When I managed the Dell.com consumer site it was always a mad rush to the deadline of getting site functionality up before mid November. After that, we were in “make sure things stay up” and “optimize our content” mode.

Deciding which projects were built before the holidays involved a strategic decision-making process that I went through each year for many years. Many of our retailers we talk to are going through these decisions right now, debating if they should add reviews before the holidays vs. other priorities. The case I would assert for adding reviews now — before the holidays — is on a simple premise of Net Present Value (NPV). The business case process I helped build at Dell was based on this simple financial principle.

Any feature you put on your site has a NPV, meaning the value to the P&L is the sum of the impact over some time period (say 2-3 years). Some projects may have an opportunity to drive immediate benefit, but the impact declines over time.  Other projects (such as reviews) have a growing impact, where the impact immediately is not as great, but the sum of the impact over time is much greater. With ratings and reviews, the value is in the content, which grows over time. The value is identifying and engaging your influencers, which grows over time. The value is in programs and marketing strategies leveraging this content and your influencers, which is a multiplicative effect as you leverage this in email, natural search, advertising, catalogs and other marketing vehicles.

I’ve launched over 100 projects / features on Dell.com on a $3.5B revenue site. It was high stakes. We came up with business cases for almost every one of those projects, and measured the impact of almost every one. There were projects ‘above the line’ and ‘below the line’ that didn’t make the cut. After 14 years of online experience, and Brett’s many years of measuring online impact through Coremetrics, we believe reviews is a priority for a very simple reason: it is the highest impact strategy, highest NPV project, to  any other project we’ve seen (unless your checkout functionality is broken!). Check out some of our case studies.

How long until you see benefit? In our experience with over 120 clients, not very long…

  • Let’s say you launch reviews in late October (we can get you live in 2-4 weeks). You immediately email an invitation to customers of the last 6 months to come back and write a review.
  • In come thousands of reviews (we’ve seen some clients get tens of thousands in one week!).
  • By mid-November you can merchandise top rated products on your home page, in email, and start to benefit from natural search as people search for product reviews in search engines (We’ve seen 60% growth in week over week search visitors for many clients).
  • Customers can share reviews and products with their friends and family, driving viral marketing.
  • You and your merchants will have a new set of data through workbench reports and alerts to help decide what to merchandise over the holiday period.
  • All this benefit takes you through January, which is also a healthy holiday sales month.
  • After the holiday rush, you have the reviews platform in place to solicit these customers to come back and add more reviews to the system, which you can use to drive sales after the season and exceed your spring year over year sales goals.

We have case studies that prove more reviews equals higher conversions. The sooner you allow customers to review products on your site, the sooner you build an annuity that drives sales over time. This is what makes ratings and reviews (or any social commerce applications, such as Ask & Answer), a higher NPV project than most other projects. If you calculate the impact of reviews used multiple ways as they grow and the impact it has for you for the holidays and the rest of the year, this low effort project (20-30 hours of IT time with Bazaarvoice) also becomes the biggest ROI project. We have an ROI calculator to help you figure this out.

This is the holiday season that reviews will be used. Shoppers are expecting reviews now. Not have reviews on your site means you risk losing your customers to your competitors. Allurent did a study that shows that 67% of consumers who don’t find the information they are looking for on a site, will abandon that site in favor of another that has the information. According to Forrester, 77% of online shoppers seek reviews when purchasing, and over two years ago there was a study from eVoc Insights that suggested 50% of shoppers would not even buy unless they had reviews. Are you going to turn away half your visitors this holiday to other sites that have reviews?

The time to get reviews on your site is right now. This year the number of retailers with ratings and reviews has doubled, from 25% last year to 45% this year (according to shop.org and MarketingSherpa). Build a competitive advantage with how you use reviews over the year. Our Community Managers will help you with maximizing your social marketing potential through best practices on driving review volume and marketing strategies.

If you want to talk to me directly about prioritization, feel free to drop me an email (sam [at] bazaarvoice.com). You can see see this article I wrote on eBusiness prioritization for Dell’s magazine several years ago.

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>