According to Technorati’s Founder and CEO, there are over 70,000 blogs created a day with over 50,000 blog posts per hour. What are the chances that one of your customers is talking about you? High, and becoming higher every day as more jump into the global discussion. What are the chances that one of your customers or prospects will read that post?

With Google, Yahoo, Technorati, and others already providing robust blog search engines, the answer is, again, high and becoming higher.There are several companies that offer blog mining services, such as BuzzMetrics, Cymfony, and Kaava. And these are valuable services for companies, no doubt. If you are skeptical, read the Fortune story of Kryptonite, the bike lock company. This may be one of the most important articles you read all year.

There is no doubt a lot of junk in most blogs. Most are nothing more than online diaries. But the search engines are making it easier to find information about products in blogs. The 40-year old parent may write about their kids 90% of the time, but 10% of the time they may choose to write about products and services they have recently experienced. The search engine takes the right person to that content at the right time (i.e. when they are researching whether or not to buy the product or service).

Research by BizRate shows that 56% of shoppers begin shopping at a branded website, such as www.compusa.com. This is intuitively obvious to me – the Internet has gone mass market and the late majority starts shopping at the brands they trust. The trick is to capture those individuals in that moment instead of sending them off with an easy click or two to go searching for reviews. That is where Bazaarvoice comes in.

For all of the glory of the Web, it is a non-tactile shopping environment. Companies like Scene7, RichFX, MyVirtualModel, and others make online shopping more tactile. They are helpful as the eCommerce industry struggles with 2.6% conversion, meaning that 97.4% of those that visit a store online don’t buy within that browsing session. Compare that to the 90% or so that buy when they enter a physical store. Of course, people can browse online stores more easily than driving to physical stores, and their purchase intent is often lower online than offline. This isn’t a bad thing, it just means more product browsing. Nevertheless, at 2.6% conversion, there is a lot of room for conversion improvement.

The beautiful thing about customer ratings and reviews on your site is that it is on your site. Let me explain:

  1. On your site, customer ratings and reviews are measurable. When a customer writes a review, you know who that customer is and what actions they have taken within that shopping session as well as previous sessions.
  2. On your site, customer ratings and reviews are actionable. Since you know who the customer is, you can decide whether to reach out to them or not. Build your own focus group of high lifetime value and vocal customers for your next relevant product launch. Address negative word of mouth by reaching out to those customers and offering to correct their experience. The voice of the customer is closer to your brand, helping push cultural change inside your company to bring all employees closer to an understanding of your customers’ experience (i.e. to become more customer centric).
  3. On your site, customer ratings and reviews serve a purpose. They give your customers a reason to trust you and come back to your site often as a valuable source of information. They help make online shopping more tactile, which results in higher online conversion. There is nothing more tactile than word of mouth (positive and negative) from other customers that have experienced that poduct or service that you are considering buying.

Outside of your site, customer ratings and reviews have virtually none of these attributes, with the notable exception that companies like Intelliseek, Cymfony, and Kaava have the goal of making them actionable.

I would also argue that customer ratings and reviews on your site are far more actionable in the sense that the online shopper is in a different frame of mind than when they are writing for their blog or on a site where they may or may not have a connection (like Epinions). They will be more thorough with their review in an environment focused on shopping within the brand they know as opposed to stream-of-consciousness within their blog.

At Bazaarvoice, we try to ensure that reviews are actionable through our multidimensional ratings and reviewer profiles. To see this at CompUSA, visit the Xbox 360 Platinum System product page, which currently has 48 reviews. Customers rate the entertainment, replay, and price value as well as the overall product. Shoppers can also see the gender and technology proficiency of the reviewer as well as their geographic location and how they typically use CompUSA’s products. All of this helps to generate a more descriptive review, which makes it more actionable for both CompUSA as well as its shoppers.

As a result of our techniques, the average review we collect has a 350 character count, or 72 words. Compare that to the many reviews you read out there on the Web that say “this product is great” or “this product is terrible” and provide you with no actionable information at all. Those reviews move the needle for no one.

The more descriptive the review and the more it mimics offline word of mouth (which usually occurs face-to-face), the more tactile the online shopping experience becomes. As a result, shoppers and companies benefit.

Technorati Tags: online conversion, , , , , ,

5 Responses to “Blogs and Word of Mouth Transparency”

  1. Bill,

    Thanks for the vote of confidence and kind words. I look forward to meeting you in Dallas this week.

