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Reviewing Online Retailers

Not surprisingly, the Web is also a great place to find out about Web-based retailers. Just as there are sites devoted to customer reviews of specific products, there are also sites devoted to customer reviews of specific retailers.

Being able to find out about an online retailer before you place your order will help you decide just where you want to shop. If you see a lot of negative customer reviews, you know to avoid a particular retailer; if you see a lot of satisfied customers, that's probably a good place to spend your money. And you can tell from the individual reviews just what a specific merchant is good or bad at. You might find one retailer has fast shipping but poor customer service, or another that offers extremely low prices but ships slow. Remember, it takes an informed shopper to find the best bargains—especially online!

BizRate

BizRate (http://www.bizrate.com) is a price-comparison site that also offers one of the largest databases of store reviews on the Web; the site claims to have more than a million individual merchant ratings. To access BizRate's merchant reviews, click the Store Ratings link to view the page shown in Figure 3.14; from here you can browse stores by category.

Figure 3.14Figure 3.14 Online merchants rated at BizRate.

A typical BizRate store rating, such as the one shown in Figure 3.15, includes a rating summary (showing the percent of both positive and negative reviews) as well as detailed individual reviews by the merchant's customers. Customers rate each retailer on a number of different performance variables, including Would Shop Here Again, On Time Delivery, Customer Support, and Products Met Expectations. Some of the most popular stores have thousands of individual customer reviews on the BizRate site.

Figure 3.15Figure 3.15 An individual BizRate merchant review.

ePublicEye

ePublicEye (http://www.epubliceye.com), shown in Figure 3.16, is another site that offers customer reviews of online merchants, as well as information about online fraud and scams. The ePublicEye database isn't quite as extensive as that at BizRate, although the information provided for each merchant is more detailed.

Figure 3.16Figure 3.16 Even more customer reviews and ratings at ePublicEye.

You can browse sites by category or search for specific merchants. A typical merchant Report Card, such as the one shown in Figure 3.17, provides ratings for various performance categories (management accessibility, payment process, customer support, and so on), a listing of site features (including payment, delivery, and tracking methods), and a link to the individual customer reviews. Although the reviews here tend to be shorter than those at BizRate, the other site information provided paints a fairly complete picture of what you can expect when you shop at a given site. For that reason, I like to use ePublicEye in conjunction with BizRate; together, these two sites provide just about everything a savvy customer would need to know before starting to shop.

PlanetFeedback

PlanetFeedback (http://www.planetfeedback.com/consumer/), shown in Figure 3.18, is a bit different from the typical customer review site. With PlanetFeedback, consumers can both leave and read comments about a variety of online and traditional merchants. The letters you write—positive or negative—are posted publicly for all to read, and also forwarded to the retailer in question. It's a valuable service both for letter writers and for users wanting to know more about particular merchants.

Figure 3.17Figure 3.17 A merchant Report Card at ePublicEye.

Figure 3.18Figure 3.18 Praise or pan retailers at PlanetFeedback.

ResellerRatings.com

ResellerRatings.com (http://www.resellerratings.com) offers merchant reviews from its 120,000 registered members. Merchant reviews are organized by category, or you can search for specific merchants.

As you can see in Figure 3.19, reseller ratings are provided for both the past six months and for the merchant's lifetime. Resellers are rated on pricing, likelihood of future purchases, shipping and packaging, technical support, and return or replacement policy/performance. The individual customer reviews are a little short, but this site does provide a nice scorecard, especially for smaller or less-well-known merchants.

Figure 3.19Figure 3.19 Reseller ratings at ResellerRatings.com.

SimplyQuick

SimplyQuick (http://www.simplyquick.com) is an interesting site in that it summarizes a lot of information and ratings provided by a number of other sites. As you can see in Figure 3.20, this information includes privacy and performance ratings from market research companies such as Gomez (http://www.gomez.com) and Forrester Research (http://www.forrester.com), along with brief comments on services offered. It's a good place to get a general picture of what you can expect from major online retailers.

Figure 3.20Figure 3.20 View performance and services in a nutshell at SimplyQuick.







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