doctor - a relative not particularly interested in e-retailing - send it straight to me.

Why? The idea that product reviews written by real people have been "bought and paid for" is disturbing. Online shoppers depend on the opinions of other consumers before they purchase. E-retailers welcome fair competition. Marketers expect chivalry and adherence to an unspoken code of ethics among their colleagues.


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Buying reviews is a way of gaming the system, and the practice will have the effect of undermining consumer's confidence in the industry. Compensating reviewers without disclosing their relationship to your company, rewarding high ratings with money, perks and free product is unethical. This is particularly troubling in a time when I see online retailers moving toward a more "social" environment on their websites and encouraging shopper-generated content.

And what if "shills" infiltrated the sharing sites, like Pinterest and Kaboodle and ... even Facebook?

Catalogs.com has been working with online retailers for over fifteen years, and our challenge has always been to engage consumers, build trust and close the sale. I think that it would be easy to see through over-effusive reviews, especially if the number and speed of those reviews defied common sense. We haven't seen this happen, but we have been alerted.

What do you do to ensure the integrity of your product reviews?

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