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The Many Uses of Product Reviews

by Hank Barnes  |  September 12, 2017  |  5 Comments

As I’ve discussed before, technology buyers are increasingly relying on user reviews as a key part of their buying process.  There are now a wide array of review sites like G2Crowd and IT Central Station, or Gartner owned sites like Gartner Peer Insights, Software Advice, Capterra, and GetApp.  There are probably more sites and this does not even include reviews that might appear in traditional commerce engines or in cloud marketplaces.    Each of these sites take a slightly different approach to review format and are designed to appeal to different audiences.  But that is not the point.  The point is that it is getting easier and easier for prospective customers to find reviews  from real customers.



These reviews get generated both because of a user’s own desire to share their experience and through promotional efforts by the sites above or technology vendors to encourage customers to submit reviews.  Please note that when reviews are generated through these promotional efforts, the majority of the sites acknowledge this with the review, indicating when the reviewer received some form of incentive, or was solicited in some way to submit the review (See figure below for how Gartner Peer Insights does this).

Peer Insights approach to disclosing how reviews are sourced.

Source: Gartner Peer Insights approach to disclosing how reviews are sourced.

If the incentive offered (by a review site or the vendor) is determined to be based on submitting a positive review, then the review is typically blocked as part of the vetting process (where the sites work to make sure that reviews are from authentic customers).

And while vendors are increasingly recognizing the value of reviews to their prospects, many of them are still taking a narrow view of reviews.  They work to get customers to submit them.   And they may periodically take a look at their reviews to see where they stand, but that is about it.

This is a missed opportunity.   Reviews can be a great resource for vendors.   Savvy vendors are aggressively leveraging reviews to:

  • Grab quotes and anecdotes for Web sites and marketing collateral
  • Provide a supplement to more traditional forms of references
  • Provide visibility into strengths and weaknesses to refine product plans
  • Understand the motivations, and frustrations, of customers around the entire experience (and thereby used to enhance implementation and service capabilities)
  • Deepen competitive understanding
  • Explore acquisition targets

and the list goes on and on.

As the volume and importance of user reviews continue to rise, winning vendors will use reviews as an integral part of all aspects of their go-to-market efforts–from planning through execution.  Don’t be left behind.

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Category: go-to-market  

Tags: planning  reviews  strategy  user-reviews  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes explores the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. Using that customer-centric lens, he advises those responsible for marketing technology products and services, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and startup CEOs on next practices to drive success for their customers and their business. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on The Many Uses of Product Reviews

  1. Jeanne Talbot says:

    Hank, curious of your point of view on the value of product reviews for enterprise B2B products vs. more SMB and consumer products. Do you see a difference in the value and the customers/prospects turning to reviews for insight?

    • Hank Barnes says:

      Jeanne, our research primarily focuses on enterprise buyers. In that segement, product reviews are used as another source of independent validation (with others being the opinions and reports of experts and associations). While reviews are seldom listed as the most influential information, they can have a big impact (negative reviews were the most cited reason for buyers rejecting a potential vendor outright.

      For smaller companies (I’m personally uncomfortable with SMB as a term. Mid-sized companies tend to act more like Enterprises), it seems that reviews are often a primary source of independent validation, so the importance of them rises.

  2. soni says:

    In the time when customer is the key, a brand can fetch more customers only by ensuring he transparency in delivering their products and services.Customer reviews on a website proves to be an ideal channel for word of mouth publicity.When customers become the promoters of your business and share their experiences,you are expected to reach out to more prospective customers organically.

  3. laura says:

    product reviews for enterprise B2B products vs. more SMB and consumer products. Do you see a difference in the value and the customers/prospects turning to reviews for insight?

    • Hank Barnes says:

      Reviews are heavily relied upon by smaller companies (not a fan of the SMB designation as small companies behave differently that medium-sized businesses (who act more like large than small) and consumers, but we are seeing increasing interest in the enterprise segment, particularly as diverse buying team members seek details and validation.

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