Online reviews have been spreading ever since Amazon.com pioneered them in 1997. Witness the rise of "social shopping" Web sites like Kaboodle and ShopWiki and of consumer review sites, including Yelp and Judy's Book. But today's customer feedback software is growing more sophisticated, more personal and more affordable for small businesses.

Consumers are becoming used to searching for reviews when they shop online. Internet shoppers rank reviews as the most desired feature of a Web site, according to a recent survey by Forrester Research. "People want to talk among themselves," says Jacqueline Anderson, a senior consultant at Forrester.

Adds Larry Freed, CEO of ForeSee Results, which provides customer satisfaction surveys for Web sites: "If they leave your site to look for reviews, they most likely won't come back."

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