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The aim of this paper is to analyze the article titled “When shopping online, can you trust the reviews?” written by Elizabeth Holmes. The paper will discuss strategies used by online retailers in their product reviews as well as describe a research study that can be used to explore the relationship between customer comments and their buying habits.
Holmes’ article explores the importance of customer reviews in the modern retail industry. She begins by admitting that nowadays, retailers dedicate more time and effort than ever to the commentary on shopping experience left by their customers. The author points to the fact that modern e-commerce websites discourage anonymous commenters from leaving reviews in order to eliminate so-called ‘sock puppets’ who have an agenda. Holmes (2016) emphasizes the importance of negative reviews and notes that they help to effectively respond to complaints. The author also discusses various strategies used by online retailers to encourage their customers to leave reviews.
In order to support her arguments, the journalist refers to the Deloitte 2016 Holiday Survey with a sample size of 5, 000 customers (Holmes, 2016). The findings of the study show that “66% of shoppers who research online say they read customer reviews on websites” (Holmes, 2016, para. 3). The author cites chief executive of PowerReviews who suggests that only 4% of shoppers leave reviews (Holmes, 2016). Another sources cited to justify the importance of online product reviews is a study conducted by Northwestern University’s Spiegel Digital and Database Research Center in 2015 (Holmes, 2016). The study reveals that verified customers leave an average rating of 4.34 in their reviews, whereas an average rating from an anonymous buyer is only 3.89 (Holmes, 2016).
There are many strategies used by online retailers for encouraging their customers to leave reviews and make them more useful for potential buyers. According to Holmes (2016), Target allows sorting reviews by different categories such as “’ease of assembly’ for furniture, or ‘design’ for home décor items” (para. 17). The retailer also simplifies voting for its shoppers, thereby allowing them to participate in classifying other people’s reviews as ‘helpful’ or ‘not helpful’ (Holmes, 2016).
Another strategy that should be adopted by other e-commerce websites is a customer loyalty program launched by Zappos. The retailer rewards its customers for feedback by granting them 100 points for participation, which is “the same number of points a shopper gets for spending $10” (Holmes, 2016, para. 12). This useful strategy indicates that the company treats reviews and recommendations left by its customers as an asset rather than a liability.
Word-of-mouth (WOM) in the context of e-commerce is an important factor that can influence consumer behavior to a great extent. In order to assess how consumer communities react on reviews left by other buyers, it is necessary to explore the relationship between positive reviews to negative reviews ratio and purchase decisions. A research study assessing relative proportions of reviews and how they affect the credibility of a website and buying habits of online shoppers would provide invaluable insights into concrete experiences of customers. Furthermore, such study would be useful for e-commerce companies that do not know how to better present WOM communication on their websites.
The paper has helped to better understand the influence of product reviews on consumer behavior. It was shown that many customers make their informed decisions on new purchases based on electronic WOM.
Holmes, E. (2016). When shopping online, can you trust the reviews? The Wall Street Journal. Web.