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A landmark moment for consumer empowerment and word of mouth

Walmartreviews
Something big happened this morning — WalMart.com is now accepting consumer reviews.

I think this is going to fundamentally change the marketing environment. More important, it is going to give consumers extraordinary power to fight back against businesses that don’t deliver on their promises.  Why?

1. Everything gets reviewed

This is the first time reviews have been extended to virtually every consumer product.  Consumers can reject or praise a toothbrush, batteries, and glue. No consumer products manufacturer can avoid facing open, honest feedback.

2. Reviewing goes mainstream

WalMart exposes customer feedback to new categories of consumers who have never used the review sections on high-end travel and shopping sites.  Last year 28% of consumers reviewed something online.  This is the tipping point – soon almost everyone will be doing it.

3. WalMart becomes a consumer activist

Whatever views you have about WalMart, nobody questions that they are badasses who fight for what they want. The flood of reviews is going to tell them exactly what their customers don’t like (and won’t buy). I guarantee that manufacturers are going to hear about it.  Reviews enable WalMart to turn their badassedness against companies that make products that aren’t making people happy.

I don’t know how big this is going to get, but I expect very, very big.  QVC.com is getting 2,000+ reviews every day. This will be much bigger.

Lessons and warnings:

1. Manufacturers and Marketers: Get ready, because the game is about to change. You need to serve your customers first and foremost by making great stuff.  You’re not going to be able to cover for averageness with clever advertising.

2. Consumers:  Rejoice. Your voice and power have been extraordinarily amplified. You will be heard.

3. eCommerce Sites:  You better get reviews on your site fast.  Shoppers will expect to read reviews before every purchase. If you don’t have them, they will shop elsewhere.

Word of mouth is fundamentally changing the relationship between business and consumers – for the better. Consumer reviews align customer satisfaction with a store’s profit motive. This is a good thing – for us as smart businesses, but more for ourselves as consumers and for our families.

Disclosure: I am an advisor to BazaarVoice, the company that powers WalMart & QVC’s reviews.  But I still think this is a big deal.

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Comments

  1. Say What You Will About WalMart.com Seriously

    Retail giant Wal-Mart announced today that it will allow customer reviews on Walmart.com for the first time. The move may be a small step e-commerce, but its a giant leap for corporate transparency and the growing popularity of word-of-mouth mar…

  2. David Payne July 19, 2007 at 3:51 pm #

    Good for them but product reviews have been a feature at many of the top websites for years now. Amazon.com, NewEgg.com, etc.
    Glad to hear yet another site will allow it but I hardly call it a landmark moment.
    David Payne
    Business Development
    OneCall
    http://www.onecall.com

  3. Andy Sernovitz July 19, 2007 at 4:16 pm #

    Thanks, David. I agree that reviews aren’t news. What excites me is that we’re at a tipping point.
    WalMart pushes reviews for a huge number of products that haven’t been reviewed before, and to the mainstream population that hasn’t posted reviews before.
    If it goes like I hope, consumers will demand and expect the right to be heard.

  4. tish grier July 19, 2007 at 4:35 pm #

    This is incredible given the amazing faux-pas that Wal-Mart committed last year. I’m stunned. But let’s keep our eyes open for bits o’ sock puppetry. If the CEO of Whole Foods can do it, who knows whom else might get the smart idea? (then again, maybe W-M learned enough from last year.)

  5. Susan Gunelius July 19, 2007 at 11:58 pm #

    I think adding a review function on the Walmart website will help it compete with Amazon and differentiate it from Target and other similar online stores. Will reviews only be available for products sold online through Walmart? One of my biggest complaints about shopping online through Walmart is that the product selection is limited. The reviews won’t be as helpful if there aren’t many products to choose from.
    It will be very interesting to see the demographics of the reviewers on the Walmart website to see if a new audience is participating or if it’s just the same audience including their reviews on multiple sites. Overall, I do like that Walmart is adding the feature to their site. The more information they can give at the point of purchase (along with great prices) the more people will talk and return.

  6. Austin Startup July 20, 2007 at 10:47 am #

    Walmart Goes Live with Bazaarvoice Reviews

    Walmart pushed a news release across the wire yesterday announcing the launch of customer reviews and ratings on it’s website. What it didn’t announce was that Bazaarvoice is the technology behind that capability. Back in May we wrote about Bazaarvoice

  7. Online Community Report August 13, 2007 at 12:13 pm #

    OC Expert Interview: Jake McKee, Ant’s Eye View

    This month’s Online Community Expert interview is with Jake McKee of Ant’s Eye View. Jake is only a few weeks in to the new practice with Ant’s Eye View, so I really appreciated him taking time out for the interview.
    Jake’s Bio:
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  8. C. LaPlume June 23, 2008 at 12:53 pm #

    The only problem that I have noticed with Walmart’s review system, is that I have posted several reviews on products that I’ve ordered, and they were never posted on the website. My reviews weren’t scathing. I smell a rat. Most products have only a few customer ratings, and those are mostly wonderful. Nobody’s perfect.