Special Report: E-Commerce & Catalog Technology: Take a Page From Facebook
“Several facilitators guide the conversation and help bridge the gap between customer and company,” Lerman says. That intimacy and the invitation-only factor can result in more members participating in ongoing discussions. “When members [of invitation-only communities] contribute, they participate at a high rate — an average of 3.9 contributions per week,” says Lerman, citing an in-house study of 66 online communities researched by Communispace.
Meanwhile, review sites dedicated to netting customer reviews on goods and services are rapidly gaining popularity with many companies, including some of the biggest names in business — Dell, Macy’s, PETCO, Sears and PepsiCo, among others. A recent survey by the e-tailing group, Social Shopping Study 2007, found that 65 percent of active online shoppers visit online discussions where other consumers rate and review products and services they’ve purchased.
The study also found that 82 percent of respondents would rather get advice on a purchase from an online review or rating system than from knowledgeable, in-store salespeople. Moreover, another 81 percent of these online review readers say they regularly use those reviews to narrow their choices between two or three products.
Foreign consumers also are embracing user-generated review content as a critical part of the research and purchase process, points out Sam Decker, Bazaarvoice’s chief marketing officer. According to him, “78 percent of international consumers said they trusted direct recommendations from other consumers most when making product purchase decisions.”
Don’t Go It Alone
Finally, if you’re looking to jump-start a community for your site, there are a number of service providers that can help. In addition to Internet Strategies Group (www.internetstrategiesgroup.com) and Communispace (www.communispace.com), consider Zuberance (www.zuberance.com), Genuosity (www.kudosworks.com), Affinitive (www.beaffinitive.com), Capable Networks (www.capablenetworks.com), Passenger (www.thinkpassenger.com) and Web Crossing (www.webcrossing.com).
Joe Dysart is an Internet speaker and business consultant based in New York. You can reach him at (646) 233-4089 or email@example.com.