Shopping Portals Add Consumer Ratings

Product review technology provider Bazaarvoice has begun rolling out consumer comments and ratings to portals and comparison shopping engines, including Smarter.com, owned by e-commerce firm MeziMedia, and Google's Froogle. In addition, the reviews will soon go live on comparison shopping engines MSN Shopping and PriceRunner.

Bazaarvoice gathers reviews from its retail partners, including CompUSA, Overstock.com, Sears and Macy's. The reviews include a link back to retailers' e-commerce sites; merchants pay either per click or per action (purchase or signing up), said Sam Decker, Bazaarvoice vice president of marketing and products.

Decker said the program leveraged the power of word-of-mouth to promote products, rather than relying on pricing, promotions, or a branding campaign.

But analyst Greg Sterling of Sterling Marketing Intelligence warned that the program could backfire for some shopping engines and portals. The risk, he said, is that they might lose sales by sending shoppers to off-site reviews. That possibility, however, is mitigated by the extra content provided to their sites. "It's a trade-off perhaps, but I think the value of the ratings content brings is going to be more valuable, or tip the scales in favor," Sterling said. "You have to have this content. All your competitors have some version of this content."

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Each shopping portal incorporates the reviews differently. On Smarter.com, Bazaarvoice partners have each of their reviews branded with the logo of the site that provided the reviews. But on Froogle, the branding is much lighter, with partner sites listed under the "Review Sources" on the lower-left of the product pages.

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