3 ways online reviews have changed the retail industry, even here in the Caribbean

It is not just online shopping that has changed how customers shop. Here we discuss three ways in which having access to online reviews has changed the retail industry.

Although we might now take it for granted, without a doubt, the retail industry has irrevocably changed, thanks to customers now having the ability to share their views online, and thus being able to reach a wider audience. The act of an individual purchasing a product or service and ether raving or panning a particular purchasing experience, or the actual product (or service), to family or friends, is by no means new. However, such what has changed over the past 15 to 20 years, is the fact that the Internet has a provided a platform for those views to be shared, potentially, with a global audience. Further, with the advent of social media over the past decade, means those experiences can be communicated almost instantaneously to virtually all of the members of an individual’s social network.

Online reviews have not only affected how we, as consumers, shop for goods and services, but also the attitude of the businesses themselves – both globally, and in the Caribbean. Below we outline three ways in which online reviews have changed the retail and services industries.

Customers are becoming more discerning

Increasingly, the days when an individual would take a chance and purchase a specific product or service, or select a vendor or service provider, are becoming fewer – even here in the Caribbean. Although we might be purchasing something locally, we do not hesitate to go online and do our research. According to a 2014 study,

Eighty-one percent of shoppers conduct online research before they make a purchase. Sixty percent begin by using a search engine to find the products they want, and 61 percent will read product reviews before making any purchase.

(Source:  Social Times)

However, it is useful to note that we are not just using the Internet to determine whether the product or service we might be interested in buying works as we would like, and what others’ experiences have been. Frequently, we are also comparison shopping: for example, where might be the best place to make the purchase, and at what price, based on the experience of others.

Customers are more empowered (to not take crap!)

Following from the previous point, and thanks to all the research that is usually done before an individual steps inside a brick-and-mortar business, or puts an item in his/her online shopping basket, the individual might not be as susceptible to the sales pitches, and up-selling that many firms encourage in order to improve their bottom lines. Now, the customer can be very targeted when engaging the organisation, with greater knowledge and clarity about what they want (or need), along with what they should expect, and how much they should be prepared to pay.