The Power of a Product Review

As the end of the year approaches, it is common practice to reflect on what we did, who we met, and where we are going. It is only by examining the past that we can avoid making mistakes and— with determination and a little bit of luck— move forward unhindered.

New Year’s resolutions abound – we promise to ourselves never to do that or to always remember this. Yet time and time again we fall into the same traps or fail to learn from prior experiences.

This may sound like some philosophical rant or the beginnings of a self-help article, but it isn’t. I’m simply reflecting on how this time of year is full of so much promise but as holidays and time off fly by and we resume our day-in and day-out, we quickly forget our intentions to change.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a constant reminder, a warning of errors made or of good advice heeded? Wouldn’t it be great to be alerted on what you did and whether you’d want to do it again? Wouldn’t it be useful to display information based on prior experiences for the benefit of others?

Well, good thing for the Internet, the all-mighty record keeper that helps access past experiences. If this sounds like a helpful trait to which the online community can assist, then you know this very same trait exists in e-retail.

Shopping online affords us with a distinct advantage: Yes, I’m talking about written product reviews.

How many times have we gone to a store, an event (like a concert), or even a restaurant and wanted to review the service or product in question? E-commerce sites like SkyGeek provide you with a chance to determine the value of your experience based on either the site itself or the product you purchased.

If you love a certain type of grease because it possesses many features (e.g. it has a wide operating temperature range), or you absolutely hated the cheap material a certain piece of hardware was composed of, a product review offers a means to get the message out.

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Figure 1 – How to write a product review (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

When you think about it, a product review is an opportunity for change. Giving a product a 1-star or 5-star review can make or break a reputation. Honestly, how many times have you based your purchasing decision on the number of stars it has received? I know I have. Some people go so far as to not buy anything with less than a cumulative score of 4-stars.

Of course, we all know that reviews can be somewhat misleading. What happens if there is only one review and it is 2-stars and it was because the item accidentally was cracked during transport? What about if there are two reviews, one is a 5-star and the other a 1-star? Which one do you trust? And then you have reviews based on shipping or some other factor dealing with delivery and not on the merits of the product itself. Truth be told, a review is important but it is not just the stars that reveal a product’s fate.

Actually writing a review with details can be cathartic; it can help a customer vent their frustrations due to inferior craftsmanship. It can also be a means of unintentional advertising. If you absolutely loved a product wouldn’t you want to share it? Word-of-mouth isn’t only good for figuring out if this week’s newest movie hitting theaters is worth seeing. A product review that speaks highly of an item’s uses is like a shiny badge of honor that every shopper can see. Now future customers will know what products are of greater quality and value. In this way, reviews help the person that has bought the product as well as people that may buy the product.

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Figure 2 – An alternative way to write a review (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

And it also helps the e-commerce site. Think about it this way – if an item earns a reputation for being poor in quality, do you think the site will re-order any more once stock is depleted? Consistently bad reviews will lead to an early grave for an unreliable product. Thus, from a sales and purchasing perspective, a customer review is an important form of feedback. A customer becomes a salesman and is directly responsible (to a degree) for an item’s success or failure in the marketplace.

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Figure 3 – The Submit Review form that is easy to fill out (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

So how do you write a customer review on SkyGeek? It’s really quite easy.

There are two areas to look for on a product page. First, if there are no reviews written, a blue link will appear directly below the “Add to Cart” button; click the link that says, “Review this item” (See Figure 1). However, if there is already one or more reviews, you can either click the link next to the star-rating, or click on the “Reviews” tab; from there click the button that reads, “Rate & Review this Item” (See Figure 2). Once done, a new screen will appear with a short form (See Figure 3). After completely filling in the mandatory dialogue boxes, click the “Submit Review” button and you are done. Just like that you have contributed to the ongoing quest for finding quality products and stating which ones fly off the shelves and which ones gain cobwebs.

Consider this: a product review is your voice that can be heard forever on that site. Let your voice be seen and your choices serve as an example for others.

Product Page Breakdown: What are “Bread Crumbs?”

The Internet has been called the “Information Superhighway.” If you were to graphically represent that superhighway, well, even if all the mapmakers in the world combined forces to perform such a task, their heads would be set to explode. The Internet can be confusing to get around despite—and especially because of— the myriad routes, roads, expressways, and back roads. Search engines consider themselves guides but not even they can provide a universally simplified display of the World Wide Web and its structure.

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Figure 1 – The navigation path of BP Turbine 2380. Nav paths are affectionately called “bread crumbs.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

A website is a microcosm of the aforesaid confusion. In fact, I might even venture to say that navigating a plane might be an easier task than navigating some websites.

Admittedly, you may have trouble getting around the SkyGeek site. Hey, that just comes with the territory. If you offer over 100,000 items, chances are there may be some delays in getting to your destination. But these delays don’t need to lead to cancellations. In fact, you may be able to skip the delays of reaching your preferred product page altogether. How?

Just follow the bread crumbs.

What are bread crumbs and why are we talking about food in a time of navigation-induced frustration? We’re not talking about food. “Bread crumbs” is a reference to the navigation buttons strewn about the top of a product page (See Figure 1).

Examine Figure 1; notice the color gradients, i.e. as you move from left to right along the bread crumbs you see that it goes from a darker shade of blue to a lighter shade. This color gradient is a representation of where a specific product is in relation to the home page. But these bread crumbs are not stale. Clicking on the names of each crumb is a link to that section of the site. Refreshing – like a loaf of bread.

