Bazaarvoice Revs Its Consumer Data Machine, Launches Ad Targeting

Enlists Agency Advisers To Guide Rollout of Media Business

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Online review platform Bazaarvoice calls itself a social-commerce firm and for years it has been the engine powering consumer reviews on hundreds of retail sites using its product-review engine. But under the hood it's also a consumer-data collection machine -- and that's coming in handy as it builds out a division called Media Labs, which will pump out detailed consumer-profile data based on the product reviews shoppers write and peruse.

"The reason why Bazaarvoice is involved in media is we have tons of data," said Andy Chen, VP of retargeting at the firm.

The company has signed up media agency execs to sit on an advisory board including Stephanie Gay, partner, digital media at MediaCom; Jon Hsia, head of media investment at Mindshare; and Steve Katelman, director of global strategic partnerships at OMD. The advisors were corralled with the help of Donnovan Andrews, VP Bazaarvoice Media Labs, and an alum of agencies including Tribal Fusion, Deutsch and OMD.

Bazaarvoice data offering
Bazaarvoice data offering Credit: Bazaarvoice

An initial product from the media division will be retargeted ads, but the company argues its retargeting capabilities will go beyond simply aiming a product a consumer recently viewed back at her through display ads.

Mr. Hsia said he is talking to his clients at Mindshare about using the new data offerings, though ensuring the right ad creative is in place for dynamic targeting is not easy. "The challenge is being able to develop a relevant message quickly," he said.

Bazaarvoice will incorporate consumer location, age range and interest data with information on products viewed and reviewed, and even transactional data from some of its retail partners showing what they've already purchased. For instance, when someone checks out a TV product page, Bazaarvoice tracks that he visited the page, and knows if the item was a Samsung priced at $599.99. It also keeps track of ratings and reviews, measuring sentiment toward products, and gauges the most enthusiastic reviewers -- and biggest detractors.

Rather than spit back an image of a product just viewed but abandoned, the Bazaarvoice system might suggest a similar item with a higher reviewer rating. Or, it may attempt to decipher between pro- and amateur photographers to better target ads for cameras.

Bazaarvoice clients include Walmart, Best Buy, and Lowe's, and also works with business-to-business and travel clients including Expedia and Hotwire.

Much remains in the planning stages including the actual ad products and how they will be sold. Bazaarvoice recently hired ad tech vet Ari Paparo, formerly of Doubleclick and AppNexus, as senior VP of media products, to devise the new division's data and ad products.

Longboard Media, the ecommerce ad network Bazaarvoice purchased last year is part of Media Labs, and seems like a natural fit for its retargeted ads. However, inventory from the network will not be included in the initial rollout of the targeting business, said Mr. Chen.

Mr. Chen came on board with the acquisition of rival PowerReviews. The deal currently is under antitrust investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. Bazaarvoice declined to comment on the case.

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