DMNews talks with Sam Decker, CMO at Bazaarvoice

Sam Decker, CMO of Bazaarvoice, discusses how user-generated online reviews worked to increase Office Depot’s paid search revenue

Q: Why were customer reviews the right strategy for Office Depot?

A: This is Office Depot’s first test of online user-generated content. This campaign centered on paid search ads that incorporated user reviews submitted on their site. We’ve been experimenting with online ads for quite a while and Office Depot decided to try it out. There was enough evidence of how reviews and top-rated merchandising impact purchasing behavior, to assume that it would impact conversion rates, average order value and increase e-mail revenues.

Q: What is the main benefit of using consumer feedback to drive ads?

A: Up to 70% of people seek out reviews before they buy. If they’re looking for reviews on Web sites via Google search, then an ad would attract their attention. We know that customers trust reviews. Custom­ers know reviews are authentic as opposed to testimonials because they come from other customers. Customers are going to be mak­ing more thoughtful purchases, especially in this economy. There­fore, they need justification for a purchase, which is given through validation by fellow customers. User-generated content is the most effective form of marketing in a tough economy.

Q: What were some of the results?

A: This campaign increased the click-through rate by 78%, conver­sion by 24% and paid search rev­enue by 197%. The most surprising result for me, however, was that this attracted a new audience. This cam­paign had 183% more new buyers when compared to other advertis­ing that Office Depot has done. Companies always want to attract first-time purchasers, so that they have a chance to retain them. Top-rated and user-generated content provides them this opportunity.

Q: How do you ensure that reviews will be relevant to users?

A: We optimize content for natural search. If a customer is looking for a particular product via search, Office Depot has a chance to come up in those results. Also, the company bought search ads against specific keywords that fit the user-generated reviews they wanted to highlight in this campaign. It’s all about choosing and buying the right keywords to ensure that there is relevance and engagement for customers.

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