BazaarVoice has formed alliances with Google and FACT-Finder to bolster their search functions. The American company shows an exponential growth in the market of user content and search technology. Internet Retailing has talked with Jacob Salamon, Head of International Marketing of Bazaarvoice (see Biography).
Internet Retailing: Bazaarvoice provides shop operators with social commerce applications like Ratings & Reviews, Ask & Answer, and Stories. They enable users to rate products, pose questions, give answers, and exchange experiences online. Can you tell me more about your business model?
Bazaarvoice: Bazaarvoice is a Software as a Service (SaaS) technology that integrates directly into our clients’ websites. We are completely platform-agnostic, meaning we can implement onto any website, regardless of what platform the client is using.
Our business model is quite simple. Because we are a SaaS provider, we charge an initial implementation service fee, which includes design and styling to match the look-and-feel of the client, along with an annual service fee for the technology and services. This fee includes evergreen software updates, access to a dedicated Client Success Director, our best-in-class content moderation services (in 26 international languages), and our library of best practices (“The Bazaarvoice ROI Playbook” and our “Client Best Practice Guide”). Overall, we provide the technology and services to ensure our clients have the support and tools they need to be successful in developing a vibrant and active customer community.
In terms of our relationship with FACT-Finder, we have a very unique implementation on sites such as QVC-UK and Douglas.de, where shoppers are able to sort their search results using rating and review data. So, shoppers are able to filter categories and search queries using ratings – for example, “Top Rated Products” or “5-Star Products.”
Internet Retailing: What was the first application Bazaarvoice developed and offered? How did you sell it? What did your customers expect and say?
Bazaarvoice: Our origins are very interesting. The business was founded in 2005 by Brett Hurt, a pioneer in the web analytics industry. Brett founded Coremetrics, and with Bazaarvoice, he wanted to build a technology suite to connect customers to one another. The first application we developed was Ratings & Reviews, which has since become our flagship product. Merchants such as Amazon had deployed customer review functionality, and they were building loyalty with customers by enabling shoppers to share and consume authentic customer opinions.
When we launched the first version of our Ratings & Reviews product, we went live with three beta clients in the U.S.: PETCO, Golfsmith, and CompUSA.
We initially sold the product as a tool for building customer loyalty, but we know reviews would also help drive site conversion. We ran initial tests on the data and were shocked by the results. Every single time these clients used or featured reviews, conversion rates were shooting through the roof! On product details pages, on email, in search and navigation – no matter where customer-created content was placed, it was helping drive sales.
The initial concerns from prospective clients have always been around negative reviews. Brands tend to be very cautious about receiving and displaying negative reviews, but we’ve found in our research that even negative reviews help drive sales conversion (a product with one negative review converts higher than a product with no reviews). Negative reviews are also an incredible asset for change. Our clients now use negative reviews to make product improvements, make merchandising decisions, and more.
We see the data transforming organizations, and the opportunity in Social Commerce is now bigger than we ever expected when we started the business.
Now we service over 800 brands around the world, and have served over 110 billion reviews, questions, answers, and stories!
Internet Retailing: I am absolutely in favour of integrating user ratings with search results because they’re a great help for online shoppers. Do you see your market expanding? Why is the interest growing?
Bazaarvoice: As you know, customers shop using reviews. People want to know what fellow consumers have to say about a product. As you mentioned, we’ve integrated directly with FACT-Finder, ENDECA, SLI Systems, and other search technologies to enable shoppers to browse search results based on customer data. This integration enables customers to find Top-Rated Products, as well as searching and sorting by rating. We can also use reviewer data to help customers search for products based on reviewer attributes, such as “Top Rated Cameras for Photography Experts.”
Last week we also announced a very exciting partnership with Google. This partnership enables Bazaarvoice clients to directly syndicate their structured review content to Google. This means the review data we collect is meaningful to Google and indexed in such a way that it can be displayed directly in-line in search results.
See the Google announcement here.
Internet Retailing: How can you make sure the user rating are not fake? The have been numerous reports on this phenomenon, e.g. at Amazon.com by Belkin in January.
Bazaarvoice: We were concerned about this quite a bit when we developed the business. As our product has evolved, we have developed algorithms in our technology to detect fraudulent activity. But our main philosophy at Bazaarvoice is that customers can naturally filter authentic content on their own. If a fraudulent review does make it through our system, a consumer can detect the general consensus of the community. Wisdom of the crowds will prevail, and review-readers will naturally connect with reviews similar to them. They will find the reviews and opinions that resonate with them.
You can read our learnings from the Belkin review fraud story.
Internet Retailing: What is your presence in the German market? Do you have a German representative yet and German clients?
Bazaarvoice: Our German presence is growing quickly. We currently have over 20 clients in Germany, including QVC-Germany, Douglas.de, ImmobilienScout24, Neckermann, Dell, Karstadt.de, HP, and Conrad.
Our German Country Director, Marc Rüsing, comes to us from Google. He is leading the market with his online expertise and passion for Social Commerce. Joining Marc, we have German-speaking implementation teams and Client Success Directors working directly with our German clients.
Overall, we expect our presence in Germany to double over the next year.
Internet Retailing: What’s your roadmap for the products and the European go-to-market/expansion?
Bazaarvoice: Our product roadmap is very exciting. Overall, we are focusing on two major trends: Social Networking (sites such as Facebook, Xing, and YouTube) and Mobile. On the Social Networking side, we are investing quite heavily in tools and technologies that enable our clients and their customers to share their content with friends in their network. We are also building functionality using Facebook Connect to enable shoppers to see what reviews have been written by their friends.
On the Mobile side, it is quite obvious that mobile is hitting a tipping point, especially with the ubiquity of handsets such as the iPhone. We plan to open up our platform to third-party developers, giving them the ability to build applications for mobile use to further drive offline sales and interactivity with user-generated content on the go.
On the product itself, we are making major investments in the back-end of our system and user profiles. Our workbench is being greatly improved, giving brands the ability to make better decisions using the data they collect. We are also building our profiles capabilities to give reviewers the ability to connect more directly with fellow shoppers and sort for user-generated content that is from “people like them.”
Jacob Salamon is a Business Honors graduate of the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin. Jacob is a founding member of Bazaarvoice and is currently Head of International Marketing, responsible for producing events, building brand awareness, developing public relations, and generating new sales opportunities for the company’s growing international business (offices United Kingdom, Germany, France, The Netherlands, Sweden, Singapore, and Australia).
Jacob has been an entrepreneur since the age of nine, and has held careers as a magician, musician, web developer, graphic designer, and filmmaker. His favorite film is “Magnolia”, and his personal passions lie in photography, singing and songwriting, literature, film, design, and technology. Jacob currently works and lives in London.