Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Online reviews make a difference, even in stores

Having reviews of your product or service on your website have always been a good idea. Now it seems those reviews are coming alive and having an effect in the bricks-and-motar physical world.

Showing prospective buyers how other people have bought from you and been happy makes it far easier for prospects to go ahead and buy. Even when one person says something negative, that only lends credibility to the other positive reviews. The Dell Hell epsiode is a shining example of that.

However, a new trend of comments shows how online reviews may be breaking out and having an effect on the real, physical, bricks-and-mortar world. Take this entry from Dave Winer's blog:

The thing I like best about shopping at Amazon are the user comments. They really are good. And I often base purchasing decisions on what the other users say. It got so bad that when I went shopping at Fry's for some sound equipment I fumbled around until I realized what I was missing was the advice of other shoppers. I did the unfair thing, listened to a bunch of stuff and then went home and bought what I liked and what the others liked, from Amazon.

With online reviews as a known, often-used tools, the lack of that quick, ready and assuring "other people's opinion" may well hurt established retail stores. When combined with the ability to use your mobile phone as a bar code scanner and check online prices, retail stores may well have to add something to their physical displays and environment to give the buyer the opinions they're looking for.

Perhaps this is a good chance for retailers to convince an in-store buyer not only that the item is the right one for them, but other customers have liked the retailer's service so much they don't mind paying higher prices than those available if they shopped around on the Internet.

Never too busy to use the Internet

I met with the CEO of Marshall Mechanical today, a local Richmond HVAC troubleshooting and maintenance firm. Sean Cantrell's business is a busy one: everyone is always at a customer's home or business, locating the problems in their air conditioning, furnaces or plumbing. But even with the employees, managers and CEO all working all the time, they still find time to keep their Internet presence better-looking and more useful than any other firm.

Take a look at the website Marshall Mechanical. Very nice, right? Looks good and explains quickly that they service residential and commercial as well as figure out why existing systems don't work. That's great: they've found a website design that works well and they spend time filling it with information you need to decide Marshal Mechanical is the right firm for you.

But they go way further than that. Their website also points to Sean's blog where you can keep up-to-date with the latest news and trends about heating, cooling and saving energy. On top of that, Sean regularly posts tips and resources that could save you money or even your health!

Marshall Mechanical is a big success in a short time due to Sean and his staff and they are giving back to their customers and community by providing lots of information and resources. Well done, Sean!