Consumer opinions online have certainly changed the landscape of traditional and editorial product reviews.

When I’m out to make a technology purchase, I’ll typically scour review sites like CNET, PC Magazine and Consumer Reports, talk to friends, colleagues and maybe even get a store employee’s opinion before making my final decision. The point being that we’re all  increasingly adding online consumer reviews to our purchasing decision mix. This rings true as last year Forrester Research predicted social commerce will reach $14b by 2015, as we increasingly rely on our networks to determine which products to buy. Brands seem to have taken notice of how important and valuable customer opinion and reviews are and are even building outreach programs to reach target opinionated customers.

That may be changing.

The FTC has just announced they will be addressing guidelines for consumer reviews. As they crack down on fake consumer reviews practices this reminds me of their edict to bloggers several years ago who were accepting payments and not disclosing them. While your average Joe who writes a product review online is not the same as a professional reviewer, many (like me) are using all information available before making a purchase. For a way to detect the fake ones check out this guide.

As experts in this field of consumer opinion and traditional reviews, we recommend that brands look at opportunities to share third-party opinions of products, collected from their own product page of customer reviews, professional sites, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, in order to best take advantage of the content that their advocates are sharing. This helps the customer make a well-rounded decision about the product and cuts down on the time it takes them to gather information.

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Image courtesy of StrebKR.

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