Simply put, the more reviews a product has on a retailer site, the more likely people are to buy it. And in an effort to goose the number of reviews that show up on a retailer site, Bazaarvoice, the company that introduced online consumer reviews to sites such as Bestbuy.com and Walmart.com, is now wooing those retailers' suppliers.
"The way to a customer is through other customers," said Sam Decker, chief marketing officer of Bazaarvoice.
The idea is for consumers to submit product reviews on a manufacturer's website and then those reviews can be syndicated to the retailer sites and added to the existing reviews for that product. Bazaarvoice is already testing the service, dubbed BrandVoice, in beta. In one example, Kingston, a computer-memory manufacturer, launched reviews on Kingston.com in February, and by October 66% of its products on Office Depot's website, officedepot.com, had reviews. Volume changed as well. Before February the brand had an average of one review per product on officedepot.com; by October it had an average of 10 per product in a category that averages only 1.5.
Overall conversion for Kingston products increased 92%, and products with more than six reviews increased 110%. But what's perhaps more interesting is that the increase in Kingston product reviews on officedepot.com created a halo effect: The conversion for Kingston products with no reviews increased 35%.
Mr. Decker said retailers are interested in growing the number of reviews on the site and have been encouraging his company to reach out to manufacturers -- in many cases providing the introduction. He also said he's seeing some manufacturers apply trade-marketing dollars to consumer reviews, knowing that it increases their standing with retailers.
Office Depot, like several of its retail counterparts, believes in the influence of consumer opinions enough to use reviews as content off its website, in places such as catalogs and its search marketing. Here, too, having a substantial number of product reviews matters.
"We're not going to promote a product that has just one review, because that's not very credible," said Emily Pelosi, director-online marketing for Office Depot.
Kingston makes $8 flash-memory sticks. If that seems an unlikely product to attract the attention of a reviewer, think again. "If a customer feels passionately about a product, price point is irrelevant," said Ms. Pelosi. "We get reviews on $1 pencils. If you love your pencil, you want to tell your friends about it."
When Office Depot runs contests to encourage reviews on its own site, review volume tends to double. Ms. Pelosi also said there's a strong offline-online connection -- 40% of reviews are the result of an in-store purchase.