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Reviews affect online buying

Publishing reviews takes time, but it also shows the quality of the product or service and help other customers make the right choice. It is not the only factor in the decision to buy, however.

Shopping online, illustrative stock photo.(Source: Tomáš Benedikovič)

A glossary of words as well as exercise related to this article are also published online.

Trust and reliability is what customers need when shopping online, unlike in traditional brick-and-mortar stores. When direct contact with the product or service is not available, customer reviews can be a substitute for quality assurance.

“Reviews by other customers tend to be very important, the more expensive the item, the more I rely on reviews,” Diego Loyola, an expat from Ecuador living in Slovakia, told The Slovak Spectator. Many foreigners living in Slovakia that The Slovak Spectator spokewith share this opinion and confirm that they use online shopping services considerably.

Online sellers of products and services do realise that reviews from satisfied or dissatisfied customers play a key role in their business.

“Customer reviews belong to the most important factors in purchase decisions, especially when buying experiences and accommodation,” Štefan Miho, marketing manager of Zľavomat discount shopping portal, told The Slovak Spectator.

Offers of services in a discount portal such as Zľavomat and ZľavaDňa are evaluated by hundreds of people every day. They claim to publish all the reviews transparently, with the exception of those that violate a moral or ethical code.

Safety and reviews

Customer reviews are, however, only one of many factors that motivate people to shop in an online store. The website needs to look nice and be easy to navigate. The price obviously plays a role too, say foreigners who regularly buy from online shops in Slovakia, such as Mert Durral from Turkey.

“Finding the cheapest price is most important thing when buying online,” he said and added that he also looks at reviews.

Pierre Nørmand from France says he shops online once every two or three months, mainly for clothes, transportation tickets or reservations for accommodation. Apart from low price, he also mentions the security of the website as a factor in deciding whetherto buy.

“It’s quite important, especially when I make a reservation for a flight or accommodation, in order to avoid negative surprises,” he told The Slovak Spectator.

The safety of online purchases also matters to Loyola, who prefers to pay when picking up a product rather than paying through third party portals.

Theresa Piil Laursen from Denmark admits to having had a bad experience with a website selling ink for printers, but generally she is positive about shopping through Slovak websites. She buys cat and dog food, perfumes and other products and services online.

“I do not look at reviews,” she told The Slovak Spectator, “I look to see if the web pages look easy to buy from, where are they located, if I can wait to pay until I get my order delivered orI can pick it up.”

Negative feedback can help

Good and bad evaluations matter, but they are not the only important factor, according to Anna Porubcová from the marketing department of the Martinus bookstore. Reviews are important for other customers, because it helps them in buying decisions.

“If the reader has a negative experience with the book, it is his opinion and he can, of course, express it,” she stated.

Peter Blažečka, PR & marketing manager of ZľavaDňa, explains that negative reviews can help the portal improve their services.

“If the evaluation is really negative, we contact the provider and try to solve the matter,” he explained, adding that in most cases things get explained and the problem is solved or they compensate dissatisfied customers.

On the other hand, positive reviews help sell, giving them a competitive advantage.

“We see that especially with our long-term certified partners that have good reviews,” said Miho. “If we launch an offer with a new partner with similar products, even cheaper, the customers will have a small preference for the partner with a high ranking.”

How to get reviews

While customer reviews are an important decisionmaking factor, people from online stores admit only a few customers actually go back to review the product.

“Some time after their purchase we usually ask customers for their feedback,” Porubcová said. The online bookstore runs a survey among customers once a year where their feedback can bring them benefits, but there is no other year-round system of motivating people to review the books they bought.

Discount online portals, on the other hand, do have a system of motivating people to provide feedback. On ZľavaDňa, people can post a verbal rating and their photographs, which then earn them credits for their next purchase, Blažečka explained.

“This too makes it clear that it is not so easy to get feedback,” he said.

Miho, however, says that as social networks are gaining popularity, Slovaks have also learned to express their opinion.

“We do not need to motivate them to give feedback that much anymore,” he said. Still, they have a system of credits as a reward for customer reviews with photos. “That way we are trying to get as much added value as possible from the reviews for the customers.”

The Spectator College is a programme designed to support the study and teaching of English in Slovakia, as well as to inspire interest in important public issues among young people. The project was created by The Slovak Spectator in cooperation with their exclusive partner – the Leaf Academy.

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