Let's Review: A New Web Marketing Tool
A new company, Bazaarvoice, is offering a hosted way for businesses to optimize their search engine placement and to bring the voice of the customer to companies' Web sites. Launched today by Brett Hurt, founder of Coremetrics, Bazaarvioce analyzes and manages detailed customer product reviews so companies can place them on their sites in hopes of climbing to the top of Google and other search engines, and keep potential buyers from straying to comparison sites like Amazon. Customers can help build an organization's business, he says, pointing to a Yankelovich report showing that one-third of consumers say the advertising they want most is marketing that is personally communicated to them by friends or experts they trust.
Forty-three percent of U.S. marketing executives plan to use word-of-mouth methods within the next six months, according to Sam Decker, vice president of marketing and products at Bazaarvoice. "There is a deep gorge between word-of-mouth impact and the reality of the systems, processes, and culture in most companies," Decker said in a written statement. "Customer-centricity accelerates when strategy, tools, and analysis are put in motion that have frequent, visible, and measurable impact to the business."
More companies don't participate in these techniques, because it is very labor-intensive, according to Sucharita Mulpuru, senior analyst at Forrester Research. Bazaarvoice, however, takes less than 24 hours of IT time to implement and the company reads all the reviews using a network of home-based employees to provide quality feedback. Each customer is assigned a community manager to develop reports and provide tactical recommendations to improve customer service, marketing, and product merchandising and management.
For example, many iPod nano reviews coming in for Bazaarvoice customer CompUSA mention that the item scratches easily and therefore buyers should purchase a case to go with it. This is a win for the store, because it can sell more cases, and benefits customers by helping them prevent the scratches in the first place. Providing a range of positive and negative comments is important for authenticity and believability, says Peter Kim, an analyst at Forrester Research. "If you don't have the good and the bad, it's just not realistic. Not everyone likes everything. You have to tell it like it is. You'd expect to see both sides of the conversation. It's worse to have a stilted conversation than not to have one at all."
Very few people do search engine optimization well, and it is always more effective than paid search, Mulpuru says. "Any space where there's a commodity good is...likely to benefit from something like this. [Bazaarvoice is] in a decent position in the space." Roughly half of customers start with a brand when searching for particular items, according to Hurt. But the risk comes in when they need to review information about something and must go to a third-party site to find it. "Then they're in a pricing war," he says. "We're in the spirit of loyalty and increasing conversion within the site."
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