If you are at all trying to stay current on the state of internet retailing, you have probably heard from many sources that you should consider collecting and displaying user reviews for the products you sell.
This makes sense. It is important to understand that people are starting to trust collaborative wisdom more than sources that traditionally would be considered more authoritative.
Read this report from Pew Internet. If you want your eyes opened, look at the graph on page four that compares traffic between Wikipedia and Encarta. If that will not wake you up, nothing will.
If you are like me, you may find this trend disturbing. I cannot fathom why people think that Wikipedia is more accurate than Encarta. More current and comprehensive, yes. But certainly not more accurate. The fact is that Wikipedia is manipulated every minute in nefarious ways. In addition, it is edited by numerous people that either do not know much about what they are talking about or got their information from Encarta in the first place.
Unfortunately, it does not matter too much whether I disagree with this trend and does not matter whether you do either. If you want to sell online, you had better be tuned in to this massive mindshift.
Even though user reviews are manipulated and can be completely bogus, they do add value to the buying experience. Keep in mind that like many current online trends, the younger generation is more likely to be influenced by collective wisdom. If your demographic is older, be warned that you have only a short amount of time before your customers want user reviews too.
The marriage of user-generated content and online shopping is inevitable, and probably will be more significant than many e-tailers are expecting. You have only to note the growing popularity of sites such as ThisNext and Wists.com to see where we are going. In addition, social sites such as Facebook are trying to get a piece of the e-tail pie.
In my next post, I want to discuss some findings from JC Whitney about exactly what results you can achieve from user reviews.