12 October 2007

The power of reviews

Recently I bought a new electrical appliance. It came top in a (2 year old) Which consumer survey and they were completely unequivocal - it outperformed the brand leader by a healthy margin against virtually every criterion that they tested it against.

Next stop eBay. I saw the item on sale, placed my bid and won. So far, so good. I had seen an impressive review, decided what I had wanted to buy and got it at a great price. But then, the little green demon curiosity took hold and I Googled to see if there were any reviews other than the Which survey. There were, and I began to read ...

Disaster. The first few were unfailingly negative and said that the Which survey didn't know what it was talking about because it hadn't used the product over a sufficiently long period. I looked further afield to see whether these opinions were a flash in the pan or reflected the consistent mood in the market. Eventually I found some more recent reviews and they were unstinting in their praise of the product so I feel vindicated at last that I have made a decent choice.

This information is a potential problem for manufacturers. They need to be aware of what people are saying about their product because there is a risk that negative reviews will impact adversely on their sales. Perhaps their site should link to some of the positive reviews so that they take advantage of independent praise to help offset the effects of any negative press which may exist.

Travel companies have taken this idea rather further - there are consistent claims that they have written some of the supposedly independent positive reviews of holiday destinations and hotels which appear on the web. I'm not advocating that - I'm a consumer, too.

Now I'm just waiting for the postal strike to end so that I can begin my own extended duration consumer testing. I'm just hoping that it's a positive experience.

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