"In a highly competitive marketplace like Kindle covers, what role do product reviews play?
From the point of view of the consumer the answer is fairly obvious. It is a well known fact that shoppers are becoming better informed, particularly with regards to eCommerce. More than half of consumers will now routinely track down reviews of products that they are thinking about purchasing. The practice is used more when the goods to be purchased get more expensive.
Consumers can use product reviews in several ways. Firstly is reading actual product reviews themselves. This process may reaffirm the customer's decision to buy or make them look for something else.
Reviews can also function on a deeper level though. Consumers are becoming ever more sophisticated and will see reviews differently depending on their 'trust value'. Most consumers instinctively believe the reviews on Amazon for example as they have earned a reputation over a long period of time. Other sites that someone has never heard of though may be treated with a degree of caution. Consumers have found out that reviews can be fraudulent and they are wary.
The quantity of reviews available for a particular product is a critical factor in establishing trust. A product which has a couple of thousand reviews is likely to instil greater confidence than one that has just a few, it's social proof. With products that have lots of reviews shoppers can get an overall sense of whether it is up to par and subsequently focus on the bad reviews to try and establish what the cons could be.
Some of the more advanced platforms have methods of commenting on individual reviews, posting questions and methods for voting for them as being helpful or not. This causes the most popular reviews to bubble up to the top and leads to a more informative consumer experience.
As review usage becomes ever more prevalent then more places will publish them. One of the results of this is that websites can now be found that specialize in publishing reviews of websites themselves. Now shoppers can read product reviews on one website and then check for reviews of the website itself so as to see if it has enough trust value to believe the reviews that it contains and if it is secure enough to make a purchase.
With so much time and work put into consumer reviews for the benefit of online shoppers what use is it all to a manufacturer? The best manufacturers have realized the value of consumer reviews and have discovered that they contain a huge amount of valuable information that relates to their very product, what is useful about it and what is lacking or just does not work. The best manufacturers have started using 'customer refined design' principles. "