“Think ‘transparency’ is an established, maturing theme? You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Reviewing is the new advertisingThat was the opening of the latest Trendwatching briefing, titled “Transparency Triumph: Reviews are the New Advertising.” Obviously this report got our attention… plus Bazaarvoice and our clients were mentioned 5 times in the report, to our delight!

Trendwatching is viewed by 160,000 marketing professionals across 180 countries. I’ve paid close attention to this report for years, as their trends are always backed up by real-world examples that show how they reached their conclusions.

Trendwatching has covered the “consumers-are-empowered-and-transparency-rules-so-companies-are-opening-up” topic for a while. But this one brings it home because these are trends we experience as ‘consumers’ (lacking a better word), and macro trends any executive should understand.

We live and breathe this every day. When we started the company we pondered, we knew that reviews (and more broadly, user generated content) would rule the marketing landscape. We have asserted that the brands that win are the ones whose UGC is higher volume (word of mouth), better quality, and more amplified. Great UGC isn’t something you can buy (don’t ever pay for reviews). It is something you have to INVITE and facilitate. It starts now, and the sooner you start, the higher the net present value of your new marketing strategy.

We’ve compiled some cliffnotes on the report, below.  These notes are just the tip of the iceberg – the report has a wealth of real-world examples illustrating these points. I strongly recommend you share this report with your executive team.

  • We have more choices than ever (paradox of choice), and therefore more need for trusted advice. This “forever need” is now being met through user-generated content. As Nielsen reported, 70% of people trust online opinions from unknown users.
  • Businesses must accept it: reviewing is the new advertising. Consumer decision-making process has shifted to a new, powerful P2P arena.
  • There are 1.6billion people online today, and the next billion are on the horizon. For the future web population, contributing and sharing is a given, and reviews will be a way of life forever.
  • Consumers are increasingly enticed to review and share. Services like Bazaarvoice’s ShoutIT and Social Network Accelerators lets users share their reviews through FB, Twitter, and other social media.
  • Reviews form a cycle of trust and contribution.  As more reviews are submitted, the quantity neutralizes fake reviews.  Reviews become more trusted, and therefore utilized more often, encouraging even more submission of reviews.  And the cycle continues.

Trends to watch

  • Real-time reviews by location through mobile will influence offline shopping.Everything reviewed – reviews will infiltrate every industry and vertical, from retail and manufacturing to financial services and pharmaceuticals.
  • Real time reviews – sheer quantity of reviews will lead to daily or even hourly reviews for every product, service, and topic. Increased connectivity through netbooks and mobile will lead to real-time reviewing. Text, picture & video reviews will become increasingly available as they happen.
  • Reviews by location – increased availability of information relevant to location available through mobile.
  • Reviewer relevancy – profiles finding reviewers “like me” help shoppers discover the best products for their needs.
  • Right of Reply – brands should respond to reviews, even when they’re not on their own site. The easiest way to get Right of Reply is to ask for reviews on your own site. Guaranteed opportunity to openly and publicly react to negative reviews that would have cropped up elsewhere outside your control.
  • Transparency Triumph – bad reviews are not the problem, they’re a symptom. There’s always an opportunity to solve the issue and delight an unhappy customer.

We couldn’t agree more. Plug Warning: There’s a lot of Bazaarvoice investment along these lines. To learn how we’re progressing in all of these areas, ask to see our roadmap.

10 Responses to “Trendwatch Report: “Reviews are the New Advertising””

  1. I agree with Jeff, reviews are nothing new. Perhaps what is new is that with the ability for anyone to share a review anytime and anywhere there will be a potential for increasing the quantity and accessibility of reviews.
    Sweeping trend statements can be a risky business. While any business could potentially have a review posted on it, even with the huge level of online participation statistics indicate there is only a small percentage of the population that are avid online users as opposed to occassional or infrequent. It’s not even an 80/20 rule of who is likely to be part of this trend, it’s probably realistically 5% or less of a country’s population in reality and certain industries will be more prone to this trend than others without a doubt.
    There was a study released by GFK Retail and Technology that said 85% of people said they would prefer to spend more face to face time than be online. Food for thought. Thanks for your comprehensive blog, very informative.

  2. I agree with Jeff, reviews are nothing new. Perhaps what is new is that with the ability for anyone to share a review anytime and anywhere there will be a potential for increasing the quantity and accessibility of reviews.
    Sweeping trend statements can be a risky business. While any business could potentially have a review posted on it, even with the huge level of online participation statistics indicate there is only a small percentage of the population that are avid online users as opposed to occassional or infrequent. It’s not even an 80/20 rule of who is likely to be part of this trend, it’s probably realistically 5% or less of a country’s population in reality and certain industries will be more prone to this trend than others without a doubt.
    There was a study released by GFK Retail and Technology that said 85% of people said they would prefer to spend more face to face time than be online. Food for thought. Thanks for your comprehensive blog, very informative.

