On behalf of Bazaarvoice, I am pleased to announce one of our latest and largest clients: Dell.com.
Last Week Manish Mehta, VP of Global eCommerce posted on the Direct2Dell blog announcing ratings and reviews on their site. Says Manish: "If the printer you ordered gets the job done, let us know. If you were disappointed with your monitor, share that too, and let us know what you didn’t like about it. You can rate both Dell and non-Dell products. As we build up more reviews, our hope is that it will help all our customers make more informed buying decisions based on customer feedback."
As many of you know, I was at Dell from '99 to '06. For the first four years I managed Dell.com consumer, which grew to a $3.5B online business. During that time (in 2003) I started my Decker Marketing blog, partly for experiential learning. I may have been one of the first bloggers inside of Dell, but largely unknown as I was blogging about marketing topics, not about Dell. The marketing paradigm shift of customer-created experiences, citizen marketing, and customer-centric strategies was crystallizing for me. It was part of the reason I joined Bazaarvoice and helped launch us out of stealth mode about a year ago. Now, one year later, I'm pleased to see Dell (as well as all of our clients) take another step towards customer-centricity. Our clients realize the tremendous benefits of marketing WITH the customer. Coincidentally, the title of my first book in 1995 was "How to Market WITH Customer User Groups. Computer User Groups were the computer and software industry’s influencers in the late 80s and 90s. 10 years later, with the spread of Web technologies and ability to write reviews, any ONE customer can be more influential than a User Group.
Dell not only represents one of the largest online electronics retailers, but is also a direct manufacturer of products they make. With Bazaarvoice, Dell currently has review functionality on all third party as well as their branded electronics, such as Dell projectors, printers, and LCD TVs. Many of our clients, such as Bass Pro, Cabelas, HP, Sears, Burpee, and Fair Indigo carry products under their own brand name. We often get the highest level of angst on hosting reviews from direct manufacturers for their own brand.
There are at least three reasons why branded manufacturers need ratings and reviews:
First, if you believe in your products, your company and your people, then customer feedback is an ACCELERATOR to growth. Word of mouth already occurs offline for your products, so enabling online word of mouth enables a few customers to amplify their voice to 95% of the online shoppers who would never meet the influencers face to face. Burpee is a 120-year old company built on word of mouth. Online reviews are accelerating their growth beyond 'normal' word of mouth.
Second, most manufacturers should be more concerned about not carrying reviews than be afraid of negative reviews. While nearly all clients will receive some negative reviews, they will likely see a similar "J-curve" where positive far outweigh negative reviews 8 to 1. Despite Dell's word of mouth challenges over the past few years (mostly over service and support issues), their products are seeing balanced reviews.
Third, and most importantly, this direct feedback represents an opportunity to bring customer oxygen into the company to change the culture, to improve products, and to leverage competitive advantages of a direct manufacturer by pushing the customer voice upstream for product development improvements.
Through today’s customer-created online experiences, branded manufacturers realize their competitiveness is largely determined by enabling customer participating, listening to the customer voice, and joining the conversation. More to the point, winning today means leveraging and amplifying the customer voice more strategically than the competition.