How can you know if a review on Amazon or Yelp is actually real? That it was actually created by someone who experienced the product? Anyone can login, claim they’ve purchased a product or visited a business, and leave a review. This has been an ongoing issue for Amazon, to the point that they recently filed a lawsuit against 1,000 people who offered fake reviews for $5. Negative Yelp reviews, whether true or false, can make or break a small business. Regardless of on which side of the review you find yourself, some sort of authenticity filter is very important.
Of course, there have been some pretty hilarious fake reviews, like this one of the “Three Wolf Moon” shirt…
Hilarity notwithstanding, fake reviews are problematic, and make purchasing more difficult for customers. Even real written reviews have their own engagement challenges; unless they’re as clever as the one above (they almost never are), they make purchasing a little more boring for customers.
Enter Startup: Picky, who launched last November. It’s basically like Vine and Yelp had a baby.
Picky lets users record a 60 second review of a product, place, service, event or whatever with their smartphone, and then immediately post that review to the app community. Those reviews are only accepted if there is visual proof that the reviewer does indeed have the product. Reviews not actually showing the product are flagged for investigation and potential removal. The app also offers standard “social media”-esque features such as likes, comments, and following user profiles.
Functionally, the app is fine; it offers a good user experience and just the right feature set for what it’s trying to accomplish. Practically and philosophically, however, two big things concern me (aside from constantly questioning the true advantages over written reviews, especially when a high volume of them naturally takes care of the validation efforts).
First, many sites (including Amazon, and Yelp as of last summer) already offer the ability to submit video reviews, along with photos and written reviews. As a user looking to find reviews, it make more sense to utilize the incumbent functionality on a comprehensive, search-optimized site rather than downloading, configuring and fully adopting a new app with an entirely new (or maybe entirely redundant) community.
Secondly, and perhaps most significantly, the app will remain relatively useless until it acquires a massive user base. I have no interest in watching random reviews of products I don’t care about. From a viewer’s perspective, this is not a substitute for YouTube – I only read reviews when I’m actively interested in purchasing.
And that’s the Catch-22 of a product like this; functionality and concept aside,you need tons of reviews for the app to attract users, but you can’t get reviews without users. I imagine that they are banking on the reviewer side to quickly drive adoption, borrowing steam from the on-camera contagion that continues to sweep across our culture. Hopefully they can attract enough people that are desperate enough for their 60 seconds of fame, even if its 60 seconds of blathering on about Tupperware.
In the end, I’m just not sure the demand is great enough (at least with adults) for an app specialized in this particular area. One of the signs of a great product/idea is that you find yourself saying, “Why wasn’t this invented years ago?” I don’t find myself saying, or even thinking that.
For now, it’s back to Amazon and Yelp for me.
Picky is available for download on iTunes and plans to soon release a version for Android.
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