How will product reviews evolve?

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There was a great question on the G+ site yesterday from Daniel Zahler Portfolio Manager at Venture Quest Capital Partners asking two things about product reviews. (1) How will online product reviews need to evolve (e.g. format, accessibility, virality, credibility) and (2) what role will they play in the next wave of social commerce? My answer (draft form so feel free to add comments) below:

Hi Daniel, the best folks to answer your question are probably the 3rd party providers in this market such as PowerReviews and Bazaarvoice. However I will use my experience in managing the generation of reviews and guides for eBay’s price comparison portal Shopping.com for the last 15 months to base my response, which cost a lot less cash and helped drive my understanding of these issues working with my colleagues in DE, FR, AU and US (including product review site Epinions.com).

And what I’d say is that the evolution of product reviews is closely tied to the evolution of the whole business of social ratings and social recommendations. Practically every week I talk to or come across a new solution which claims to be the next big thing in this space. And of course this is closely tied to the post F8 world. I also know that on TV in the UK on Monday there’s an investigative documentary of the impact TripAdvisor reviews can have on hotels’ ability to generate new customers, so your question could not be more timely.

So back to your question, how will they evolve? Well have a read of my blog post on Google’s ZMOT, other known as the ‘zero moment of truth’ when shoppers access reviews to make purchasing decisions – and ask yourself when everything from pencils to hotels can and will be reviewed and accessed on the go, via your smartphone – that this suggests (coupled with the way Facebook is evolving..) a certain frictionless social shopping context necessary to understand the evolution of product reviews, particularly if you are new to the marketplace. It’s easier to answer the question more specifically with a given product in a given marketplace too.

In conclusion a quote from Google’s ZMOT: “Yes, people take the time to leave messages online about how much they love Scotch Tape. That’s because the effort is down to zero.”

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