Product reviews are not for everyone

People like to read reviews of products in magazines they trust. They are helpful when they are making even a small purchase. For many though, the ratings of other buyers on sites such as Amazon.com or Bestbuy.com are fast becoming a ‘good enough’ barometer of the quality and value of a product. Indeed an entire industry has emerged to harness the power of user generated product or service feedback – tripadvisor.com being one of the notable success stories. But the generation of these user reviews does of course rely on some people having bought the service or product. After all, if there no users, there will be no user reviews. This is where the media and now certain blogs, have an advantage. They guide the early adopters of products. A good recent example of this is the Palm Pre. Google or Bing reviews of this product and you’ll see that at this stage there are plenty of product reviews at places like C|Net or Gizmodo but you won’t (or at least I couldn’t) find any customer generated reviews on major sites. Of course that will change in time but it’s clear that only those buying the phone early in its life will just have these more traditional product reviews. Which brings me to my point – product reviews are not for the masses, they are for the early adopters. Does this change the way PR people tackle product reviews? I suspect it should. Early adopters are by definition different. They have slightly different demands to the normal users. It would be useful for communications staff to profile early adopters and look at what characteristics they have and how the product being promoted appeals (or doesn’t appeal) to those characteristics.

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2 Comments on “Product reviews are not for everyone”

  1. Ryan Donovan says:

    Tim, I'm usually in full agreement with your comments but on this, I must respectfully disagree. At SanDisk, we make SD cards for cameras, microSD cards for phones and a host of other flash-based consumer devices. In flash, a mature technology, reviews do matter and they are definitely a guiding force in whether or not consumers choose our (superior) products over that of competitors. These consumers may be early adopters but it's much more likely that they are the mass consumers of digital devices. In a commodity business like flash, reviews play a pivotal role in helping consumers understand which product will work with which device and how reliable that product is. These are definitely mainstream consumers, helping educate other mainstream consumers. Thus, I think the blanket sentiment about early adopters is a bit far reaching; definitely for us. Cheers-

  2. Tim Dyson, CEO of Next Fifteen says:

    Ryan,
    My point is that these days product reviews are not what they used to be. In a world where reviews on Amazon etc are taken seriously (star ratings matter) then the early product reviews play a different role. They are still VERY important but I'd argue they are not consumed by all types of buyer.


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