Consumer Reports, the venerable 63 year-old magazine that rates products and services, will begin evaluating electronic commerce companies on its consumerreports.org Web site.
The new service, to be known as e-Ratings, will reportedly rank e-commerce sites in terms of customer service, usability of the site, return policies, number of product choices, product information and privacy issues.
E-ratings will be posted for books and music next Monday, while ratings for toys will appear the following Monday, November 15th.
Initially, e-Ratings will take a look at 30 existing catalog sites, including major players such as Landsend.com, Jcrew.com and OmahaSteaks.com. However, plans call for evaluation of smaller, more obscure sites such as the Wisconsin Cheeseman and Old Pueblo Traders.
Near-future plans call for ratings to extend to online merchants who sell small appliances and electronics.
Additionally, Consumer Reports is partnering with BizRate.com to offer supplemental information to its ratings. BizRate.com monitors online shopping information by collecting consumers’ responses to their experiences at selected Web sites. The combination of BizRate.com’s informational input and Consumer Reports’ credibility with the public is what publisher Consumers Union is banking on for success in this venture.
According to figures released by Consumer Reports, the magazine has 4.5 million subscribers, while the Web site has 330,000 subscribers who pay $24 (US$) annually.
Decades Of Practice
What separates Consumer Reports from other online rating services is its built-in credibility and years of experience. Consumer Reports will apply some of the same standards to its online ratings as it does to its print ratings.
For example, Web sites will not be permitted to use the Consumer Reports ratings to promote their products or their Web sites Additionally, Consumer Reports will not respond to any Web site that requests to be rated.
While several other companies review e-commerce sites, some accept a fee from the sites they review or share their results with Internet merchants.
Consumer Reports has traditionally gone to great lengths to retain objectivity and does not associate with the merchants it reviews. Editors are planning to select the sites to be rated based on volume of traffic to the sites, as determined by Nielsen NetRatings, as well as other criteria.