    Some early adopters go to sites like Epinions and BizRate to write product reviews, but I have found these sites to be broad and shallow in this area. They are broad in that there are hundreds of thousands of product SKUs available to be reviewed. But they are shallow in that you are lucky to find a single product review and when you do you are lucky to find one that is actually more than a few words.

    Contrast that with reviews on Amazon.com or our client sites, like CompUSA, Golfsmith, or PETCO. Our average review word count is 72 words and 350 characters. PETCO has more customer reviews on dog treats (over 150 for “greenies” alone) than Epinions or BizRate could ever hope to have. Why? Because they have a focused audience of pet lovers. Epinions and BizRate have a broad audience of mostly techies.

    That is what I mean by the connection. A name-brand website with a focused audience will have narrow but deep product reviews by a passionate community. When people write reviews in a community where they know there are a lot of other people like them, like customers within the PETCO.com site, they will take more time to be thorough with their review to connect with their fellow customers there. What incentive do they have to do the same on Epinions or BizRate?

    Thanks,
    Brett

  2. Bill,

    Thanks for the vote of confidence and kind words. I look forward to meeting you in Dallas this week.

    Some early adopters go to sites like Epinions and BizRate to write product reviews, but I have found these sites to be broad and shallow in this area. They are broad in that there are hundreds of thousands of product SKUs available to be reviewed. But they are shallow in that you are lucky to find a single product review and when you do you are lucky to find one that is actually more than a few words.

    Contrast that with reviews on Amazon.com or our client sites, like CompUSA, Golfsmith, or PETCO. Our average review word count is 72 words and 350 characters. PETCO has more customer reviews on dog treats (over 150 for “greenies” alone) than Epinions or BizRate could ever hope to have. Why? Because they have a focused audience of pet lovers. Epinions and BizRate have a broad audience of mostly techies.

    That is what I mean by the connection. A name-brand website with a focused audience will have narrow but deep product reviews by a passionate community. When people write reviews in a community where they know there are a lot of other people like them, like customers within the PETCO.com site, they will take more time to be thorough with their review to connect with their fellow customers there. What incentive do they have to do the same on Epinions or BizRate?

    Thanks,
    Brett

  3. Hi Brett,

    I first want to say I believe in the “Concurrence Marketing” – Yankelovich Partners & “Cluetrain Manifesto” approach to your new business. I also wish you great success!

    I am curious about two of your points, though. You said: “The trick is to capture those individuals in that moment, instead of sending them off with an easy click or two to go searching for reviews.” = Very true, but why do so many consumers go to third party rating and review sites like ConsumerReports.org, Epinions, BizRate, etc.?

    You also said: “I would also argue that customer ratings and reviews on your site are far more actionable in the sense that the online shopper is in a different frame of mind than when they are writing for their blog or on a site where they may or may not have a connection (like Epinions).” = What did you mean by “a site where they may or may not have a connection (like Epinions)”? I’m just curious why the consumer needs to have a connection other than CREDIBILITY & TRUST issues?

    My intent in asking these questions is to help understand your points better, and to help your business grow by having a clearer explanation of its unique value proposition.

    I’m looking forward to meeting you and Sam Decker at the Dallas, Tx. ad:tech IMPACT Conference on 3/9/06.

    Sincerely,
    Bill Kelm

  4. Hi Brett,

    I first want to say I believe in the “Concurrence Marketing” – Yankelovich Partners & “Cluetrain Manifesto” approach to your new business. I also wish you great success!

    I am curious about two of your points, though. You said: “The trick is to capture those individuals in that moment, instead of sending them off with an easy click or two to go searching for reviews.” = Very true, but why do so many consumers go to third party rating and review sites like ConsumerReports.org, Epinions, BizRate, etc.?

    You also said: “I would also argue that customer ratings and reviews on your site are far more actionable in the sense that the online shopper is in a different frame of mind than when they are writing for their blog or on a site where they may or may not have a connection (like Epinions).” = What did you mean by “a site where they may or may not have a connection (like Epinions)”? I’m just curious why the consumer needs to have a connection other than CREDIBILITY & TRUST issues?

    My intent in asking these questions is to help understand your points better, and to help your business grow by having a clearer explanation of its unique value proposition.

    I’m looking forward to meeting you and Sam Decker at the Dallas, Tx. ad:tech IMPACT Conference on 3/9/06.

    Sincerely,
    Bill Kelm

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>