This week, you will see a series of Bazaarblog posts by our executive team about the achievement of our biggest milestone to date. As of late last week (the week that CNN profiled us!), we passed 100 billion impressions of user-generated content, including customer Reviews, Answers, and Stories! As of this writing, the real-time counter on our homepage is over 100.3 billion and climbing rapidly. Why count impressions? Well, in a world where 80% of consumers seek user-generated content while shopping, impressions of user-generated content are “the new advertising.” Actually, what is “new” is old – “the voice of the marketplace” (read the story behind our name) has always been with us, but this is the first time in human history that word of mouth is digital, and that’s more transformational than all of us can imagine today.
As we celebrate this milestone, we are also close to celebrating our 5-year anniversary (Brant and I founded Bazaarvoice on May 2, 2005). With 80% of consumers now looking for customer reviews, it is hard to appreciate now just how few U.S. retailers offered customer reviews on their websites in May of 2005. Would you believe only four? Today we serve more than 50 of the top 100 U.S. retailers, more than 25 of the top 50 U.K. retailers, and similar numbers in Australia, France, and Germany. And we serve many clients outside of retail, from health care to manufacturing to financial services. We have rapidly grown into a company of 750 clients and 515 employees globally, operating across 25 international languages. I do not take our success for granted one bit and I’m very proud of and thankful for our partnerships with our clients. I’m also proud of the culture we have created here. We spend the majority of our waking time at work, and we strive to make that time as fun and meaningful as possible. Our passionate culture impacts the way we serve our clients and also give back to the community.
As I look back to my first Bazaarblog post, I think back to my analytical roots, spending seven years building Coremetrics, and reflect on how much we have achieved on the analytical front at Bazaarvoice. The “hidden” impact of 100 billion impressions is how we are writing the new marketing and merchandising textbook together with our clients. In a world of increasingly fragmented media, a dramatic shift to time spent in the online channel vs. other channels, and a rise in the prominence of the voice of the customer, the “hidden” impact is felt in how marketers and merchandisers adopt new practices based on user-generated content. And, to be totally frank, I underestimated the impact in how Bazaarvoice would change the world in this way. The Bazaarvoice School of C2C Marketing Seal to the left is from our first Social Commerce Summit in 2008, which quickly sold-out and was a magical event, full of clients speaking about writing the new textbook together (our fifth Summit is coming up in Austin April 19-21 and is almost sold-out already).
So this blog is dedicated to some of the most dramatic changes I have seen on the path to 100 billion. Here is a look back on just a few of them:
- Oriental Trading’s CEO, Sam Taylor, leads a radical organizational change to reform merchandising based on user-generated content and wins the prestigious Gartner Group Customer Experience award (read the Bazaarblog post on the award, and another on specifics).
- The customer reviewer becomes the spotlight for campaigns (Free People example, and Urban Outfitters too). At that time, I believe this was an industry first. With 80% of reviews usually coming from the top 20% of your customers by lifetime value, this campaign technique will be adopted rapidly.
- Sephora uses in-store signs to get customers to read reviews via their mobile devices, and trains in-store associates to promote it. [Note: the sold-out Shop.org (NRF) and RAMA Retail Innovation & Marketing Conference in San Francisco this week will feature Julie Bornstein of Sephora – read her interview by NRF on the ROI of social media, a special Mobile Boot Camp, and me moderating a panel of rockstar venture capitalists.] Related to Sephora, Intuit’s TurboTax did the same with their in-store displays, and made an impact at every Best Buy, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples, and Walmart store in the U.S.
- The broad multichannel marketing implications of user-generated content, from print, to TV, to online. I’ll never forget the first time this reviews were promoted on in-store receipts and by whom.
- The transformation of channel advertising with BrandVoice and BrandAnswers. With 80% of consumers searching for reviews, the implications for channel advertising are huge and user-generated content in the channel is quickly becoming a business imperative for a supplier. And it isn’t just UGC. BrandAnswers and Ask & Answer now bring in supplier-generated content as well as retailer-generated content to answer user-generated content in the form of product pre-sell questions.
- TurboTax partners with us to launch the “Friendalyzer”, where you can see TurboTax reviews written by your friends on social networks, including Facebook (which now has 400 million users). Seth Greenberg of Intuit will be presenting the great results on this live at our Social Commerce Summit this April 19-21 in Austin. The implication for technologies like Facebook Connect are profound for user-generated content at large and we are in Inning One for these innovations.
It has been an amazing 4 years, 10 months, and I want to take this opportunity to sincerely thank all of our clients, employees, partners, investors, and advisors. We promise not to take our success for granted, and we are ramping up R&D and Client Services like never before. This quarter alone, we are attempting to hire at least 80 people, but our very high bar makes this difficult indeed (we have 14 full-time recruiters working in our office at Bazaarvoice today and there is nothing more important for our culture than its foundation: our people). If you know of someone that may be interested in joining us, see the many jobs available here and note our referral incentives.
The next 100 billion impression milestone will no doubt be achieved much faster than the first, but I expect our impact to be no less profound than with the first (see our many case studies, webinars, or whitepapers for more). Thank you, thank you, and thank you again for your support. And stay tuned to this blog as we continue this exciting journey. As I said in my first-ever blog post on Feb. 3rd, 2006 (and remains just as true today):
Welcome to the age of customer empowerment in our hyper-connected global village! We look forward to being your tour guide in this wild, wild ride.