Lessons from Amazon about the Power of Reviews

In a world where we’re tempted to buy the best products (and then upgrade to the newest versions a few months later), I instead choose to curate the things that bring me the most joy.


Call it being a minimalist (or just a father who’s great at saying no to his kids) but it’s a way of life that has allowed me to focus on experiences, rather than products. What it also means is that I take a long time to make a purchase. And during that buying process, I think really carefully about every item that makes it back into my house (no hoarding for us).


Minimalists like myself aren’t the only ones that think critically before we make a purchase.


Today, consumers read thousands of reviews before taking out their wallet. In fact, more than two out of every three people say they trust consumer reviews that are posted online (the only thing they trust more is reviews from family and friends). It makes me wonder: why are reviews so popular in certain industries and why are some industries taking so long to adapt to the power of reviews?


Rate your financial advisor?

While you technically can rate and read online reviews of financial advisors, chances are you’re much more likely to have read an Amazon review than a review of your advisor or bank.


In this interesting chart from Harvard Business Review, you can see a comparison of the “digitalization” of industries today (although it doesn’t specify which industries specifically utilize review marketing). Another report, from McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), shows that digitalized sectors in the U.S. have a considerable lead over the rest of the U.S. economy.


As these reports and others show, there are industries that are slow to digitalization, and especially to review marketing, and the question is why?


How reviews became embedded into our lives

It comes down to customer sentiment.


Think of hospitality or travel which is heavily reliant on customer reviews (such as TripAdvisor). You travel with an expectation, an inherent positive bias, that you will have a certain type of experience (hopefully a positive one) and then rate it when you get back.


When it comes to your dental cleaning, you don’t care to leave reviews for your dentist – it’s not something you’re excited about, not something that you have a positive sentiment for.


What we can learn from Amazon

Products aren’t always cheaper on Amazon – that’s not why consumers buy from them. They buy from them because of the experience Amazon creates (and yes, that has to do with things like Amazon Prime) but it largely stems from the review culture they’ve built. They’ve built a community of people to tell you exactly what you might like, before you buy it. And that’s powerful. It’s free content. It’s free awareness. It’s free advertising.


If you’re in an industry that has yet to reap the rewards of consumer reviews and customer feedback, I urge you to take the leap and be the first in your industry to transform it, the way Amazon has transformed the retail industry.


The power of doing that? Building a community of people who will share your product, tell others why they love it (or what they would change – which you can use to fix it), and build your brand for you. That’s the power of online reviews. It’s an untapped stream for creative entrepreneurs like you.