User-generated reviews bring in new customers

Filed under: Retail |

Retailers are saying that online reviews might be boosting business.

Everyone seems to have an opinion about products, and now consumers can peruse the opinions of other buyers before making a purchase.

The trend is catching on, and stores are racing to include review features on their Web sites before the holiday season shopping begins.

Circuit City, Macy’s and of course Amazon, which pioneered customer reviews, are some of the big users of online reviews.

“We have 40 clients live right now with review features,” said Andy Chen, chief executive officer for California’s PowerReviews, one of the main service providers to online retailers. “At least 20 or more of our clients will be ready by the end of November.”

A study conducted by JupiterResearch found that 60 percent of shoppers use reviews to get a sense of product reliability and quality, and that 43 percent said reviews help them decide what product to buy.

Macy’s launched its online review service Sept. 26, and there are already more than 9,100 reviews on the site.

People like to see their comments on the Web, and offering the ability to post reviews is a relationship building tool for retailers. While some retailers are worried about negative reviews, others say the end result is a satisfied customer.

For example, if merchants receive a lot of negative feedback on a product, they know they have a problem to fix.

Online ads made simple

At a convention of Shop.org, the online division of the National Retail Federation, new standards to simplify online advertising were announced.

The standards, developed by a committee working with the Association for Retail Technical Standards, allow advertisers to send detailed product-level information to search engines more efficiently.

Committee members included representatives from Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft, Target, J.C. Penney’s, REI, Mercent, Channel Intelligence, The Rimm-Kaufman Group and MARS.

“Standard data formats help retailers and search engines by providing a common language for describing product data,” said Richard Mader, executive director of ARTS. “This in turn helps consumers by ensuring product data on the search engines is more complete, timely and accurate.”

The data formats are specified in XML, the data language of the Internet. Retailers can submit product name, price, URL, image, description, color, size, in-stock status and shipping fees.

Ross renovating stores

Forty-six Albertsons are slated to be converted into Ross Dress for Less or DD’s Discounts stores.

Discount apparel chain Ross Stores is scheduled to take possession of some of the sites next month. Openings are scheduled to begin as early as March.

The price tag for the deal wasn’t disclosed, but Ross says it will spend about $2 million per unit to convert the stores, which are located in California, Florida, Texas, Arizona, Colorado and Oklahoma.

According to Ross, the acquisition of the properties will put the company’s projected total unit growth in the range of 11 percent to 12 percent for the year ending Feb. 2, 2008.

Ross operates 766 Ross stores in 27 states and Guam and 26 DD’s Discounts locations in California.

New French restaurant

Chef Eric Devillaz plans to open La Belle Vie the first week in November. He is renting the former La Creperie restaurant space at 1606 S. Eighth St.

The restaurant will feature fine dining with French cuisine and a French bakery with some retail.

Devillaz said he has between 15 and 20 employees along with two chefs.

Massage clinic opens

Massage Envy is opening its eighth clinic at 5966 Stetson Hills Blvd.

The clinic has 12 therapy rooms and 15 massage therapists Graydon and Mayerle Neher are owners of the clinic.

According to the American Massage Therapy Association, massage therapy is now a $6 billion per year industry.

Harley joins The Citadel

Victoria Harley has moved to new position as senior manager, property management for The Citadel.

Harley will direct all management functions at the mall.

She joins The Citadel after serving as senior manager, property management for Park Lane Mall in Reno, Nevada.

The Citadel is owned and operated by The Macerich Co. Harley has been with the company since 1993 and holds the International Council of Shopping Centers’ Certified Shopping Center Manager designation.

Macerich owns about 79 million square feet of gross leaseable area, consisting primarily of interests in 73 regional malls.

Coke, Nestlé introduce Enviga

A drink that is said to burn calories and boost metabolism will roll out nationally in January.

As a joint venture between Coca-Cola and Nestlé, the sparkling green tea, Enviga, was conceived by Beverage Partners Worldwide.

Enviga hits the U.S. market in the Northeast in November.

Enviga will be available in three flavors — green tea, berry and peach — in the ready-to-drink tea section at supermarkets, mass merchandisers, convenience and drug stores, and club stores.

Joan Johnson covers retail for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.