Chief Marketing Officer
Bazaarvoice builds social marketing and commerce programs for marketers and retailers across categories and works closely with them to develop customer reviews programs. CMO Sam Decker and Gerardo Dada, senior director of product marketing, spoke with eMarketer's Tobi Elkin about the opportunities retailers and brands have to maximize customer review content. Decker, who was interviewed on August 31, will be succeeded by Erin Mulligan Nelson, the incoming Bazaarvoice CMO and former CMO of Dell, as of November 1.
eMarketer: What are retailers and brands learning from customer reviews?
Sam Decker: We've learned that reading reviews is universal and 80% of consumers look at reviews before they buy. What's happened is the retailers that started early are maturing in the ways they use review content and data in different parts of their organization. We have clients that have used insights from review content in their catalog, advertising, paid search programs, in the store for shelf-tagging and highlighting products. They have integrated the insights from reviews throughout different marketing capabilities.
Customer review content is changing product development and what retailers carry. Retailers are using it to determine what to keep on their shelves or on their websites. Marketers want more feedback from customers to improve their products. They also want to benefit from customers sharing reviews on social networks.
eMarketer: What are the key ways retailers benefit from customer reviews and what do they want most from reviews?
“Conversion goes up, SEO traffic goes up and returns go down. Customer satisfaction and brand trust increase. Reviews start to help consumers make a purchase decision.”
Decker: Conversion goes up, SEO traffic goes up and returns go down. Customer satisfaction and brand trust increase. Reviews start to help consumers make a purchase decision. Retailers then want to get more reviews. There are all sorts of different ways to solicit customers to submit reviews. Instead of just having 1% of customers write reviews, they can try to get 30%.
Once they have reviews, they need to integrate them into the website. They need to change merchandising within the home pages or category pages to flag top-rated products, place quotes from customers and those sorts of things. Usually retailers tell us they want to increase revenue and conversion, but the other way to do it is by generating search traffic. Review content is very indexable on search engines.
eMarketer: What is the opportunity for retailers that enable customers to share product reviews with their friends on social media sites?
“Reviews are not just a widget that you put on your website. Reviews are a fundamental tool where customer conversations become powerful content.”
Gerardo Dada: One of the things that companies are realizing is that reviews are not just a widget that you put on your website. Reviews are a fundamental tool where customer conversations become powerful content. Macy's and Hotels.com are using reviews across different channels as part of their marketing campaigns. Macy's is running a TV ad using reviews in the spot. Hotels.com uses reviews as the main reason why people should go to Hotels.com. Even on email campaigns we've seen that campaigns based on review content get over a 100% percent open rate. That's because people opened the message multiple times and sent it to friends.
The question is, how do you tie social networks and media into review content? We created a suite of capabilities called Social Connect that enables our customers to use content on Facebook, on Twitter and other social networks by sharing the content they contribute. For example, if you write a review or you provide an answer to a question from another user, you can post it on your Facebook and Twitter profiles.
This gives brands not only a very explicit word-of-mouth recommendation that reaches on average 130 new people every time it happens, but also gives them another way of reaching customers that they never talked to before. We've also created a solution called Tweet Connect on social applications so that brands can tweet about customers' favorite parts of reviews. This enables consumers to read reviews, but also to contribute content or vote on the most helpful reviews without leaving Facebook.
eMarketer: Where are customer reviews headed?
Decker: If you're at an advanced stage, they're getting embedded throughout the organization and you'll see more user-generated content in marketing messages helping customers make decisions. There will be more social integration with customer profiles so as I write reviews, they'll be tied back to my profile. I'll share my reviews with others and want people to see what I like. There'll be more of these kinds of reviews beyond the retailer's website.
“As more people contribute reviews, they have a higher affinity and loyalty to the brand.”
As more people contribute reviews, they have a higher affinity and loyalty to the brand. They've left something behind of themselves and they return to the site and are more engaged. They've left content behind that thousands of people will see.
Dada: Retailers and brands are very quickly going to realize the power of the customer's voice in reviews. That's not only from a product development or sales perspective but also from the standpoint of what their customers think about what they have in the stores. There are retailers that are making decisions on what products to pull from their shelves based on the feedback from reviews.
Social media is helping the reviews process because companies are realizing that their brand is what consumers say it is.
The full version of this interview is available here, to eMarketer Total Access clients only. Every day they have access to new interviews with digital marketing leaders and trendsetting entrepreneurs.
Check out today's other article, "Good Experiences Motivate Women to Share Product Info."