retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Business Week has a good piece about the power of consumer reviews on Amazon.com, and how the e-tailer has turned this one-risky innovation into a “new reality for the way consumers shop in the Digital Age: The Internet has become the world's greatest research tool, and consumers hardly buy anything anymore without first getting the skinny online. Some 70% of Americans say they consult product reviews or consumer ratings before making a purchase, according to an October 2008 survey by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, a research and consulting firm. Amazon has played a central role in the change in consumer behavior by being the first successful Web retailer to embrace consumers' views. ‘What we try to spend our time on is harnessing customer passion,’ says Russell Dicker, Amazon.com's senior manager of community.”

The numbers are staggering: 15 years after Amazon began posting unvarnished consumer reviews, “more than 5 million consumers have posted tens of millions of reviews on Amazon.com, says the Seattle company.”
KC's View:
Part of being viable online is being willing to create an environment for this kind of consumer interaction, and accept the notion that people aren’t always going to say nice things. You can deny the fact that this kind of consumer engagement exists, or you can embrace it. Seems to me that this really isn't a choice, since it amounts to choosing irrelevance or relevance.