Business Software Product Ratings Are a Bad Idea

No RatingsIn the enterprise software space, showing product ratings is not always a great idea.

There are a number of reasons for this:

  • Implementations fail for many reasons and it is not only the product that is at fault. In most cases the cause is a combination of issues such as the end-user not specifying their requirement properly, a systems integrator that did not do their job properly or a budget that overran.

  • As human nature goes, users are more likely to rate a failed implementation than a successful one so the product may in many cases have 1000 great sites but one bad one and that is the one that gets rated.

  • The first product to get ratings will by and large make it extremely difficult for other equivalent products in the same marketplace to get traction. Potential customers will typically be presented with the highly rated products first and this prevents other products, which may in fact be better, from being given a fair chance at the sale.

  • If products are continually beaten by others in the marketplace because of their "first to market" ratings, then there is no incentive for them to remain in the marketplace and as such you loose the developer and your ecosystem looses a potential solution.

This is not to say that all products are equal or that some should not be forced out of the market, but it does suggest that this is not the responsibility of a ratings engine to decide.

As an alternative, the following could be used:

Rich Content: All products in the marketplace should have rich content which properly showcases its features, benefits and successes. This content can include customer stories, public relations, product videos, vertical market solutions, brochures and downloads.
Developer Programs: Define minimum standards through your ISV programs that dictate the status required in order to publish products in the marketplace.
Developer Profile: Awards, years in business, number of customers, areas of expertise and the developer membership status can be used to profile the developer as an organization.

Although a bit more effort is required, there are many ways to properly provide relevant and rich information to customers so that they can make a quality purchase decision without risking the potential dangers of relying on a rating.

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