CompUSA, PETCO and Golfsmith are initial clients.
The latest start-up in the word-of-mouth (WOM) space, Bazaarvoice, is expected to officially launch next week. The company, co-founded by Coremetrics founder Brett Hurt, hosts and manages customer review functionality on e-commerce sites.
So far, the Austin, Tex.-based firm has signed CompUSA, PETCO and Golfsmith as clients. Brant Barton, a Coremetrics alumnus who co-founded Bazaarvoice with Hurt, will work with those companies as VP of client services. Sam Decker, who previously managed Dell.com for the computer company, has joined Bazaarvoice as VP of marketing and products. Austin Ventures and six serial entrepreneurs participated in an initial $4 million round of venture financing for the start-up.
The company's philosophy is that ratings and reviews are consumers' most trusted source of information as they conduct product research, so e-tailers should enable people to express themselves on e-commerce sites themselves.
"It's now less about selling than about helping consumers buy," said Hurt.
The company hosts its clients' ratings and review content, integrating it with product page templates and site log-in. Bazaarvoice also hosts a standalone page for each product's ratings and reviews, creating a network of landing pages that are optimized for organic search.
On the services side, the company manages the reviews and ratings submitted, reading each item and deciding whether it should be discarded, allowed, or highlighted. It also helps its clients determine how to use the review information, such as suggesting they create a "top 10 products" page and leverage the data for merchandising and marketing efforts.
Though online ratings and reviews are quite common across the Web, Bazaarvoice cites statistics from Shop.org and Forrester Research that indicate only 26 percent of 137 high-profile retailers offered the functionality on their sites. The company speculates that competition for IT resources is one reason, and believes managing the reviews is also complex and costly.
Pamela Parker is a former managing editor of ClickZ News, Features, and Experts. She's been covering interactive advertising and marketing since the boom days of 1999, chronicling the dot-com crash and the subsequent rise of the medium. Before working at ClickZ, Parker was associate editor at @NY, a pioneering Web site and e-mail newsletter covering New York new media start-ups. Parker received a master's degree in journalism, with a concentration in new media, from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.
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