To further drive home the point, let’s look a little closer at Figure 1’s example, BP 2380 Aviation Turbine Oil. There are a total of seven bread crumbs. As mentioned the first bread crumb on the left is always going to be labeled “Home” because whenever you get lost there should always be a way home. Actually, let’s break down the bread crumbs as follows and accompany them with screenshots (Be sure to click the screenshots to enlarge; also be sure to locate the red arrows):

Bread Crumb #1 = “Home” >>>>>Click this link and go to the homepage.

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Bread Crumb #2 = “Shop Supplies” >>>>>Click this link and be transported to this large section; this section can also be found in the “All Departments” tab which is located right above the bread crumbs.

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Bread Crumb #3 = “Fluids, Oils, and Lubricants” >>>>>Click this link to narrow your search. This section is also currently found in the “Shop & Hangar Supplies” tab directly above the bread crumbs.

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Bread Crumb #4 = “Oils” >>>>>Click this link to refine your search even more. You can now distinguish types of oil from one another.

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Bread Crumb #5 = “Turbine Oil” >>>>>Click this link if you know you want turbine oil but don’t know the brand or military specification.blog-bc55

Bread Crumb#6 = “BP Turbo Oil 2380 – MIL-PRF-23699F” >>>>>Click this link and you will be taken to what is called a “Multi-Add” page. These types of pages take the same product but display its different sizes.

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Bread Crumb#7 = “BP 2380 Aviation Turbine Oil – 24 Quart Case” >>>>>>Clicking this link is kind of pointless as it will refresh the page you are already on. The last bread crumb is always the destination page you are currently viewing—or at least it should be.

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Unfortunately not all of our bread crumb trails are complete. But know that we are constantly striving to get them properly aligned so that our site is organized. And that is ultimately what bread crumbs are— a hierarchy of web pages that correspond to products, from general to specific. It is a navigation tool that lends itself to organization.

Remember, knowing how to get around instills confidence in shopping as well as ease of use. And that is something we like to give away for free and as much as possible.

Product Details: What is a National Stock Number (NSN)?

You’ve stared at it many a times. You’ve seen those numbers. You read what they are. But, do you understand them? What is an NSN and what does it refer to?

Sure you can search for it, but try to type in “NSN” in Google or Yahoo or whatever and you are liable to get anything from “Never Say Never” to “No Such Number” to the “National Storytelling Network.” To be clear, we are discussing the National Stock Number, which also goes by the name, NATO Stock Number.

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Figure 1 – Where a National Stock Number appears on a SkyGeek product page. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

At a quick glance an NSN is nothing but a 13-digit code but upon closer inspection it is much more. In order to fully grasp the scope of this code you must study its structure. Firstly, it is not simply a string of 13 numbers, one after another. And it isn’t necessarily a number. It is a code. What’s the difference? A code can be alphanumeric, i.e. not only numbers. However, it usually consists mostly of numbers.

Generally, an NSN will appear with dashes although it doesn’t have to. When it does include dashes it look something like this: 1111-22-333-4444.

An NSN is broken into two sections: a 4-digit FSCG and a 9-digit NIIN. FSCG stands for “Federal Supply Classification Group”; NIIN stands for “National Item Identification Number.”

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Figure 2 – An NSN is broken into two parts: the FSCG (the prefix) and the NIIN (the root). These two parts are separated and juxtaposed courtesy of PartTarget.com. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

The FSCG is further divided into a 2-digit Federal Supply Group (FSG)—which is the first two digits—and the actual FSC, or Federal Supply Class; this makes up the last two digits in the 4-digit code. For a nice idea of FSCs and what they mean, you can check out ArmyProperty’s listing. And as if to confuse you even more, the FSCG is also known as the National Supply Classification Group (NSCG). Overall, the FSCG serves as a prefix to the NIIN; its function in an NSN is to provide context, so that the general classification of a specific item can be identified.

Similar to the FSCG, the NIIN is divided into two sections. The first two digits designate the National Codification Bureau (NCB) code. This refers to a country’s agency that deals with the NATO Codification System, or NCS. For example, the United States has a NCB code of 00 or 01 while 15 is the NCB code for Italy. The NCB thus gives you an idea of what entity is in charge of dealing with a particular item. The remaining seven digits uniquely identify the item.

For the sake of clarity, let’s use an item from our site and deconstruct its NSN. For this example we will use the MS51958-64 Machine Screw, which has the following National Stock Number: 5305-01-541-2751 (See Figure 3).

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Figure 3 – An example of how an NSN is broken down into smaller codes. (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

Based on Figure 3 you can see this item has the FSCG, 5305. The 53-code is the FSG classified as “Hardware and Abrasive” while the 05-code (the FSC) identifies the item as a “Screw.” As for the NIIN, the NCB is 01. As mentioned earlier, that NCB alludes to the United States so it was made there. The actual item number, 5412751, does not have any significance of any kind and thus cannot be broken down any further. Thus, you can see that in an NSN, the most important part is the NIIN—especially the last seven digits. That will narrow down your search if you want to find a precise item.

The aforementioned screw is a fastener made to conform to military specifications. And a great portion of NIINs are specially designed with the military in mind. Still, NIINs are not limited to items used exclusively by the Armed Forces so that when you factor in what are classified as “Items of Production,” you’re looking at a coding system that contains over 16 million NIINs!

So who is responsible for National Stock Numbers and cataloging such a massive classification system? Who else but the U.S. Department of Defense.

With so many items to keep track of, it is only natural that a classification system would exist. And when you (well, a government entity) are handling over 32 million parts that belong to countless systems for countless equipment and vehicles, you want to be able to trace each one easily and efficiently. The NSN, while confusing to the average person, makes sense to those trading and acquiring parts for the items that are an integral component to their work operations.