Here are some facts about the use of user reviews that come from a presentation I heard recently from Patti Evans of JupiterResearch.
1) Customers are about twice as likely to write user reviews about good shopping experiences than bad ones. Likewise they are twice as likely to write user reviews about products they like than products they do not like. This is good news for retailers and should help alleviate fears about user reviewers hurting sales.
2) Customers that write user reviews likely spend much more money online. The 20% of online shoppers that write the most reviews account for 32% of total online spending.
3) Almost 50% of online shoppers find user reviews helpful. That 50% spends more online than the other 50%.
4) The top reasons that shoppers use user reviews are to gauge reliability, to judge quality, to make buying decisions, and to narrow options.
5) Shoppers value user reviews almost as much as company-provided information.
User reviews are simply a small part of the shift of the internet toward user generated content. If you understand this trend, you know that E-tail will also evolve in that direction. If at all possible, the implementation of user reviews should be part of your strategy. If you are selling to a young demographic, you risk fast irrelevancy if you cannot find ways to allow your customers to add content to your site.