Today must be the day to think about online product reviews. With all the buzz about blog monitoring, it's important to remember other ways people share their opinions online. Monitoring product reviews is harder to automate than monitoring blogs, but their relevance is all but guaranteed.
Riva Richmond's article in today's Wall Street Journal points out the importance of online reviews to small business: Look Who's Talking. The key lesson here is that you don't have to have a high-profile brand to be reviewed online. Customers are reviewing local service businesses, too. The article includes practical advice on dealing with negative reviews (starting with fixing the problem).
Meanwhile, Greg Howlett relays key points from JC Whitney's Geoffrey Robertson in four things you should know about collecting user reviews:
- User reviews have a huge impact on sales.
- Companies need to aggressively solicit reviews.
- User reviews do not necessarily improve customer loyalty.
- User reviews do not necessarily drive more organic search traffic.
I wrote about an unhappy example of what you can learn from product reviews last October. Hasbro discovered a serious product problem by monitoring reviews on Amazon. At the time, the social media analysis vendors I was talking to generally didn't track product reviews. I still don't know of any tools to automate the process for do-it-yourself monitoring (aside from web-to-RSS services), but a number of companies in the Guide will monitor them for you.