In my second interview for the Word-of-Mouth Wisdom Interview Series (and the last of 2006), I was fortunate enough to get some of Joan Broughton's time.  Joan is a good friend and a former fellow Board of Directors member.  I have worked with Joan for many years while at Coremetrics as REI was (and still is) a Coremetrics' client.  While at Coremetrics, Joan and I worked on a project that tracked the success of Google paid search campaigns (SEM) to offline (in-store and call center) sales, and the results were very enlightening.  When I was contemplating launching Bazaarvoice in May of 2005, I asked Joan for her wisdom on the matter.  In short, I have always respected Joan's intelligence, accomplishments, and true partnership. 

Joan is's VP of ContJoan Broughton,'s VP of Content and Educationent and Education.  I remember how excited I was on the day Joan told me she was joining's executive team, and she has already had an enormous impact on the quality of the events, new hires (such as Larry Joseloff), and new initiatives (such as the recent blog launch).  Joan couldn't have brought a better background to the team.  As I mentioned, she previously worked for REI as their VP of Multi-Channel Programs.  She managed two business units, encompassing over $100 million in annual revenue with a team of 200 people.  Joan was responsible for launching REI's "order online, pick up in store" option for customers, as well as many online services.  Prior to REI, Joan was Office Depot's Director of Web Publishing.  She has spent more than 12 years in the online industry, including working at O'Reilly & Associates and America Online.  In other words, Joan has more online experience than almost anyone I know.

Here is our interview:

1. Please tell us our readers about your success with the pick-up-in-store initiative at REI.  Did the light-bulb go off for the rest of the organization about how much cross-channel shopping was occurring?

The REI order-online/pick-up-in-store program was definitely a team effort, and literally every department in the company played a part in its success. I think that the organization had already had more than an inkling that cross-channel shopping was going on, but this helped underscore how much one channel influenced another in a big way.

[Note from Brett: Internet Retailer reported that in-store pick-up of online orders accounted for almost 30% of REI's web sales; that sounds like a huge success to me.]

2. Now we live in a world of the increasingly more connected customer, due to the Web.  Broadly speaking, what are the three biggest impacts you think the Internet will have on multichannel shopping over the next three years?

I think that Internet sales will continue to become a larger percentage of a multi-channel company’s sales; the Internet will become more prominent within a MC retailer’s marketing strategy; MC retailers will need to figure out Web 2.0 technologies and see what’s going to work best for them.

3. User-generated content and Web 2.0 are all the rage with the acquisition of, YouTube, MySpace, and many others. itself had a Web 2.0 Boot Camp at this year’s Annual Summit, which attracted an amazing 2,300 attendees.  Why do you think Bazaarvoice is experiencing such rapid adoption by established, multichannel retailers?

The summit had over 2000 attendees, but the attendees for the Web 2.0 boot camp numbered around 150. My personal opinion about Bazaarvoice’s success is that it is based on an idea whose time has finally come. That is, consumer reviews and consumer-generated content, in general, have become mainstream to the point where they can successfully influence browsers to become buyers.

4. What do you think will happen in stores when customers have their mobile Web browsing device with them?

I think that eventually customers will use some sort of handheld (probably a phone) to do pretty much everything in brick & mortar stores: scan product codes to get pricing/product/sourcing information; compare prices with other online and offline retailers; find other brick & mortar stores that have the product in stock and are selling it for less by using Google maps and such; and even use the device to buy the products in the stores either by scanning a credit card or using some other payment method through the phone. Maxwell Smart would be proud!

5. How will user-generated content be used on these devices?  Does your answer change if you consider 1 year from now versus 3 years from now?

In the scenario above, the user can call in customer reviews as part of the product information. Using social networking, s/he can ask advice in real-time on whether the people in his or her network think s/he should buy the product, etc.

6. Thinking back to your experience with the pick-up-in-store initiative at REI, how do you see multichannel retailers leveraging user-generated content in an increasing always-connected environment?

I don’t know if I can relate the work I did at REI to this new, always-connected scenario. But I can see that eventually people can use that handheld to reserve/buy a product that they then go in and pick up at a brick and mortar store.

7. Any predictions on how user-generated content will change in-store signage, circulars, or other forms of offline advertising?

I think that consumer reviews have a great deal of power to sway buying decisions. That’s gold for retailers, and they are likely to try to use them in any way they can. It’s just a matter of figuring out the best way to get that information across in more traditional online and offline formats.


I look forward to seeing Joan in a month at's FirstLook conference, where I will be speaking with Sarah Fay, President of isobar, and Jacob Hawkins, SVP of Online Marketing at, on the future of marketing as it becomes impacted by user-generated content.  Joan has significantly changed the format and focus this year, and I think it will be a fantastic event.  I hope to see you there, too.

Happy New Year, and thanks for all of your support in 2006!

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