Special Report: E-Commerce & Catalog Technology: Take a Page From Facebook
Eyeing the ongoing, phenomenal success of trailblazing social networking sites MySpace and Facebook, catalogers are creating their own online communities where they glean valuable feedback from customer posts.
“It’s a good time to become a niche online community and do it right,” says Don Philabaum, CEO of Internet Strategies Group, an online consulting firm. “You have millions of people who’ve learned the value of being a part of an online community, and they’ll bring experience, enthusiasm, content — and their network — to your online community.”
Blogs, discussion boards and other forms of interactive media are the most cost-effective customer feedback mechanisms around, according to Paul Gillin, author of “The New Influencers: A Marketer’s Guide to the New Social Media.” “You won’t get a representative sampling of your customers,” he says, “but you’ll get your most passionate customers.”
Overstock.com, for example, hosts an online community of customer reviewers who guide fellow consumers to the best buys and bargains. And it costs the marketer nothing. “Customer reviews on the Overstock site play an invaluable role in helping consumers learn more about the broad range of products we offer,” says Jacob Hawkins, Overstock’s senior vice president of change management. That naturally leads to greater sales.
Meanwhile, Improvement Direct, a marketer of home improvement products, also has a thriving online review community. The community is managed by online community services provider Bazaarvoice. “We started out early on with a freeware solution for ratings and reviews,” says Dieter Davis, Improvement Direct’s director of business intelligence. “After a year, it was clear that we weren’t generating many reviews from customers and had trouble integrating the content into our overall marketing strategies. So we started working with Bazaarvoice and were able to get live quickly, with little technical difficulty — even with Bazaarvoice adjusting its systems to accommodate a cross-Web site ratings and reviews solution.”