Anyone who has made a purchase online is probably familiar with the concept of online, user-generated reviews. In fact, anyone who has bought anything is probably familiar with the concept as it’s nothing new. We’ve always communicated and shared our experiences, good and bad, it’s just that the advent of the online review amplifies our voice and allows everyone to benefit from our experiences, including those we’ve never met. 

According to research by TrustPilot, 77% of us consult online reviews before purchasing online and 60% of Brits have left a review in the last year. These are serious stats, though we do need to bear in mind that TrustPilot run an online review platform so they may need to be applied with a pinch of salt. That said, there are many other similar stats which back this up so it’s certainly fair to say that online reviews have become a massive part of the buying experience.

So if it is so critical to us to consult a review when we buy a TV or a video game from Amazon, go out for dinner or choose our new sofa – what about larger purchases? What about cars for example?

Of course, like reviews themselves, car reviews are nothing new. Go into any newsagents and the shelves are filled with magazines full of ‘expert’ reviews – but where are the reviews by people like you or I? People who have actually parted with their hard-earned cash for a car and who drive them every day?

When car manufacturer Kia decided to partner with online review platform Reevoo to create real, unedited, uncensored user reviews of their vehicles, they were the first automotive manufacturer to do so – now many other manufacturers are following suit.

The implications of this are far reaching across the automotive industry as they face a new landscape already familiar to fmcg and lower value purchases. One where reviews of products & services are no longer the domain of a few select print titles & consumers have effectively become desktop journalists in their own right.

While the automotive industry is one of the first sectors involving a more costly purchase to face the impact of open reviews, what does this mean for other sectors where higher value, more emotionally involved decisions are being made by consumers?

Imagine a similar open review system being implemented by a major homebuilder or a high street bank? While it hasn’t backfired for those in the business of car sales, would businesses in these sectors ‘dare to bare’ as it were and allow people to directly publish feedback on to their websites without moderation?
 
You could argue that people are already doing this on social media sites anyway so it’s a natural next step and one which the automotive industry bravely took without any negative recompense.
 
However, whatever the best way forward for each particular sector, as technology advances & the use of mobile devices to access the web increases, so will the ease in which people can quickly leave a review of a product or service.  With this in mind, digital brand managers need to consider customer reviews as a core part of their marketing strategy.