Overstock.com’s Jacob Hawkins on Customer-generated Reviews
Few marketing touchpoints put customers in the driver seat the way customer product systems do. While this tactic has its detractors—those worried about negative publicity and those pointing out the ability for marketers to post fake reviews—consumer approval is convincing larger numbers of online merchants to take the plunge. JupiterResearch reported last year that 48 percent of online shoppers it polled find customer reviews helpful in making online purchasing decisions.
Overstock.com, the Salt Lake City-based mass merchandise e-tailer, has not needed any prodding on this front. The company launched in 1999 and opened up its site to customer-generated reviews just two years later, says Jacob Hawkins, senior vice president, online marketing. In 2005, it upgraded its system, outsourcing this function to Bazaarvoice. This week, we talked to Hawkins about the benefits of customer-generated reviews, touching on a few pitfalls to avoid.
TM: What steps does Overstock.com take to populate customer reviews on as many products as possible?
JH: Originally, we had a link on the product page where customers could click and leave a review for the product. And we found that if we did that, the only people who left reviews were people who had bad experiences. We found that customers abide by the mentality, “No news is good news.” Where, “If I buy from you and you don’t hear from me, you’ve done a good job.”
So we found it was necessary to go and ping the customers—send them an e-mail—usually as soon after they receive the product as possible, while they are still excited about the product and more willing to share some feedback about it. That way we can get people who have had a positive experience with our product leaving feedback on those items. So that’s the first thing we’ve learned, that it’s important to proactively go out there and ask them to leave a review on an item.