  3. I agree with Jeff, reviews are nothing new. Perhaps what is new is that with the ability for anyone to share a review anytime and anywhere there will be a potential for increasing the quantity and accessibility of reviews.
    Sweeping trend statements can be a risky business. While any business could potentially have a review posted on it, even with the huge level of online participation statistics indicate there is only a small percentage of the population that are avid online users as opposed to occassional or infrequent. It’s not even an 80/20 rule of who is likely to be part of this trend, it’s probably realistically 5% or less of a country’s population in reality and certain industries will be more prone to this trend than others without a doubt.
    There was a study released by GFK Retail and Technology that said 85% of people said they would prefer to spend more face to face time than be online. Food for thought. Thanks for your comprehensive blog, very informative.

  4. Maybe it’s just semantics, but I don’t think reviews are the new advertising. I think we’re talking about two distinct forms of marketing. Seems like advertising still has a role to play, even as reviews grow in importance. I would certainly agree that reviews trump advertising in the consideration phase of the purchase cycle. That’s been true for years. But as more companies realize this fact, and embrace it, it could be that advertising becomes even more about just establishing a brand and building “awareness.” You’ve got to drive people to the product page to see the peer reviews, right? Pique their interest somehow.

  5. Maybe it’s just semantics, but I don’t think reviews are the new advertising. I think we’re talking about two distinct forms of marketing. Seems like advertising still has a role to play, even as reviews grow in importance. I would certainly agree that reviews trump advertising in the consideration phase of the purchase cycle. That’s been true for years. But as more companies realize this fact, and embrace it, it could be that advertising becomes even more about just establishing a brand and building “awareness.” You’ve got to drive people to the product page to see the peer reviews, right? Pique their interest somehow.

  6. Maybe it’s just semantics, but I don’t think reviews are the new advertising. I think we’re talking about two distinct forms of marketing. Seems like advertising still has a role to play, even as reviews grow in importance. I would certainly agree that reviews trump advertising in the consideration phase of the purchase cycle. That’s been true for years. But as more companies realize this fact, and embrace it, it could be that advertising becomes even more about just establishing a brand and building “awareness.” You’ve got to drive people to the product page to see the peer reviews, right? Pique their interest somehow.

  7. To me, the best way to sell is to tell a good story (when I was at McKinsey, the big-wigs actually used to say: “you don’t sell, you have a discussion”). Reviews just may be the new advertising because good reviews tell a story, and have both context AND credibility as a number of the discussions here attest. As I spin up my new consulting firm (www.EvokeCRM.com) we will be looking at the role of reviews and other types of UGC not only in marketing and selling, but also in customer service, where community generated content in support forums has already found widespread success – especially in the tech space. It will be interesting to look at how these models come together, especially when real-time and location-based capabilities provided by mobile platforms are added to the mix!

    Allen Bonde
    Managing Director, Evoke CRM Partners

  8. To me, the best way to sell is to tell a good story (when I was at McKinsey, the big-wigs actually used to say: “you don’t sell, you have a discussion”). Reviews just may be the new advertising because good reviews tell a story, and have both context AND credibility as a number of the discussions here attest. As I spin up my new consulting firm (www.EvokeCRM.com) we will be looking at the role of reviews and other types of UGC not only in marketing and selling, but also in customer service, where community generated content in support forums has already found widespread success – especially in the tech space. It will be interesting to look at how these models come together, especially when real-time and location-based capabilities provided by mobile platforms are added to the mix!

    Allen Bonde
    Managing Director, Evoke CRM Partners

  9. To me, the best way to sell is to tell a good story (when I was at McKinsey, the big-wigs actually used to say: “you don’t sell, you have a discussion”). Reviews just may be the new advertising because good reviews tell a story, and have both context AND credibility as a number of the discussions here attest. As I spin up my new consulting firm (www.EvokeCRM.com) we will be looking at the role of reviews and other types of UGC not only in marketing and selling, but also in customer service, where community generated content in support forums has already found widespread success – especially in the tech space. It will be interesting to look at how these models come together, especially when real-time and location-based capabilities provided by mobile platforms are added to the mix!

    Allen Bonde
    Managing Director, Evoke CRM Partners

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