Cats Tune-In to Cats

I've got two goofy cats. One can be lying in totally hedonistic, slumbery bliss. I can walk into the room and get ignored, but the second my other cat walks through, the eyes slide open, the body stiffens slightly and all attention is riveted on the cat in motion. Where's she going? What's she up to? Has she found something I need to know about? Maybe I should follow her?

Cats tune-in to cats. They seem to think other cats are their best source of important, relevant information. At least, that's the way it looks at my house.

And that's pretty much the way it looks to your customers. To them, other customers these days are their best source of important, relevant information.

How do you deal with this? Well, it's pretty much a no-brainer situation: you make it easier for your customers to get heard.

The democratization of online shopping

"DEMOCRACY is coming to online shopping," shouts The New York Times.1 And if the NYT says it's so, well, who am I to quibble (never mind that I think democracy, even in lower case, has been the essence of online shopping since the beginning).

Let's face it. Only about 6 percent of your customers believe what you have to say about yourself and your stuff. And more than 50 percent of them say friends and family played a major role in influencing their purchasing decisions.2

We discuss this in Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?. It's not that folks are suddenly this way; they've been this way for a long time. But the interconnectedness of emerging media creates a different playing field for marketers, who now see the effectiveness of TV advertising going down the toilet and the enormous popularity of sites like YouTube, LiveJournal and MySpace.

Heck yes, we certainly would rather read and see stuff from cats just like us!

It's pretty clear that people are trusting the words of other consumers more than what's broadcast on the airwaves," said Peter Kim, an analyst with Forrester. Meanwhile, Mr. Kim said, merchants have watched the ascendancy of Web logs. "They see they have less and less control over their brand image, and are questioning whether they ever did have that control at all," he said. "That's driven the openness toward having a greater dialogue about their products and services."3

The hottest content boosts conversion

In Search Engine Marketing, we've seen many studies that show people are less likely to click on an a pay-per-click ad than an organic listing. This also fits with the fact that people focus in on the active area on the screen and only glance towards the sides. In other words, they are looking for content. Meaty, juicy, relevant content. What content's the hottest? Consumer-generated content. It's a win-win for everyone. Consumers get relevant content from the voice of other customers and retailers get content they didn't have to pay staff for and that usually impacts conversions positively.

Lots of companies are increasingly aware that customer reviews are actually good for business. For example, Amazon pretty much led the pack in featuring customer reviews (the good, the bad and the ugly) as community builders and also for overt marketing (Listmania). And the phenomenal success of TripAdvisor is predicated on customer reviews.

Petco has incorporated reviews into their product marketing, featuring highly-rated products on their site and promoting them through emailings. Petco found that folks browsing top-rated sections on the site "purchased at a 35 percent higher rate than those who browsed assortments arranged in the traditional manner. And those who bought from the top-rated sections spent 40 percent more than those who did not."4

The hottest content drives traffic

Now imagine for a moment you could use all this user generated content not only to persuade and convert people who are on your site, but also drive potential customers there. Sounds like a good plan, huh?

We think so too. That's why we are proud that our good friends at Bazaarvoice have just implemented a syndication feature to the already pretty cool Bazaarvoice ratings and reviews functionality.

Imagine you are on the prowl for a shiny new video iPod. Go to Smarter.com and do a search. You'll eventually get to this page for the 30Gig Black Video iPod, click on the review tab or the link under the product rating and you'll see the syndicated reviews from Bazaarvoice clients Overstock.com and CompUSA. Cool, right?

Their current syndication partners include Smarter.com, MSN (always one of the top converting search engines), PriceRunner and Froogle, with more to come soon. And we don't find it the least surprising that conversions on these clicks are very high (we've already seen a 60% higher than the average visitor on the landing page conversion in one analysis).

So what kinds of things are you doing to get your cats heard so they can influence lots of other cats?

1 "Help for the Merchant in Navigating a Sea of Shopper Opinions." Bob Tedeschi, Ecommerce Report, Technology. The New York Times. September 4, 2006.

2 Same NYT article, citing results from Forrester Research.

3 Ditto the NYT article.

4 Ditto the NYT article.

Volume 138: 9/6/06


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