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Monday, Sep. 22, 2008 at 6:01 am

Why You’d Be Smart to Let a Stranger Select Your Baby Stroller

By Jeff Sexton
September 22nd, 2008

There I was at Babies”R”Us, way back in 2003, manhandling different strollers and finding myself more eager to read the amazon.com reviews than to kick the tires myself – and it had nothing to do with wanting to avoid the in-store shopping experience and everything to do with wanting to make the best purchase decision possible.

So why would I want to read reviews when I could examine the stroller first hand?

Because I was a yet-to-be-first-time parent and I knew that what really separates good from mediocre strollers are the things that only become apparent with longer-term use and/or at least some parenting experience.  I wanted to know things like: does the stroller hold up to continued use; how easy is it to load in the car; are there things that start to come in handy that I might not already know about, like one-handed operation, extra cargo room, tight-turning radius, etc.  In short, I wanted to know the kind of things I’d be more likely to read about in reviews than I’d be likely to see or think about by taking a 5-minute stroll down the Babies”R”Us aisle with no baby in the stroller.

As it turns out the persuasive appeal of long-term thinking isn’t new to the internet age.  In Breakthrough Advertising, Gene Schwartz specifically advises copywriters to “Stretch Out Your Benefits in Time.”  But while product copy can do an adequate job of that, it’s nowhere near as credible as a customer review that mentions a product’s enduring or longer-term benefits.

So it was with an overpowering sense of deja vu that I read Holly Buchanan’s post on gender differences in product reviews.   Seems men are more likely to mention the product’s immediate usefulness and performance while women are more likely to talk about a product’s longer-term ability to fit into her lifestyle, which might explain why the stroller reviews leaned heavily towards long-term benefits.

My question and suggestion is this: what is your company doing to solicit / elicit long-term product reviews from your customers?

Seems like this would be especially important if your product is in the higher-quality, higher-price-point part of the curve.  If your product shines best in long-term performance, what are you doing to ensure those traits and stretched-out-in-time benefits are showing up in your customer reviews?

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Comments (16)

  1. Jeff-

    ’03 at BRU… that’s deja vu for me as well. Although, we were completely agog at the massive wall of bottle systems. Luckily, we had another parent nearby who was willing to share her long term experience.
    I can’t say that my current employer is actively soliciting product reviews at this time.

  2. Great points…I do notice that women definitely talk about overall performance and durability of a product. My wife and I have been looking up baby products as well these days for our baby on the way and we certainly count on the reviews to get us the most reliable products.

  3. So are you saying product reviews are different from testimonials?

  4. Interesting that you say you wanted to go to Amazon.com for reviews rather than BabiesRUs.com. BRU.com has come a long way toward providing substantial reviews on their site since then, but it sure is hard to buck history.

  5. Sean,

    Yes. I am saying that product reviews are often seen as being less filtered or biased than testimonials. Most people assume that testimonials are solicited and are filtered. Businesses never put out less than stellar testimonials, but web visitors are used to seeing 1 and 2-star reviews. There’s even evidence to show that negative reviews can help conversion as they tend to show that the reviews are unfiltered.

    In fact, Sean, I believe that much of your (truly excellent) advice on testimonials is centered around ways to overcome or address some of these credibility shortcomings of average or garden-variety testimonials.

    -Jeff

  6. Lindsey,

    Back in the day, Babies”R”Us was integrated into Amazon.com. I’m guessing that’s changed now, but back then, Amazon was the place to go for reviews on baby strollers.

    -Jeff

  7. Agree reviews are key for higher value items.

    I stress that clients should resist the urge to turn them into testimonials by editing out the negative ones. One negative review adds significant value/credibility to the positive ones.

    The issue is always generating a reasonable volume of reviews — so many sites have the functionality but few if any reviews.

    Currently working on an approach that combines review generation and an existing loyalty program. The idea being that people that return to the site and review a product they bought get a reward in loyalty points that will go toward future purchases.

  8. Jeff

    One of the best implementations of reviews I know of is at tombihn.com, where the forum has a section for reviews of the products, which being quality bags, tend towards long term use.

    What’s great is that the reviews also build the brand and help people decide which to buy, by people sharing the places they’ve been and the things they’ve done with the products.

    A further section for product suggestions is kind of like ‘future reviews’ and from which the company has created and modified products.

  9. John,

    Thanks for pointing me to tombihn.com. After checking out the site, here are my thoughts. First, the good:

    1) If they don’t have a review of the bag in question, they invite you to check out their forum.

    2) Once you’ve opened up the pop-up window to read the reviews, it’s pretty cool that they, also provide a list of External Reviews by magazines, newspapers, etc.

    3) I like how they allow reviewers to provide links to their own blogs or websites and how they post the date and time of the review. These things make the reviews seem more authentically real.

    4) The fact that they had the forums was pretty cool and the content within the forums was helpful. I especially like that they had a product reviews AND a product pictures section.

    Now the bad:

    A) It might be just me, but by only putting gone review up at the top of the page, it’s easy to mistake it for a testimonial rather than a review. This mistake is made more likely by the fact that the bluish-grey “more reviews” link is not high contrast with the grey background and is not underlined. I initially scrolled down looking for the reviews and then had to scroll back up to find them.

    B) If you had not specifically mentioned the forums, I would never have found it on my own. The link to the forums from within the reviews window is up at the top in tiny, tiny type. This is the kind of crap people skip past in order to scroll down to the first actual review. The place to have a link to the forum is at the bottom of the reviews. There should be a link or option to “read more about X in our forum.”

    C) To really capitalize on the material in the forum, many of the product pictures should be collected and made available directly from the product page itself as “alternative views.” I was looking at the Buzz Sling Bag and there were some incredibly detailed and well-taken photos over on the forum. My guess is about 10X more people would see them if they were collected and put on the product page.

  10. A couple of things to consider regarding reviews, and long term use – first, there are a lot of communities which discuss products related to that community. For instance, this post on the forums for new mothers speaks about jogging strollers. http://www.breastfeeding.com/forums/showthread.php?t=35909
    Second, people on these forums tend to cover product performance over a long period of its life, and this information is therefore that much more valuable.

    I have actually started a company which is trying to create actionable knowledge out of forum data.

  11. Great points, Vijay,

    Websites actually would do well to quote from these forums and even to (on occasion) link to them. These forums are also a HUGE help to copywriters for doing research, getting key phrases and concerns, and more.

    - Jeff

  12. yeah, it’s always better to read review before purchase something

  13. Experience of others when using a product may be useful for us to determine which one is the best.

  14. [...] copy. You don’t necessarily have to do it with copy, as pictures, testimonials, videos, user reviews and other site elements can also address these concerns, but make sure the questions get [...]

  15. [...] you’d want product/service reviews or testimonials from customers to help you carry the value forward in time.  You may also want pictures of items holding up to hard use, sor of like CC Filson use to be [...]

  16. Yes, I agree with you. It is better to go with reviews when purchase. Appreciate you writing on this topic!

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Jeff is a Persuasion Architect, Web copywriter, blogger, and instructor of FutureNow's Persuasive Online Copywriting workshop. Follow Jeff Sexton on twitter

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