Amazon 4-Star: The Pinnacle of Crowd-Sourced Customer Feedback

Matt Murray - Founder/CEO

Last week I made the trip from Burlington to New York City. I was lucky enough to present to Audi’s East Region and various members of the Audi of America corporate team, visiting from Herndon, VA. The opportunity to speak with these folks was excitement enough, but as all good business travelers do, I also wanted to maximize my time on the ground in Manhattan.

My first stop: Amazon 4-star. The concept is simple. Everything in the store is rated 4 stars or above, a top seller or new product or trending on Amazon.com. Located on Spring St. across from Allbirds (love their shoes by the way - the hype is real) and on the border of Nolita and SoHo, the store provides an extremely high volume of traffic to test that concept. As the founder of an engagement management company that got its start in reputation management, a visit to the store and perhaps a discussion with its employees only made sense. 

To begin, you should know that Amazon 4-star has been open for 11 months. Even so, there was a line of folks waiting for the shop to open when I arrived. Yes, this is NYC, but that still says something. There were a couple of curious onlookers taking some photos, perhaps on the same mission I was, but the majority of folks in line were there to shop for everyday items. “Batteries” one young woman replied when I asked what she was after. “My brother and his wife just had their first baby, so I’m gift shopping,” offered a young man. As a father of three, I told him I could help and mentioned a few great first-time parent gifts. We shook hands and I followed him into the store.

First impression: Overwhelming. It’s a bit cramped. There is literally everything you could want besides food and a fresh cup of coffee in this roughly 3000 sq. ft. space. I’m the type of shopper who normally would see a scene like this one and immediately turn around. Think Christmas Tree Shoppe or a Best Buy. When there is too much inventory, I get anxious. But this is a matter of science and exploration, so we continue.

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I find myself standing in front of a wall of GPS watches thinking “I know Garmin is good, but which Garmin?” Price point steers you toward a range of products, but how do you select the one? Enter Yanira, an Amazon employee.

“Reviews close the sale,” she tells me.“People will stand in front of a wall of options and use the star rating and reviews info on the price tag as the final push to make the purchase.” 

I love this. It’s true for all of us, right? You go to Amazon.com and begin scrolling down a product page: first there are photos, then the price point, tech specs, instructions, and finally, what did other people have to say about it. This is the make or break moment between completing the purchase or moving on in search of a more suitable product. 78% of customers say they trust online feedback as much as a personal recommendation and here it is, in action, in real life. Call me a nerd, but this is pretty cool.

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Yanira goes on to explain that they often have branded installations around the store. Today we can see a large Google Chromebook section and another table covered in various electronics, sponsored by the Hyundai Palisade. “Does the brand (Hyundai) have any real choice of what is shown on the table?” I ask.  “Nooo, they just pay for the spot I think,” says Yanira. Either way, nice work Dean Evans and Hyundai. This is a progressive idea in the heart of the city that never sleeps, and a great concept to associate your brand with.

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I checked on our friend the baby-gift-shopper and offered suggestions like Jimmy Fallon’s DADA book or Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See. I was really glad to see that Brown Bear outperforms DADA with 4.8 stars vs 4.2 stars. Love you Jimmy, and maybe I’m a little old-fashioned, but it’s Brown Bear all the way. We own both at home though, if that softens the blow when you read this. And Dada was, in fact, my son’s first word.

Feeling like my mission was complete, I left the new-baby shopper to make his final decisions, took a few pics around the store, and headed back uptown to catch the meeting.

Here’s what stands out to me the most about the review-driven storefront: it wouldn’t have been possible five years ago. There has been a meteoric rise of ratings and reviews and it is a clear indicator of the future of consumerism, that we need the support of others to make buying decisions. This is not a phenomenon limited to trivial purchases either like slow-cookers, curtains, alarm clocks, you name it. You can find feedback on almost any decision you’re facing today, such as which job to take or where to purchase a home. So how does this behavior evolve? Will every product on every store shelf allow for immediate access to crowdsourced feedback through AR? Will you receive buying queues due to your proximity to a product through wearable, integrated tech? Depending how far out on the bleeding edge you like to go, these aren’t unbelievable ideas. 

Right behind real-time access to this enormous lake of customer feedback is the responsibility and opportunity of product manufacturers and local businesses to source and manage this customer feedback. That’s why companies like Podium exist, to make it easy for both happy and unhappy customers to voice their opinion, giving a more balanced and genuine view of a business’s true customer sentiment. Starting today and continuing forward, the savvy business owner will curate customer feedback on all facets of their business, knowing that every decision, every purchase, depends on support from the anonymous masses of previous customers. Widewail will be there too, helping local businesses and manufacturers manage this feedback and improve customer engagement and local search results. After all, in the future, it’s the good businesses who will rise to the top of page one in SERP results.

So - Amazon 4 Star. A trend? Maybe. A sign of the power of crowd-sourced feedback? Absolutely. The pace of life today demands that we make quick, yet well-informed decisions. Amazon is helping us do that both online and in real life. Makes sense to me.

Jane GarfinkelWidewail