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Online feedback gets the vote from shoppers

Many retailers have constantly banged-on about putting customers at the heart of their operations and their decision-making but anybody who has received poor service or been miss-sold a product from a merchant will regard their words as pretty meaningless. By Glynn Davis, City editor

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Online feedback gets the vote from shoppers

The problem for retailers today that are caught out by over-promising and under-delivering is that the poor experience of a single customer is likely to spread way beyond that individual. Armed with the power to
post their comments on a wide variety of websites, forums, feedback platforms, Facebook and Twitter, today's consumers are holding retailers to account if they fail to deliver the goods.

The ability to share their views has coincided with an increase in the value people give to word-of-mouth recommendations and reviews of products and services. Global research from Nielsen has found 70 per cent of people now trusted product reviews posted online compared with a lesser 61 per cent in 2007.

Retailers have recognised the power of the posted word and there has been a massive growth in companies facilitating such interactions through requests for feedback and the provision of space online for reviews and the sharing of opinions. Even the supermarkets are getting in on the act with Asda now putting customer reviews on its website.

Whatever next - allowing shoppers to vote on what goes on the supermarket's shelves? Apparently, yes, because in the US Asda parent company Wal-Mart is to ask members of its 'Pulse of the Nation' consumer panel to vote for products that they would like stocked based on images the retailers' buyers email them.

This sounds like it really is putting the shopper at the heart of the business so let's hope it is not simply a gimmick. Thankfully, if this is the case then rest assured 'disgruntled shopper from Arkansas' will quickly vent their frustration on some online forum or other.

glynnd@theretailbulletin.com

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