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Sun Aug 30 2009 23:30:12

Ecommerce Trends: From Product Reviews to Social Shopping

By: Ina Steiner

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Do you like to read what other people have said about a product before making a purchase? And do you leave reviews about items you've purchased? There have been many times I've researched product features on search engines and looked at product reviews on ecommerce websites. In fact, there are times when I trust online product reviews more than a sales clerk in a store.

Amazon.com is particularly good at providing product reviews, but these days many ecommerce sites offer them thanks in part to services like PowerReviews.com, which outsources customer reviews so merchants of all sizes and verticals can serve up reviews to their website visitors.

Now there are sites like TurnTo that bring social components to making purchases. You can see what your friends and family have said about items you're considering purchasing. IMShopping goes even further - you can ask a question about a product, and receive an answer back from a real person (the company calls itself a  "human-assisted shopping service").

According to a survey commissioned by IMShopping and conducted by Harris Interactive, about 4 in 5 online adults who have purchased items online in the past 6 months (77%) say they would be interested in getting help from a real person before making certain online purchases.

While the majority of online adults who have purchased items online in the past 6 months say they would be interested in getting help from a real person before making the purchase, over 4 in 5 (82%) say there have been times when they have not been able to get the help from a real person.

Over half (52%) of those who have not always been able to get the help they needed from a real person say it's affected their decision to not purchase the product at least sometimes, while 16% say it's affected their decision not to purchase the product almost always or often.

Where do small online sellers fall in this area, are they advantaged by being small and personable, or disadvantaged by not having budgets for third-party shopping-assistant services? And is social shopping a viable phenomenon?




Comments (11) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Ecommerce Trends: From Product Reviews to Social Shopping   Ecommerce Trends: From Product Reviews to Social Shopping

by: An avid AB reader

Mon Aug 31 00:48:54 2009

I think the smaller sellers definitely have an advantage. They more than likely have the time to reply to questions about their product and in a shorter time frame than some larger sellers or selling sites and you're dealing with the seller and not some paid service rep who might not have all the details.
Take the live chat feature that Bonanzle has in sellers booths for example.
I've asked questions about product compatibility and gotten instant replies (when the seller was online).
Saved me a lot of time having to hunt the info down myself.

Ecommerce Trends: From Product Reviews to Social Shopping   Ecommerce Trends: From Product Reviews to Social Shopping

by: Gary

Mon Aug 31 04:59:01 2009

I don't typically need to speak to a person before I've purchased a commodity item. I usually have done the research beforehand and looked at reviews on Amazon and other sites before I make a committment to buy. However, if the product I receive is damaged, which has happened in very few cases in the hundreds of transactions I've done, then it does make it easier if there is phone customer support.

Gary

Ecommerce Trends: From Product Reviews to Social Shopping   Ecommerce Trends: From Product Reviews to Social Shopping

by: Ian

Mon Aug 31 06:29:47 2009

We advertise a toll-free number and encourage people to use it. It more than pays for itself. For my own part I read reviews sometimes, but often they are semi-literate and only marginally useful. There are times when I feel that for all the web does to create the possibility for us to communicate with potential customers, there is also a point at which it becomes a barrier - many companies (especially larger ones) do not want to invest in customer support and reviews are one way in which they can cut down on their input. You still can not beat talking to a real live human being.

Ecommerce Trends: From Product Reviews to Social Shopping   Ecommerce Trends: From Product Reviews to Social Shopping

by: fineline

Mon Aug 31 08:22:28 2009

It's difficult to take some product reviews seriously when there are businesses paying for product reviews.  Amazon Turk is littered with requests from website owners, large and small, paying for reviews of a product or service.  

Ecommerce Trends: From Product Reviews to Social Shopping   Ecommerce Trends: From Product Reviews to Social Shopping

by: Gailete

Mon Aug 31 09:09:01 2009

I like reading book reviews prior to purchase, but sometimes they don't always tell you what you need to know, so I write reviews myself. I try to help the book buyer make an informed decision, but I have seen goofy reviews, including one about the fact that they haven't read the book but the person's other books were great!?,someone complaining about the illiteracy of the other two reviews or reviews from family members that are of course going to praise the book. I would rather get my info from a reader with nothing to gain from the review. Amazon does send me books to read for reviews and since I'm not allowed to sell my copies (most are ARC anyhow) all it means is more books on my shelves.

As a small seller, I give very personal service and can respond quickly to customer questions, however I have no intention to have phone support. Because of a quirk, in one week, I got 3 phone calls from customers with no regard for the time they were calling and as I am disabled and need my rest, I don't want calls coming in at all hours. Nothing for sale in my store needs phone support and since I can't take credit card info over the phone, I can't help with that either.

Ecommerce Trends: From Product Reviews to Social Shopping   Ecommerce Trends: From Product Reviews to Social Shopping

by: vince jelenic

Mon Aug 31 10:40:13 2009

social Shopping?
Absolutely.

We've stakeed our future growth on it.

We've used the internet, and sales venues in the past, and moved into "social marketing" in a big way, utilizing a NING social network setting for our NEW store. a Shop-Ning, as it were.

