White Stuff, the high-street clothing store, has a very good website and online strategy. I visited for the first time because I liked their clothes, and I stuck around – subscribing to their newsletter; paying several repeat visits, and crucially, making purchases – because I like their online level of service.

As a marketing person, I’m often very aware of quite how I’m being marketed to, and how successful it is. Send me newsletters too frequently? I hit that unsubscribe button faster than you can say ‘lost customer’. Take me to a website with flakey navigation and no security at checkout? I’ll take my custom elsewhere.

White Stuff has recently added a feature which has placed them even higher in my regard: customer reviews. It’s not a new concept: it’s one that Amazon has made us all familiar with – but there’s no harm in copying your strategy from the best, and I think we’d all agree that Amazon has got most things nailed in the world of online retailing.

From now on, customers can record their opinions of the clothes they’ve bought. This has the obvious advantage for the customer: a personal opinion, even if it’s from someone you’ve never met, can often be more helpful than marketing blurb. Consider, also, the advantages for White Stuff:

  • They get a whole load of content written for free
  • They get to find out precisely what it is their target market most likes – or dislikes – about their goods
  • Customers are a whole lot more likely to buy a garment if they have seen that others have already done so, and are glad they did

Now, clearly, we also have to be aware that there is a potential downside. Suppose you get some poor reviews in there: would you simply delete them and allow only the glowing recommendations to stand? Tempting, but inadvisable.

In the age of social media, customers demand transparency above all else. It’d soon get out if someone attempted to upload a negative review, only to find it wasn’t displaying. For the customer reviewing strategy to work, you have to have faith in your product, and in the fact that the vast majority of reviews will always be positive. In this context, a few unsatisfied reviews won’t do you any harm at all: and, in fact, you will learn from them. If customer after customer tells White Stuff, for example, that they love their fabrics but their skirts are too short, that’s a useful lesson for them – the kind of finding that they might otherwise have conducted pricey focus groups to discover.

The addition of user reviews to the White Stuff website tells me two things: that they have belief in what they are offering, and that they are prepared to listen to their customers. With a strategy like that, they are most certainly on the right track.