The internet brought about a new age of consumerism. With this new approach, a new foundation for purchasing goods and services was developed. The online cart and secure payments are two examples. As the internet expanded, a growing need for validation of products/services developed. This void was filled by customer reviews. These reviews helped expand markets and provide increased comfort to online shoppers. In the early days, the review process varied heavily from site to site. It ranged from a simple comment to a complex set of questions. Eventually most websites moved to a star rating system with a free-form comment section. Although unknown, a fine line exists in the review process between simplicity and tedium. The process has its flaws. The following section outlines a few concerns:
- People are more inclined to leave feedback when they have a negative experience with a product/service. This can skew the overall rating of a highly purchased product if only one bad review exists.
- The mental rating system of each person can vary. Three stars might mean average to some and poor to others. Some individuals are also more particular than others.
- Sometimes bad reviews of products are not related to the actual product. Customers can complain about the delivery or payment systems.
- Some corporations hire people to navigate the web and write glowing reviews about their products/services.
- When the number of reviews exceeds 10 or 15, they become less relevant without proper sorting and searching.
- Although all reviews are created equal, some are more beneficial than others but finding them may be difficult.
- Some reviews date back multiple years and don't provide a proper current view.
- A few websites display the most recent review. Although this might seem helpful, seeing the first review as negative might put customers on edge.
- Some websites only require a star rating without an explanation of the rating. This review does not provide much substance.
Unfortunately, these flaws have led people to decipher reviews on their own. Some individuals randomly select reviews. Others focus on the average reviews, excluding the worst and best. This may require excessive time and effort, resulting in a customer leaving. There are ways to combat these problems. The follow section outlines a few possible solutions:
- Send follow-up emails to purchasers encouraging them to rate their product/service.
- At a minimum, use a five star rating system with half star increments and provide clarity about the stars. Also, require a comment of at least a few words with every review.
- Allow registered customers to vote on the relevance of a review. Once a review crosses a certain negative threshold, remove it.
- Indicate if the product being reviewed was purchased by the customer.
- Allow only registered users to leave reviews. Metrics can be developed to find review abusers.
- Filter out reviews older than a specific amount of rolling time.
- Provide the ability to filter reviews by the highest voted and by star rating.
Review systems are flawed but they are getting better. Websites must maintain a watchful eye to ensure validity. Although consumers do not purchase on reviews alone, they have become an important part of the online evaluation process. They provide comfort to cautious buyers and vindication to others. Both outcomes are positive for a website as they build additional trust with its consumers.