This can be seen at http://greenspot.ning.com

Membership NOT required, but we offer members special benefits, communications, ease of support and service, special wish lists, and more.

We sell antiques/uniques/collectibles, and find there is NO other simple method to generated the buzz and sales required to sustain a small biz such as ours.  

We recognized early on that ALL of the sales venues, and review sites would NOT work for our industry, and so have concentrated on hyper-local customer base, and NING has provided a free and robust platform to work with.

Our sales through our NING site far eclipse any activity we have EVER seen on eBay, bonanzle, store website or anywhere else.  Traffic to this new form of store site has overtaken that which our 4-year old website generates (with good google standing, and lots of traffic) in just 4 MONTHS.

As a channel for future growth and sales we'd highly recommend sellers look at this type of venue. It is the future, and, althougth it takes a bit of time to BUILD, it is the best and longest lasting method you can invest time in now.

In a way it extends your STORE past your local customer base -- like having a personable mom & pop shop with worldwide reach.

cheers.

Ecommerce Trends: From Product Reviews to Social Shopping   Ecommerce Trends: From Product Reviews to Social Shopping

by: Ebay Pays My Bills

Mon Aug 31 11:25:43 2009

That's why my ads have a phone number on them. Anyone can call and ask questions about the tool I'm selling.
No need to wait for a email response.

Ecommerce Trends: From Product Reviews to Social Shopping   Ecommerce Trends: From Product Reviews to Social Shopping

by: Julie

Mon Aug 31 14:03:20 2009

Kaboodle (www.kaboodle.com) is the #1 social shopping site with over 15 million monthly visitors.  They have a great affiliate program for retailers - small and large. This is a great site for people who love to shop and the community is super helpful when it comes to making decisions on life style goods.  It's a great place to discover new products from anywhere on the web. Ck our this great article about one of the retailers on Internet Retailer - http://tinyurl.com/lsfuja

Ecommerce Trends: From Product Reviews to Social Shopping   Ecommerce Trends: From Product Reviews to Social Shopping

by: EventHorizon1984

Mon Aug 31 18:19:20 2009

Sellers will thrive in open environments.  A closed venue (no ''email addresses, domain names, and phone numbers'') will only benefit the company putting up the fences.

.> Ebay Pays My Bills
.> Mon Aug 31 11:25:43 2009
.> my ads have a phone number on them

Yes, that tactic is obvious in the ''Shipping and payments'' section of #390086794210.  But while a toll free or business number may have great utility on Social Shopping venues, it is NOT on eBay.

In fact doing so on eBay can result in:
''   *  Listing cancellation
   *  Forfeit of eBay fees on cancelled listings
   *  Limits on account privileges
   *  Loss of PowerSeller status
   *  Account suspension''

Because sellers are NOT allowed to post phone numbers with a listing.

http://pages.ebay.com/help/sell/policies.html
''Exa
mples
of listing practices that are not allowed on eBay''
''   *  Including contact information (for example, email addresses, domain names, and phone numbers) in the listing title, subtitle, item location, or pictures.''


Violating eBay Policy is not a good idea if a seller wants to continue selling on eBay.

.
''They pull my posts all the time!!!''
Ebay Pays My Bills
http://messages.finance.yahoo.com/Stocks_%28A_to_Z%29/Stocks_
E/threadview?m=te&bn=5744&tid=776913&mid=776913

Ecommerce Trends: From Product Reviews to Social Shopping   Ecommerce Trends: From Product Reviews to Social Shopping

by: Joshua Greenough

Tue Sep 1 13:38:38 2009

Great article Ina. We at PowerReviews love to see people talking about reviews as a part of the entire shopping experience.  Amazon certainly made reviews popular and big retailers like eBags have been using them for years. Now, small retailers are getting access to tools to play with the big shops.  

The comments in this thread surrounding trust and verification ring true for both retailers and consumers.  The issues listed by fineline around Mechanical Turk compensating  bloggers for reviews causes huge trust issue for consumers. We have a great program that badges Verified Buyers which shows the next shopper that the person who left the review actually bought the product.  Getting reviews from your buyers is a great starting point for user generated content, and layering on social shopping sites listed here is a natural next step.

PowerReviews has spent time making it easy to launch reviews for merchants of all sizes.  We have worked with many platforms to make the launch of our service as easy as possible; the ProStores platform even has a special integration wizard for you that reduces the standard integration time by 30%.

Again, we are excited about reviews and the services that are becoming available for small merchants at a fraction of the cost for large retailers.  I look forward to reading more comments on this thread and please swing by our website (http://www.powerreviewsexpress.com) to take a look at our information regarding our reviews best practices and the usage of user generated content and social media.

Joshua Greenough
(VP of Operations PowerReviews)

Ecommerce Trends: From Product Reviews to Social Shopping   Ecommerce Trends: From Product Reviews to Social Shopping

by: toll free number

Tue Sep 1 16:40:36 2009

I have a toll free number with http://www.Tollfreenumber.org. they have great customer service and service. That was one of my best decision i have ever made for my business.



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