Amazon issued this press release announcing its new “holiday customer review team.” The idea from Amazon is simple: appoint holiday product reviewers from its very own customers to compile lists of their favorite items in order to help other shoppers pick out that perfect gift. The team is comprised of Amazon’s top reviewers selected for their expertise and interests based on the number and breadth of products each reviewed. In addition to reviewing personally-selected items, Amazon’s review team were given early access to test some of the top Black Friday products for free in exchange for their reviews.
It’s a clever idea overall; crowd-sourcing that taps customers to create user-generated content in the form of product reviews to help shoppers decide on their purchases. Some Web 2.0 startups have done phenomenally well applying this concept, including Yelp, Digg and Wikipedia. Consumers are increasingly comfortable researching and shopping online and having access to straightforward, unbiased product reviews helps guide their selection process. It’s also a great PR move by Amazon to recognize their most active customers who post reviews and involve them at a deeper level within their business. Amazon is building and leveraging a grassroots program to effectively connect with and expand its online community.
Yet Amazon still needs to be mindful that it doesn’t try to sanitize or unduly influence the reviewers for any group of products, brand or manufacturer. Candy-coated reviews won’t work for consumers who have honed their screening capabilities to spot biases or questionable reviews wherever they may be (ie: TripAdvisor). If Amazon can proactively require its reviewers to make any full disclosures this will help keep the quality of these reviews in check. Kudos to Amazon for its crowdsourcing product reviews initiative. It’s forward-thinking as well as a smart PR move to boot.