Richard Anson is the CEO and co-founder of Reevoo, an aggregator of trusted reviews for technology etailers.
Through its Reevoomark service, the company incorporates reviews from confirmed purchasers of products into sites such as Comet and Jessops, earning money on a CPM basis. After recently securing Series-A funding, it is also developing its own site into a social shopping network, and looking to expand into other areas of retail.
We caught up with Richard earlier this month to ask him about the business case for teaming up with Reevoo…
In a nutshell, how can the reviews you supply improve conversion rates for an e-tailer?
Ultimately, it’s about improving trust. Adding independently-branded reviews from people who have purchased a product helps other people choose what to buy.
If retailers provide their own reviews on their sites, question marks arise in the customer’s mind about whether they are genuine and whether they have been written to drive purchases of particular products. With an independent service, those questions don’t arise.
How do independent reviews affect customers’ shopping habits? Do they just change what customers’ buy or actually encourage them to spend more?
They may change the items customers buy, and there’s anecdotal evidence that they increase the time people spend on retailers’ websites. They can increase their spending, and ultimately if shoppers buy items that are more appropriate for them, they are more likely to return.
Have you any figures on how independent reviews can influence conversion?
We are working on that with a couple of our partners. We’ve seen really significant improvements in conversion when people have clicked on the reviews.
We have confidentiality agreements with our clients, but it’s fair to say that with the margins being as they are in the retail space, our partners work on an ROI basis and the uplift they have experienced in sales relates to the fees we receive.
How are your partnership deals structured?
They’re structured, quite simply, on a cost per thousand impressions on our Reevoomark, which is the branded review image on a retailer’s website. We agree a minimum and maximum monthly fee to protect both sides from a level of risk. We spent a long time working with our early partners to develop the simplest costing structure, and that’s what we came to.
Do your retail partners have an option to block or edit certain comments?
None of our reviews are edited – the retailer doesn’t have an option to do that. But they have an option in extreme circumstances, such as when there is a review that breaches the Data Protection Act, to remove the review, but it’s only in extreme circumstances.
We process the reviews to make sure those with profanities or defamatory comments aren’t published, but the number of those we get is very small.
How do you ensure that only confirmed buyers are providing reviews?
Our aim for Reevoo.com, which is really at a very embryonic state, is for it to become a place where people decide what to buy.
At the heart of that will be these confirmed purchaser reviews. But what we aim to do is to add layers on top of these confirmed purchaser reviews by aggregating reviews from across the web – from third party weblogs and expert review sites.
We currently aggregate reviews from weblogs, but on a push basis, where people have to actively come to Reevoo.com to add them. We want to move that into a pull situation, where the important thing will be provenance, so that we will always link back to the source of those reviews so people can see whether they are genuine or not.
The other aspect we wish to add to Reevoo.com is to bring in the ability for people to have conversations on the site and ask questions of other shoppers. At the moment, Reevoo is a place where you can get a ‘sense-check’ about products. We need to turn that into a place where people come to make their purchasing decisions, which is something that is done very badly done on the web today.
So you’ll be adding chat and IM functions?
At the moment, we have a very fledgling messaging service, and we’re going to be looking to develop that into much more of a Q&A or forum-type service.
Do you have any plans to incentivise posters?
We don’t incentivise the posters as it fundamentally goes against what we believe in. If people are paid or given some form of artificial currency, you are introducing biases. You’re starting to get into the blurred area between editorial and advertorial.
Why do people bother to write posts then?
We often get asked this question. You can get into long discussions around the psychology, but I think people want to give their opinions on the web and are looking for platforms to allow them do it. Also, when people provide their opinions on platforms like ours, they are actually helping themselves. When they come back to make their next purchase, there’s opinion there to help them to buy.
What’s your view on payperpost (the US-based company which allows firms to pay bloggers to write favourable posts about their goods and services)? Do you see it as a threat to the credibility of blogs and user reviews?
We see it potentially as a real issue if it starts to take off. Industry commentators have talked about the potential for the blogosphere to be polluted and to become more advertorialised. I see it as a real issue and don’t see it is a positive step at all, in any direction.
Are you on the look-out for seeding by PR firms on Reevoo? Presumably they could also qualify to post by purchasing products?
It’s actually quite difficult to qualify. Someone would have to buy quite a substantial number of products to game the system. I’m not saying it’s not possible, but we are on the look-out for it. My understanding from listening to people in the space is that seeding on blogs is a growing phenomenon, and I’m not sure it’s a healthy one.
Do you see a need for a code of practice for reviewers or review sites?
Ben Griffiths, our co-founder and CTO, did a recent blog post about the idea of a code of practice.
We haven’t discussed it actively, but I think it could well be worthwhile. The challenge about codes of practice is getting people to buy into them and stick to them. But I do think it is important – if people are doing a payperpost arrangement on a blog, they should have to clearly differentiate it, not just through a small footer at the bottom of the post.
Are you looking at trustmarks?
Absolutely. We are looking at a trustmark we could provide. Our brand is very important to us and we want to make it clear that we are doing as much as we can to make sure our reviews are impartial and independent.
Do you think journalists provide impartial and independent reviews?
That’s an interesting question. I guess the way for me to look at that is as a reader of magazines that provide guidance in particular sectors. I think they provide a form of review and they are impartial, but obviously someone at the end of the day has to provide a paycheck, so it’s an area that could be debated.
Have you got any new partnerships you can tell us about?
We’ve a number in the pipeline. There’s a website called Duck and we’re in the process of going live with them. As we move into 2007, we’ll also be looking at other sectors we can start to approach. We’ll be starting to look at DIY, homes and gardens, baby goods and sport equipment, and moving across different verticals.
Are you also looking to expand geographically?
Yes, we will be looking to expand geographically. Europe’s very much on the radar.
Do you think the service could work in the mobile space?
We’ve talked about developing an SMS service. We see it as an opportunity to provide reviews in-store, and it would be very easy for us to do. It’s just a question of priorities.
You can find more information on social shopping in our e-commerce research section.