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Selective Wisdom

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Much of the web commerce investments over the last decade have been focused on the transactional side of the purchasing process. These investments have reduced the barriers to entry for merchants of all sizes in every vertical to list their products or services in an online catalog (e.g. eBay, Amazon, Expedia), to drive traffic to the catalog by placing online advertisements in niche and highly trafficked sites (e.g. Google, Yahoo, MSN), and to make it easy for consumers to pay with confidence (e.g. PayPal, VeriSign). However, not much has been done on identifying and satisfying the personal drivers of purchasing.

The rise of social networks and communities has created a lot of user generated content. This “We-Me” web intersects with web commerce in the form of reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations. These user reviews enhanced consumer knowledge beyond the information sellers disclosed; their presumably unbiased feedback enabled consumers to better understand what to expect. The increase of user reviews as a result of the growth of the social web has created a long tail of reviews, which means reviews that address specific personal needs and preferences probably exist for most product and service categories. The content to address your personal drivers of purchase is probably somewhere in the long tail.

But the trick is finding just the reviews that are relevant to your personal purchasing criteria, and if you can find them, how do you know you may trust the sources? In this scenario, using popularity (measured by views or external links to pages) to determine relevance and trustworthiness is like seeking medical advice by surveying the entire medical community and having the doctor with the most patients bubbling to the top. This type of approach may work for common ailments like “how to treat a cold,” but it wouldn’t work for more specialized needs. Just as current methods of finding personally relevant reviews on the web doesn’t work when your needs extend beyond things like brand name, price, product attributes and location.

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Written by Morris

October 26, 2007 at 3:16 am

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