Walmart announced they are adding user reviews to their online website. Not surprisingly, this generated a lot of press. I like Ad Age's article which focuses on user reviews becoming increasingly important sources of information for consumers. Key quote:
"A study by Bazaarvoice, the Austin, Texas, company hired to power Wal-Mart's reviews, and the market-research company Vizu, found that 80% of shoppers have more trust in brands that feature reviews and that 75% of shoppers say it's extremely or very important to read customer reviews before making a purchase. Peer reviews, the study found, are preferred over expert reviews by a margin of 6-to-1."
While Bazaarvoice is not an unbiased source - they sell online review products - there is a wide range of data and studies supporting the concept that consumers are increasingly looking to online social networks and review sites for trusted information on goods and services.
With the growth of local review and community sites, small businesses are starting to be actively discussed on the Internet. Clearly most small businesses will not want to create their own user ratings sites as Wal-Mart has done. However, monitoring and participating in online local review and community sites will become an increasingly important part of the small business marketing mix. We discuss this in more depth in the marketing sectio of our most recent forecast report.