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Bazaarvoice Debuts Rating, Review Service

Bazaarvoice Inc. enters the word-of-mouth marketing fray today with the launch of what it calls the world's first hosted and managed solution for on-site customer ratings and reviews.

CompUSA, Golfsmith and Petco have signed up for the service. Coremetrics founder and Shop.org board member Brett Hurt co-founded Bazaarvoice, Austin, TX, which opened for business Jan. 11.

The Bazaarvoice solution targets large e-commerce sites and lets customers share product or service opinions with other customers online, according to the company. A community management team works with the companies and suggests ways to improve merchandising, customer service and marketing.

Though marketers have used word of mouth for decades, it appears on track to be one of the year's trends.

“Word of mouth has always been anecdotal, but it is finally becoming actionable,” said Andy Sernovitz, CEO of the Chicago-based Word of Mouth Marketing Association. “Bazaarvoice is a good example of that … Suddenly you can get an off-the-shelf platform to do something that only Amazon could do last year.”

According to a study by McKinsey & Co. and Jupiter Media Metrix, users who contribute product reviews visit a site nine times more often than average users, and they stay twice as loyal and buy twice as often. Regular users of feedback areas generate two-thirds of sales but account for just one-third of visitors, according to a report from MarketingExperiments.com. Also, conversion rates are nearly double on products that get five-star ratings.

Since using the solution, CompUSA has found that visitors finding a customer review on its site after searching AOL, Google, MSN and Yahoo had a 50 percent higher conversion rate and spent an average of 20 percent more per order than the typical CompUSA visitor. Customer reviews also have boosted CompUSA's natural search results and drove tens of thousands of new visitors to its site over the holiday season.

Petco sent an e-mail marketing campaign Jan. 24 featuring its top-rated products.

To understand how big word of mouth has become, the year-old association already is bigger than the Internet Advertising Bureau, Sernovitz said. It has more than 200 members, including major corporations, ad agencies, specialty firms and research companies.

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