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The voice of the consumer is out and online January 20, 2011

Posted by salla in Blogroll.
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As it has become evident that people are willing and maybe even eager to say out loud their opinions and consuming experiences online, we have seen a rise of services focusing on publishing and aggregating consumer opinions.

One of the first consumer review services was eOpinions.com founded in 1999 and still running. There’s also a shopping portal attached to the service so that the services are co-creating content: advertising product for reviewers and product reviews for shoppers. All the reviews are posted by individual users and they can also be peer reviewed so that good reviewers will get more recommendations. Content engine then ranks reviews according to their ratings. Consumers can also receive bonuses for their reviews, based on how often their reviews were used in making a decision. Thus writing good reviews can bring users some income.

Finnish versions of such services are a bit younger. For example Puskaradio.net (in English Grapewine) is an open web service  for product or service reviews opened in 2006. Usually these services collect a lot of complaints on bad customer service, about problems with shipping or returns and also opinions and experiences on products. Puskaradio.net also reminds their users to behave: to follow the Netiquette and the Finnish law as well.

In addition there are lots of review services dedicated to culture products, such as movies, books or games. Increasingly web stores are also merging reviewing options as a part of their service, so that you can easily see a glimpse on other people’s thoughts before buying. And online media is trying to join the conversation and competition as well by giving the voice to their readers on service reviews (a good Finnish example is Omakaupunki-service under Helsingin Sanomat).

Some interesting Finnish services include also:

And why am I writing about this in Dire blog? Well of course, because reviews are small reputational stories, and besides these sites might be interesting for companies, they could also be used as research material.

ps. These services are also very handy if you want to create revenue using web ads, since people are producing text about commonly searched products and services and are most likely making a buying decision at some point. That’s why there are even services such as Pointblog, which gathers texts and thus web traffic under certain keywords by giving users points if they write about  a certain theme. Later  the points collected can be used in a web shop.

Product reviews affect usability perceptions October 7, 2010

Posted by salla in Blogroll.
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A recent study from Helsinki Institute for Information Technology HIIT shows exciting results: the more a user expects to like using a new mobile phone, the more he or she will like to use it. Thus users’ favorable expectations make them forgive encountered usability problems and perceive new mobile phones usable.

In an experiment by Eeva Raita and Antti Oulasvirta, subjects were primed by reading either a positive or a negative product review for a novel mobile phone before using it. After reading the review, subjects performed either easy or hard task with the phone, and then rated its’ usability with a standard questionnaire. The study revealed a strong effect of positive expectations: the subjects who had read the positive review gave the phone 74% higher usability ratings than others – even if they had trouble using it. Interestingly the ratings subjects gave right after performing the task were not affected by the prime. The researchers suggest this might result from the fact that in the post-experiment evaluation phase the subjects were asked to evaluate the system as a whole.

The researchers do not mention reputation in their paper, but the finding naturally have also implications in the reputational field: product reviews or company reviews or reputational narratives for that matter do have an effect on the way stakeholder’s perceive their experiences. And to surmise a bit more, maybe this means the positive reputational narratives heard beforehand diminishes the value of bad experiences users just had with the product?

Of course people do regard different information sources differently. A technical review of a gadget is probably seen more reliable than an angry blogpost – or maybe not, if the reader, for example, happens to know the person writing the blog or the blogger has gained good reputation as a tech-writer. Research has shown that people trust their own networks when seeking information, but they also lay surprisingly heavy trust on search engine results and on well-known brands (see Hargittai & al. 2010). People also tend to believe in statistics and repetition: multiple information sources enhance credibility (to be more specific, according to Edelman Trust Barometer 2010 60% of respondents believe a piece of information is true after they have heard it 3-5 times). All in all, there are a lot of factors involved in creating trust.

The HIIT study, titled “Too Good To Be Bad: The Effect of Favorable Expectations on Usability Perceptions” is published in the proceedings of the 54th annual meeting of Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) held in San Francisco last week. Paper can be downloaded from HIIT website.