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Voice of the Manufacturer
A new solution by Bazaarvoice aims to bring manufacturers into the conversation.
Posted Nov 18, 2008
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Bazaarvoice, a provider of social commerce solutions, today released its latest application, BrandVoice, a syndication system for user-generated content (UGC). Brands implementing Bazaarvoice's range of products including Ratings & Reviews, Ask & Answer, and Stories will be able to deliver UGC product reviews and similar content directly to the product listings on various retailers' Web sites.

According to Forrester Research, the number of adults in the United States reading product reviews has nearly doubled from 2007 to 2008, and 77 percent of consumers now seek product reviews before purchasing. Moreover, internal research at Bazaarvoice points to a direct positive correlation between the number of reviews and likelihood to convert. (On average, products with more than 30 reviews see a 49 percent increase in time spent on the page.)

Historically, manufacturers have been on the sidelines, half-heartedly and passively listening to the comments made following a product launch. Participation with BrandVoice, however, brings the manufacturer into the heart of the conversation, enabling what Bazaarvoice identifies as a "paradigm shift" to user-generated channel marketing. The demand for trust and authenticity continues to be a strong component in influencing consumers' purchasing decisions. Despite that driving force, Bazaarvoice reports that less than 20 percent of manufacturers' products have reviews on the sites of their retailers.

"For the most part, manufacturers have been hesitant to use consumer-generated reviews because that's going to reflect directly on their brand if someone says something negative," says Patti Freeman Evans, a vice president and research director at Forrester Research. With reviews hosted directly on their own Web sites, manufacturers leave themselves open to questions of legitimacy. In contrast, Freeman Evans explains, when reviews about manufacturers' products appear on a retailer's site, the perception of objectivity is much stronger.

Regardless of whether they want to publish UGC, manufacturers need to be collecting the information, Freeman Evans says. Eventually, as the companies get comfortable with listening to the customer, they will ease into the concept of UGC not only as a marketing strategy, but as a feedback mechanism that can help identify existing faults.

BrandVoice matches manufacturers' products to retail sites that either have the BrandVoice solution or have obtained a free publishable widget that facilitates the content syndication. Content pushed out to each of those retailers is modified to match the look and feel of the destination site, and reporting and analytics on usage and results are also conducted through BrandVoice.

Sam Decker, chief marketing officer at Bazaarvoice, points out that retailers are taking UGC beyond just customer-facing content and using it throughout multiple marketing programs. As a result, retailers are optimizing their site navigation, product sorting, email marketing, catalogue integrations, and even paid search advertising based on insight derived from customer reviews.

Freeman Evans anticipates that this model will extend the applications of UGC beyond just a manufacturer-retailer relationship. "Over time, retailers continuing to manage their stores online and offline are blurring the walls so that [they're] pulling and collecting information from many different resources," she says. "They can be syndicated out to dealers, partners, other content sites, [and] to search engines. It's about valuable content and making it accessible to help consumers make purchase decisions."

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