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Interview mit Shopzillas Europachef Scott Macon

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Interview with Scott Macon, Executive Vice President and Managing Director Shopzilla Europe, on user-generated reviews.

Scott Macon, Managing Director Shopzilla Europe

Internet Retailing: What I don’t understand about your business model is how you can provide user-generated content to sellers without the help of the platforms they use. Or are these platforms the clients to whom you provide applications like Ratings & Reviews? Where is the revenue in that?

Scott Macon: We provide software as a service to our retail partners which they can integrate themselves or with the help of a platform. We have platform-level integrations and relationships with most eCommerce platforms in Europe, and we continue to grow our network of technology partners to create a seamless integration process for the merchant. Our revenue comes from the monthly service fees our merchant partners pay us for the licence to use our technology.

About your origins: What was the first application Shopzilla developed and offered? How did you sell it? What did your customers expect and say?

Shopzilla started in 1996 providing customer feedback to online merchants. In 1999, we launched the shopping search engine and it became one of the leading shopping portals in the US. In 2004 the company name changed to Shopzilla, and we now operate a number of consumer websites under this umbrella including Shopzilla, Bizrate, Beso, PrixMoinsCher and SparDeinGeld. Worldwide, Shopzilla’s websites serve the shopping needs of more than 30 million consumers every month providing product information, pricing, merchant ratings, stock and delivery information. Basically everything you need to make an informed decision before buying goods online.

It was only natural that Shopzilla would enter the market of product reviews to offer this very important service to merchants and consumers. In July 2009, Shopzilla Europe became the sole distributor of the PowerReviews technology in Europe, providing SaaS technology to enable merchants to capture product feedback from their consumers. Merchants, service providers and brands can capture reviews about their products to increase their sales, reduce product returns and of course improve their products.

Today, Shopzilla Product Reviews is used by several hundred merchants in Europe including some leading brands like Littlewoods Shop Direct Group, FGH (Otto Group), and La Redoute.

I am absolutely in favour of integrating user ratings with search results because they’re a big help for online shoppers. Do you see your market expanding? Why is the interest growing?

The market is absolutely expanding. Consumer feedback and user-generated content are continually referred to as the a major influencer for a customer’s purchasing decision and with Google putting an even greater emphasis on ranking sites with user-generated content, we fully expect to see this sector grow as more and more retailers get switched on to the idea of having their customers effectively selling to each other.

Merchants are looking to engage customers as early as possible in the buying process. Historically, reviews were only found on the product details page. Today many merchants engage customers at the search results or category level by introducing user-generated content to these pages. Some merchants have been even more innovative; with our retailers leveraging our tag-based review capture to power “social navigation” – whereby the customer search can be defined by terms submitted during the “write a review” process. This creates a true social shopping experience, with customer feedback powering search to aid other consumers in finding the appropriate item to buy.

We also see many merchants moving away from their existing review solution to Shopzilla Product Reviews. The most mentioned reasons for this are:

  • our unique SEO benefits

  • our structured forms, which makes it easy to write reviews

  • retailers can use the structured data to improve their business, providing feedback for customer service or the purchasing department

  • out of the box integration with social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Blogs

  • easy integration of videos and pictures

How can you make sure the user ratings are not fake? There have been numerous reports on this phenomenon, e.g. at by Belkin in January 2010.

Our reviews undergo a meticulous 3-tier moderation process, part of which analyzes the review for the speed with which it was submitted to prevent copy and paste incidents. Putting a review submission form behind a log-in page can aid in this, as can using a post-purchase email to solicit review content. Email invitations to verified buyers account for 85% of the reviews we see across our network. Realistically, there’s no way to 100% guarantee review authenticity but, thankfully, the Belkin example is very rare in the industry.

What is your presence in the German market? Do you have a German representative yet and German clients?

We already have a great presence in Germany. We are working with a range of retailers from the likes of Bosch Siemens, Technik Direkt, Toys’R’Us to smaller merchants such as SofaOnline24 . We have dedicated German sales, moderation and technical teams – all staffed with native German speakers.

What’s your roadmap for the products and the European go-to-market/expansion?

We are continuously developing our core solutions. Our roadmap is hugely impacted by the demands and needs of our customer base, and we are focused on keeping our products at the leading edge of the market. This is especially important to us as we strive to work in long term partnerships with our customers. Currently the trends seem to emphasise social- and community-driven features as well as using the data in non-traditional capacities. We continually invest in our pan-European expansion and we already support most European languages.

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