This story has been corrected from the original, which stated that PowerReviews Express collects reviews from other sites that use PowerReviews on behalf of its customers. It does not.
Citing research showing that customers are more likely to buy items online after they've read a few user reviews, both PowerReviews and BaazarVoice are expanding their services that collect and distribute user reviews.
PowerReviews, which I've covered favorably in the past, is taking its user reviews service and making it available to smaller retailers. As before, the company makes a module that retailers can plug into their stores to collect reviews from buyers. Unlike the big-site version of PowerReviews, which collects all PowerReviews user reviews on a product from all the sites that use the service, PowerReviews Express sites only display reviews left by the site's own users.
PowerReviews also runs an aggregation site Buzzillions where users can see all reviews left by users of the service.
The new Express program goes live on November 26 at $80 a month (for the smallest retailer).
Meanwhile, BazaarVoice is launching a program, BrandVoice, in which manufacturers can collect user reviews on their sites and then syndicate those reviews out to their retailers. This service, like PowerReviews', increases the number of user reviews that a potential customer sees on a retailer's site.
The issue with both services, though, is trust. Since the user reviews a browser reads can now be coming from anywhere, how does a customer know that the reviews are honest?
PowerReviews has a "Verified Buyer" program that guarantees that reviews come from actual purchasers of a product. BazaarVoice lets reader flag fishy reviews, and employs a team of moderators and automated procedures to ensure that inflammatory of off-topic reviews don't get posted for a product, but a fake review could, theoretically, be posted. BazaarVoice CMO Sam Decker told me that they could link the ability to write a review into a site's login system, but that "70 percent of reviews come from people who've bought offline," and neither he nor his company's customers want to shut the door on valuable feedback from users who just don't happen to buy the products on the Web.
The companies have different business models: PowerReviews' Buzzillions site can be seen as competitive to the site where the reviews come from; BazaarVoice serves only manufacturers and retailers. But both companies are engaging in a very interesting new trend: they're amplifying the consciousness of the consumer by spreading reviews around.