Murphy's Law: Bazaar But True

David Murphy

M's Law ReviewsI spent an entertaining afternoon at a customer event organised by Bazaarvoice last week. We’ve written about the company in the past. Essentially, it makes reviews happen, or to be more precise, it syndicates reviews left by users on a brand’s site so that they also appear on retailers’ websites who sell the product. When a brand implements the Bazaarvoice Conversations solution and agrees to be part of the Bazaarvoice network, reviews posted on the brand’s site are syndicated to the websites of any retailers that have also implemented the Bazaarvoice Conversations solution. It works the other way too, with reviews that have been posted on retailers’ websites syndicated to the brand’s website.

At the event, Bazaarvoice customers including Thomas Cook, Phillips, John Lewis and GHD (haircare) explained how they are using the platform and what sorts of results it is delivering for them.

Listening to them, I was struck by two things. Firstly, the stuff that normal human beings will spend time reviewing almost defies belief – the John Lewis spokesperson had a great story about a pillow getting bad reviews because the ducks whose feathers were used to fill it were smellier at some times of the year than others. The customer feedback, of course, helped to fix the problem.

In a break, I mentioned to the company’s CMO how amazed I was that people would take the time to review something as mundane as a pillow, or a vegetable. Commendably, she didn’t disagree.

Scientific approach
The second thing that struck me was how scientific the approach to harnessing the power of customer reviews now is among those companies that have bought into it, with email promotions encouraging users to leave a review, and reviews being incorporated into ad units for goods.

The GHD speaker explained how the clickthrough rate on one ad unit had increased significantly when it was tweaked to include a review from a customer in the shape of five stars and a one-line quote from the review. The CTR increased still further when the review was given greater prominence, bumped up immediately below the picture, above the tech spec and the price.

BazaarbannerIn a section of the event called ‘Shopper Marketing’ Bazaarvoice was showing those customers with bricks and mortar stores how they could bring the power of customer reviews in store, incorporating them on shelf-edge electronic POS units about the size of a satnav screen; traditional 'wobblers'; and even the pop-up banners we all know and love from the events we all go to every week.

It all reminded me of a time in my youth when I was quite seriously into hi-fi. I used to read Hi-Fi Choice every month, whether I was in the market for any gear or not. If a piece of kit earned a prestigious ‘Editor’s Choice’ commendation, the brand behind it could order hundreds of triangular ‘Editor’s Choice’ cards that would then be draped over the item if you saw it for sale in a store.

What I saw in the Shopper Marketing section was exactly the same 30 years on, the key difference being that the recommendation doesn’t come from anyone with any authority to say whether the thing is good or bad, but from a regular member of the public.

Given the store that consumers seem to set by what their peers think about stuff, as opposed to what the people that make the stuff think about the stuff, I think the business Bazaarvoice is in looks like a good place to be.