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A conversation with Theresa O’Neil, SVP marketing at PowerReviews

The power of reviews: Helping retailers unify and amplify the voice of the consumer, guiding purchases online and in store.

We had the opportunity to catch up with Theresa O’Neil, SVP marketing at PowerReviews, after meeting her at Chicago Social Media Week where she spoke about the power of reviews.

First, tell us how you landed at PowerReviews?
I met Matt Moog—CEO of PowerReviews—as he was about to relaunch the company in 2014. I was excited about their go-to-market approach and the ability to work with ecommerce executives from large and small companies. And after working in enterprise B2B software and running my own marketing consulting company, this was a very exciting opportunity.

Can you give a quick overview of PowerReviews?
PowerReviews provides technology and tools for retailers and ecommerce companies to collect and display product reviews on their websites. We also work with brands and manufacturers to syndicate reviews from their sites to ecommerce sites where their products are also being sold.

Consumers are increasingly relying on ratings and reviews as the authentic voice of the consumer, guiding purchases online and in store. Our mission is to unify and amplify the voice of the consumer, across all channels, to help other consumers make better purchase decisions—in essence, we help companies turn browsers into buyers.

How are companies using reviews effectively?
There are a number of ways companies can use reviews. And we’ve seen a direct correlation between quantity and quality of reviews and increased site traffic, conversions and sales. However, we’ve also worked with clients who have leveraged feedback to help them improve their products. For example, one retailer improved the clasp of their watch as a result of the feedback they received in a review—which in turn lead to an increase in sales. We’ve also seen reviews lead to new product ideas.

Tell us about some of the successful big ideas you’ve recommended to retailers with regards to reviews?

  1. Make reviews part of your launch, seasonal and holiday plans. The window for purchasing seasonal products—like school supplies, holiday decorations or swimwear—is generally pretty short. That’s why it’s important to generate reviews for these products as quickly as possible. Consider a pre-season sampling program to generate a high volume of reviews. And ask for quick feedback at checkout time: “Why did you buy this?” That way, these seasonal products will have reviews available when consumers actively start shopping for them.

  2. We highly recommend using consumer reviews in your ad strategy. When consumers see others like themselves using the product that brings in an element of trust and likeness. A study by Northwestern University found that even with a high price in a low price category, a review can significantly increase the impact on that item.

  3. And often overlooked, reviews can have a significant impact in store. Perhaps as a direct result of reviews being written and read on mobile devices, we’re seeing more in-store activity. For example, at Amazon Books (Amazon’s physical store in Seattle, Washington), reviews play a huge part in their promotion. And, retailers are borrowing a page from Amazon’s book to make the products they sell stand out while in store; shoppers can easily access star ratings and reviews via their mobile device by scanning a product tag.

  4. The theme is around transparency in the industry. Consumers expect to have full access to information from manufacturers, retailers, providers and consumers—right there on the site itself. If shoppers have to go to a third party site to see the reviews, the retailers risk the sale.

Is there a category reviews don’t touch?
Not for long! Reviews are key for new businesses like Uber and Airbnb. And reviews are essential for big ticket investments, e.g. vacation resorts and cars. Retailers understand they need reviews to compete, so nowadays, a large network of retailers are syndicating reviews directly from the manufacturers’ sites. That has been pretty impactful to “fill the gaps.” And as traditionally brick and mortar only stores move online, reviews will become important for more categories (i.e. for grocery—think Peapod and Amazon Pantry). Consumers have come to expect reviews as part of their shopping journey.

So, what’s the future of reviews?
Reviews have become part of the experience, occurring real time, with continuous updating. Look how Netflix customizes your experience based on your reviews. We see reviews on all products, services, sellers and experiences, across the entire consumer journey.

"By unifying and amplifying the voice of the consumer, consumers make better decisions and businesses drive additional sales of better products and services."