New tool pushes reviews to retail sites

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For Kingston Technologies, a maker of memory products, taking advantage of user reviews as a marketing tool turned out to be an effective way for a brand to promote its products.

The company found recent success by syndicating product reviews of its own Web site on that of Office Depot.

“User reviews in an online world are increasingly important,” says Mark Leathem, director of corporate marketing and business development for Kingston Technologies. “Given the choice of buying a product with zero reviews or 279, you are more likely to look at the more reviewed one.”

The user review syndication was done through a new product launched by BazaarVoice, a provider of social commerce applications, called BrandVoice.

BrandVoice collects and displays user reviews on a manufacturer's own brand Web sites, and then automatically pushes this content to retail sites that carry their products.

“We do think that on low-cost commodity products, reviews are very important tiebreakers,” said Leathem.

Leathem said through Brandvoice, Kingston increased the average number of reviews per product on www.officedepot.com  from one to 10, and drove a 92% overall conversion increase for all Kingston products on the Office Depot site and a 110% conversion increase on all products with more than six reviews.

This allows for a brand to engage in “user-generated channel marketing,” said Sam Decker, CMO of BazaarVoice.

He said several studies claim that more user-generated content about products in the channel equals more sales in the channel.

“Manufacturers win because they create new engagement opportunities with customers. Customers win because they find credible information to help make purchase decisions, and retailers win because they are able to sell more products in a tough economic climate,” Decker said.

Additionally, Leathem said Kingston utilizes user reviews to engage in market research, provide technical assistance and even to make improvements on its existing products.

“We take them very seriously as market feedback,” he said. “These are the people that use the products. Why spend $250,000 on a focus group, when you can hear directly from people using the product.”

For example, he said many customers had commented on a USB made by Kingston that many reviewers liked, but questioned why it had a cap. The company used that feedback to manufacture the same product capless.

“Product reviews help us gauge the market and what customers like and don't like, and that's the most important thing to us,” Leathem said.

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