I’m excited to welcome our new Chief Financial Officer, Stephen Collins, to the Bazaarvoice team. Stephen joins Bazaarvoice with extensive leadership experience, particularly in developing and rapidly-growing markets. He entered the technology industry in 1997 as a member of the leadership team during the start-up and explosive growth phase at DoubleClick, Inc. (acquired by Google for $3.1 billion in 2007). During his career in technology, Stephen has held the titles of CFO, CIO, COO, and most recently CEO.
As CFO, Stephen is responsible for leading our finance and legal teams, as well as providing strategic and operational leadership as a member of our executive team. I recently interviewed Stephen to hear his thoughts on social commerce, Bazaarvoice, and his new role.
What trends do you see in the market around social and ecommerce?
The emergence of social media over the last few years has transformed how people manage their relationships. Our parents and grandparents had very few moments of their lives recorded as photographs, personal diaries or video. And to the extent they did have these moments recorded, they were stored in a dusty scrapbook.
Today, people record dozens if not hundreds of data points, documenting their lives on a daily basis. The typical social media user takes pictures, shares video, writes friends, posts blogs, marks their location, shares purchases, etc. The evolution of smart phones is making all experiences social. All of this data is now shared and stored in searchable databases. In many respects, we are now recording the lives of everyone in the world.
Obviously this raises some concerns, especially when it comes to privacy. But to the extent that people freely share information, such as customer reviews, we’re truly hearing the voice of the marketplace. This data is new in many ways, and it is vast. As a result, companies will be able to serve their customers much better to create more value and loyalty by working with companies like Bazaarvoice that help businesses leverage shared consumer conversations.
So, the nexus of social trends is creating a new paradigm not only for how we live our lives, but also for how businesses will relate to their customers. Truly, we are now finally moving from the broadcast advertising model to a real-time conversation between customers and business. In my view, this new paradigm will fundamentally change marketing and advertising, and do so quickly.
We are now seeing the first true leap in interactive marketing models since the internet emerged as a business force. Businesses that do not embrace social commerce will lag in performance to those that do, and significantly so.
How did these trends influence your decision to join the Bazaarvoice team?
I joined DoubleClick at the end of 1996 because I was fortunate enough to see and understand the shift that the internet was set to create in terms of how we live our lives. While sitting in an apartment in Bucharest, Romania, I could suddenly listen to an Alabama football game live online! The implications were enormous and obvious to me.
Now, I see my children living their lives tethered to others through social media, amplified by the power of iPhones and other smart devices. I believe I’m fortunate once again to see the implications of this incredible paradigm shift. And there it is: social commerce is here. Bazaarvoice, like DoubleClick, is one of the early leading pioneers in this space. Sold!
Do you have any tips on selling “social” to CFOs?
Embracing social and social commerce will help you add value to your customers, create value within your organization, and win market share. In other words, your customers will be happier, you’ll have more of them, and your company will be more profitable. And if you don’t embrace social commerce, your competitors certainly will.
How does what you see in the Bazaarvoice team compare to your previous work experience?
The Bazaarvoice team reminds me very much of the DoubleClick team. First and foremost, both companies see themselves not just as leaders, but as pioneers and world changers. That posture is bold, and one could argue that marketing companies aren’t changing the world. But the Internet is already changing how we live and work, and we’re still in the early stages as the internet goes. Being part of that evolution is special. It’s motivating and exciting. For me, the privilege of working with smart, motivated, generous, driven people in a pioneering company on the vanguard of technological innovation can’t be beat. And to be able to experience that environment twice in my career is truly amazing and humbling.
How will you add value to our clients as CFO?
Is this a trick question? Stump the CFO time, eh?
In all seriousness, Bazaarvoice is all about bringing businesses together with their customers. And by leveraging our solutions, our client partners derive significant ROI in the form of higher sales and increased market share. Beyond the transaction, we’re helping businesses better understand their customers’ needs, and these insights have a meaningful impact on our clients’ product development plans. Products are changing because of our solutions, and these changes create more value for our clients and our clients’ customers.
As CFO, I can help the Bazaarvoice organization understand how businesses think about and measure ROI. With that understanding, we can better meet our clients’ needs through innovation, not only with regard to our solutions, but also with regard to how we measure the impact and value we’re creating, and how we communicate this to our clients.
I’m thrilled and humbled to welcome Stephen to Bazaarvoice. Social commerce is revolutionizing the way business is done, and with the team we’ve built, I’m confident that Bazaarvoice will continue to lead this exciting space.
Read our feature in today’s Wall Street Journal Digits: Bazaarvoice Ramps Up For Social Shopping