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Why don't people like to write wine reviews online?

I read an article today in which the author waxed lyrical on the commercial opportunities afforded to wine retailers by having customer reviews on their sites. She made the fair point that people look for reassurance before taking out their credit cards (especially in a 'tricky' area like wine) and that in many cases (pun alert!) they value the opinion of similar others over 'experts' - they want to know what normal individuals think about a wine.

Observing how successful the customer review model has been for Amazon and Trip Advisor (a site I don't like using, as no matter which hotel you have spent ages picking out there will be some sourpuss who has slated and tainted it for you), she makes the grand claim that "early adopters [...] of wine reviews on their sites will see their sales, revenue, and popularity soar."

Nice idea in theory: have customers write reviews (hopefully glowing) and display a button so they can share these on Twitter, Facebook or somewhere else (we do this here on bubblebrothers.com) . The problem is that, for whatever reason, no one plays ball in Ireland - you couldn't get a people happier to drink good wines, and more disinclined to spiel on the web about them afterwards.

And who can blame them! Crafting reviews takes precious time and effort. The social nature of the product means that it's usually drunk with others, and breaking off mid-anecdote at a dinner party to post compliments on a retailer's site looks very bad. Of course, wine is kind of a 'funny' area too, and most casual drinkers would probably be too embarrassed to express their thoughts on their Gigondas in public in case they are 'wrong' (note: you can't be) and everyone laughs at them; if only they knew how wildly different from each other experts' tasting notes on the same wine can be!

Across the water in Britain, Naked Wines seems to have mastered the trick of getting its customers to write reviews, but theirs is a unique business model and their customers seem to be an unusually involved bunch. Obviously the two Leviathans - Amazon and Trip Advisor - mentioned above, get heaps of reviews, but their sites attract astronomical numbers of visitors compared to the typical, humble wine merchant's.

I think it looks so forlorn if you offer the review function but nobody ever writes! "Be the first to write a review of this wine" - how often have I seen those sad words? Maybe just a simple Facebook "Like" button, and a tweet one too, is the way to go, as these simple things involve much lower effort and risk for reticent drinkers.

But perhaps reviews will take off here eventually? Online wine retailing in Ireland is still in its infancy and, of those that sell online, only some allow customer reviews. It's probably too much to expect reviews galore at this early stage.

What do you think? - Is there any way in hell you would ever write a wine review online?

8 thoughts on “Why don't people like to write wine reviews online?”

  • warren knowles
    warren knowles August 4, 2011 at 2.14 pm

    I like the idea of a "like" button or maybe some sort of scale rating.

    Not inclined to write reviews myself, most sites or forums* I see this on just seem to be people showing off their wine vocabulary**

    *I could be making this bit up

    **I could also be jealous of said fictitious characters vocabulary

    Reply
  • Paul J

    ;)

    The vocabulary of wine isn't so difficult to master - body, acidity, tannins, fruit (etc) flavours, length, sweetness. One could hour of study and you could really get a good handle on it.

    Reply
  • warren knowles
    warren knowles August 4, 2011 at 5.25 pm

    I've taken my first steps with regard to wine education already but need to expand my vocabulary!

    Reply
  • Conor O'Neill

    Our experience with several hundred sites in every possible vertical is that it boils down to one simple thing - you have to ask people to review.

    We have seen many sites go from zero to multiple reviews per day by taking that simple step.

    The vertical doesn't seem to matter. Even we had our doubts about putting reviews on a site that sells hospital work-wear. They get tons of reviews! Because they ask for them.

    Whilst I'm sure there is some hesitation by people when it comes to wine, as they don't want to look non-expert, I have no doubt that reviews on any Irish wine vendor's site would increase (no matter what system they use) if they actively solicited reviews from customers.

    Why not give it a go :-)

    Reply
  • Paul J

    Hi Conor. Thanks for that!

    Ask people to review how? As in, apart from offering the little review box in the details webpage for a wine which, let's be honest, few enough people go to even if they've had the wine and thought it gorgeous?

    I supposed you could have the box on the homepage too. And maybe request reviews on any promo material going out.

    As a matter of interest, do companies offering customer reviews on their sites tend to censor reviews (just allow the positive ones) or is that considered 'cheating'?

    Paul / Bubble Brothers

    Reply
  • Conor O'Neill

    We recommend every method possible but email is the most effective.

    We work very closely with our commercial clients to ensure they don't fall into the trap of spiking negative reviews. No-one believes a site full of glowing reviews, so you really do need to have negative ones too!

    Reply
  • Paul J

    Proper order!

    Reply
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