• July 28, 2008
  • By Jessica Tsai, Assistant Editor, CRM magazine

Let Me Tell You a Story

Social commerce solution provider Bazaarvoice announced today the release of its latest product, Stories. Adding to its existing solutions (Ratings and Reviews, Ask and Answer) that utilize the power of the consumer voice, Bazaarvoice is encouraging consumers to share their experiences in a way that goes beyond product-centricity to engage with the overall brand.

Growing consumer demand continues to reaffirm the impact of (and consumer preference for) user-generated content (UGC) on vendor Web sites, reports Sam Decker, chief marketing officer of Bazaarvoice, citing research firms such as Forrester Research and JupiterResearch. "At least 70 to 95 percent of customers say they want reviews," he says. 

Whereas many companies have likely mastered the measurement of site traffic, clickthrough rates, and conversion rates, Decker says those aren't enough anymore. "Companies need to measure more than just those baseline metrics because [consumers] are paying less attention to advertising and marketing. You need more to get people to the purchase decision -- so we believe customer engagement is that and Stories fits very well to hit that metric," he says.

Brian Haven, senior analyst at Forrester Research and author of the reports "Marketing New Key Metric: Engagement" and "Measuring Engagement," breaks engagement down into four components: 

  • involvement;
  • interaction;
  • intimacy; and
  • influence.

Everything changed when the Internet provided channels for people to communicate with each other. Consumers are now relying on one another for product advice, putting marketing in a tough position as it struggles to be effective. "The traditional model for marketing has been disruptive," Haven says. "It wants to interrupt you." But companies are starting to learn, he says. Braving the challenge of enabling customer reviews was a big step, and now with applications such as Stories, companies are "potentially putting the marketing message in the hands of their customers," Haven says. "[Stories] is a technology that honors the idea of engagement by finding a better way of communicating with the customer; and the best way to do that is to let them communicate with each other."

Rather than spending months -- and hundreds of thousands of dollars -- creating a microsite, Bazaarvoice claims to have a Stories site up within 30 days for a third of the cost. According to the company, the benefits of the service are threefold:

  • Build brand engagement and loyalty;
  • Attract new visitors with a viral component in which users may deploy keywords and phrases you've never even thought of to increase natural-search results; and
  • Use UGC for multichannel marketing (e.g., incorporate a Story into an email).

Bazaarvoice -- with its infrastructure, reporting, analytics, and technology expertise -- also anticipates mutually beneficial relationships with advertising agencies that can mesh their campaign creativity and understanding of providing the best customer experience.

The motivation behind customer engagement does, however, require an incentive. Decker advises companies to do something to promote the solution, such as a contest that, in return for a content contribution, gives away a prize or some form of recognition to appeal to the consumer ego.

While reviews are helpful when it comes to the product ("Do I want the product?" "Do I have confidence in the product?"), Stories takes engagement to a broader level and distances the review from the product or service: It's more about the writer's experience with the company or about a set of products. Where as Rating and Reviews and Ask and Answer are more text-heavy, Stories allows consumers to upload pictures and videos as well.

Haven says that studies have shown significant increases in purchase value when consumers have entered a site through a link such as Stories. This makes the solution very attractive, especially as marketers are finding themselves forced to prove the value of their marketing efforts.

News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine. To contact the editors, please email editor@destinationCRM.com.

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