There are several steps manufacturers and distributors can take to make online customer reviews more useful to buyers, who typically need more details than an online retail shopper.

Widely used by shoppers on retail e-commerce sites, online customer ratings and reviews can be a tougher way to engage buyers on B2B sites. B2B buyers want lots of details on reviewed products, but they’re also less likely to post reviews for others to share, Forrester Research Inc. says.

John Bruno, principal analyst,
Forrester Research

But there are several steps companies can take to kick off a reviews program designed to attract a critical mass of the producers and readers of review content, Forrester says in the report, “Driving Customer Engagement With B2B Ratings and Reviews,” by lead author John Bruno, principal analyst for e-business, and other Forrester analysts.

Here are some of the steps the report suggests:

  • Let customers submit anonymous reviews. Because many B2B buyers may want to share reviews on key products but hesitant to let their competitors know what products they’re using, letting them remain anonymous after verifying their contributed review can raise their comfort level and lead to more reviews.
  • Provide pull-down menus of questions customers can address in their reviews. Such queries as “What problem did this product solve for you?” and “How would you quantify the ROI?” can make it easier to submit reviews and produce more useful content.
  • Deploy a strong search feature to make it easier for customers to find the particular kind of review they want to read.
  • Play up reviews from product users, such as engineers and machine operators, rather than procurement managers. Customers are more likely to find value in a review written by someone who can cite hands-on experience in describing a product’s quality and usefulness.

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