I recently stumbled upon an online review service that gave Modern Office a high score and the honor of being the No. 1 place to buy office supplies in Eden Prairie, MN. We’re happy to hear that, but we don’t sell office supplies — we sell office furniture. The review went on to describe our typical customers as “fashionistas”. I’m not sure what that means, but it made me think more about online reviews.
Different review services have different strengths. It looks like the review service that provided the ranking mentioned above specializes in local stores, but we have a warehouse and showroom instead of a store, so their ranking and scores don’t mean much since they are based on such a small number of transactions.
Since you’re online as you read this blog you’re probably interested in online shopping. One key to successful online shopping is finding a good unbiased review site. The Better Business Bureau is always a good site for a general summary of complaints against a business and how they address them. The BBB also provides an overall A to F grade for each business.
There are also many online review sites such as Angie’s List and Yelp, but they are more appropriate for local service businesses, dentists, restaurants, salons, home repair, etc. You may find some reviews of online retailers, but for the most part online retailers tend to have only a small number of reviews, if any.
Individual product reviews are sometimes helpful, but because many product review systems allow anyone to review a product, whether they purchased it or not, and regardless of whether of not they purchased from a particular online retailer, they can be influenced by intentional promotion or mischief. Another complication is that many online retailers have a huge number of products shown in their online stores, but since their sales are spread out over such a vast inventory the number of reviews per product may be zero or nearly zero for most items unless the retailer is a very large company.
The best review system I’ve found for online shopping is Yahoo! Shopping’s Merchant Reviews. The reason is that Yahoo! is an unbiased third party and nearly all of their reviews are the result of actual orders placed with online retailers. The reviews marked “via post-transaction survey” are responses to a survey emailed by Yahoo! Shopping to actual customers for a specific order. Online retailers commonly have dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of ratings and written reviews on Yahoo! Shopping. The larger the sample size the more accurate the information. At last count Modern Office had over 1,700 ratings and over 900 reviews shown in Yahoo! Shopping’s Merchant Reviews.
Online reviews and rating services can be very helpful. Choose the ones best suited for your type of shopping and you’ll be able to evaluate potential retailers for the best shopping experience.