Should we allow User Reviews on our Point of Purchase?

I was on yesterday, shopping for Chris Anderson’s Free, the follow-up to the awesome Long Tail.

After scanning the editor’s description, I immediately went South, down to the User Reviews, to see what the early adopters were saying.
Then I got distracted, because I started to think . . . what would it be like if User Reviews were on our point of purchase site, just like Amazon?  What if we had User Reviews on our primary ticketing sites?  What if we allowed our buyers to go back and let people know just what they thought of Wicked, 9 To 5, Altar Boyz and others?
This was a question posed at one of Situation Marketing’s industry panel discussions a few months ago, and it sparked an interesting debate.  Situation’s Founder and Broadway’s unofficial Digital Czar, Damian Bazadona, revealed an interesting statistic that he got from the discount site Goldstar.  According to Goldstar’s guy, the average review for live events was 3.2 stars out of 4.  To restate the obvious . . . given the chance to give their opinion, customers gave shows a pretty dang positive review on average.
But surely there are downsides, right?  What about the poor Producer who whines, “But what if my show gets negative reviews?”
To that producer I say, “Produce a show that people like!”
You have to have confidence in your product.  In an age where word of mouth (and online word of mouth, which I am now officially calling and coining the phrase, “Word of Web”), means more than ever, passionate people who post about your show can mean butts in seats.  Yes, they can also spread around the bad germs as well, but if you’re producing a show, you’ve got to go out thinking you’re going to get the positive comments, or you shouldn’t bother producing the show in the first place.  You give the NY Times and all the other critics free tickets, not knowing what they are going to say, right?  You don’t go into hair salons and try to tell people to “Shhhhhh!” if you hear them saying something negative, do you?  Your job as a Producer is to produce a great show that people want to see.  Your job as a 21st century marketer is to not only make sure people are reminded to talk about how much they love a product, you have to give them the tools to talk about how much they love that product.  User reviews do just that.
Does anyone think sales went down after they revolutionized the e-commerce industry and starting putting user reviews on its site?  Yes, individual products may have been hurt, but overall, sales had to go up!  Again, what I’m saying is don’t produce a crappy product, and you shouldn’t worry about where your User Reviews are posted.
Take a lead from Dell, which has user reviews for every product they sell on their own website!  Here’s one of my favorites:


Title: Totally Disappointed  



Pros:  None
Cons:  Had nothing but trouble since I booted up. CD/ DVD drive doesn’t read some disks, computer crashes with memory dumps, hard drive had problems, Games and spreadsheets just crash.

Worst computer I ever bought. I’m probably have to go out and buy another computer.

Ouch!  You’d think they would remove a review like that, right?  Nope.  Dell knows that you can’t please everyone, and they have faith that the total positives will outnumber the total negatives.  And it worked. For this product, the average review was 4.3 out of 5 stars.

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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.