As CMO for BazaarVoice, Sam Decker has been actively involved in generating 12 billion product reviews since the company started in 2005. The connection between these review sites and manufacturers is easy to see. But retail usage is one of the surprising byproducts of the review sites that BazaarVoice represents. Retail TouchPoints recently caught up with him to discuss new retail developments, and the impact of reviews in a slowing economy.
Retail TouchPoints: Most of the BazaarVoice reviews are largely positive. In fact your recent research shows that in the UK they run as high as 88 percent positive. Are positive reviews serving your audience?
Sam Decker: Absolutely. The fact is that people want to share their experiences. 90 percent of people want to help other people. It’s not just about warnings anymore.
RTP: How have you seen retailers adjust their business practices to the popularity of review sites? How do they use the information gained from it?
SD: You know it’s interesting; retailers had some objection when we first started to how this kind of unadulterated review process might affect their sales. But now retailers are our biggest fans. In fact, they look to the analysts that report alerts based in part on some of the intelligence we generate. There’s so much data that becomes available to retailers. I’m starting to see some of them use our data in negotiations with vendors, in the way they merchandise multichannel inventories, and even in inventory planning.
RTP: We’re even starting to see more ratings make it into media campaigns.
SD: Retailers are starting to test the ratings with media approaches. Some catalogs contain reviews and ratings from us. I think the entire marketing strategy can shift when the people who buy your product are showing you how to make successful decisions.
RTP: Do product reviews become more important in a down economy, where every consumer purchase and satisfaction becomes more important?
SD Well, user generated content is an anti-commodity marketing strategy. With retailers pressured on margins they need to be in touch with what their customers are saying so they avoid that commodity status. When someone reads a review they become better buyers. Knowledge is one of the most recession-proof marketing strategies. We see an increasing amount of customer who post reviews who buy more products, and more people who read the reviews buy more products. Our research shows a 10 percent jump in sales among reviewers. Reviewers are arguably the most valuable customers.
RTP: What can we look for during the rest of this year from BazaarVoice?
SD: More international expansions (BazaarVoice currently serves 20 languages) and we’re excited about a new product called Radius. Radius gives our partner companies an integration platform to add user-generated content and social capabilities to their own offerings. For marketers, we expect this to add a whole new level of cooperation between our company and theirs, and even generate even more useful data as a result.