Photoshop has become synonymous with the entire category of digital imaging software. It is not unusual to hear people say that a photo was “photoshopped,” indicating that the image was digitally enhanced. For example, this YouTube video parody of Fotoshop by Adobé made a testament regarding the standard of perfection in the beauty industry, as well as the technology that makes it all possible, using the (phonetic) product name.

I can think of only a few other products, such as Xerox and Kleenex, where a brand name defines an entire product category. Working on such a market-leading brand is a marketer’s dream. But even here, customer reviews can increase consumer confidence and sales conversions. In fact, during a one-month trial Adobe ran in 2010, Photoshop sales increased by 21 percent and Photoshop Extended sales increased 54 percent for those whom reviews were displayed on product webpages.

Many consumers have come to depend on customer reviews to inform their shopping decisions on everything from products to experiences to service providers. Adding reviews to your site increases customer confidence and drives bottom-line results.

An opinion on everything

Amazon was one of the first online retailers to leverage customer reviews to increase conversion. The company has consistently innovated to increase the value of recommendations to its customers. One of Amazon’s first enhancements was to integrate recommendations with purchase data to determine if a verified buyer wrote a product review. Recently, the company took this a step further and added an Ask an Owner section on its product pages. Consumers can post questions that are emailed to owners who purchased from Amazon with a request for feedback.

As people become more sophisticated about reviews, they look for recommendations for more subjective products and services, such as a meal at a restaurant or a stay at a hotel. Marketplaces for these experiences, such as OpenTable for restaurants and TripAdvisor for travel reservations, have incorporated reviews as a core value alongside their reservation services.

The value of websites that provide customer experience reviews has not been lost on large brands. To increase the value of its reviews, TripAdvisor recently partnered with American Express. American Express actively encourages its card members to provide reviews on the TripAdvisor site. In return, card members receive access to exclusive lists and trend information. When card members tie their Amex and TripAdvisor accounts together, they can post reviews on TripAdvisor as verified card members, which adds the credibility associated with the American Express brand. TripAdvisor receives new members and an endorsement from Amex, but no card-member data.

Building reputations one review at a time

Reviews are now readily available for individuals, including professionals and service providers. It’s not about having your resume online but about other people’s experience with you. On LinkedIn, recommendations add another layer of credibility for professionals by letting visitors see what others have to say about them, in addition to what they’ve stated themselves. Professionals with LinkedIn recommendations get noticed more by recruiters and clients. A completed profile with at least three recommendations will increase networking success on LinkedIn by 40 percent.

On Redbeacon, a home improvement services marketplace that takes project requests from consumers and collects bids from prescreened professionals, clients can provide reviews on work done, allowing service professionals to develop online reputations. On TaskRabbit, a marketplace for household errands and skilled tasks, individuals with a background check can build their reputations through customer reviews. Regardless of the skill level required for a job, reviews are allowing individuals to build online reputations.

Authenticity for the win

Reviews are a powerful way to make buying and hiring decisions easier for consumers. Their use has spread beyond the original context of simple product reviews to more subjective and difficult-to-judge areas of experiences and reputations. In my next article, I will discuss how reviews have evolved to promote the trust and authenticity that sophisticated audiences need to go from browsing to purchasing.