Driving Sales Through Customer Recommendations

ChoiceStream and PowerReviews partner to provide customer reviews to shoppers.

Personalization service provider ChoiceStream and customer review solution developer PowerReviews are teaming up to allow retailers to include customer reviews in their targeted online customer recommendations.

Announced June 3, the partnership is intended to boost online sales conversions.

"There's an obvious synergy between the power of the customer review and the impact of personalized recommendations," said Lori Trahan, executive director of marketing for ChoiceStream. "We plan to use customer reviews to provide a more relevant online experience to shoppers."

Jay Shaffer, vice president of worldwide sales and marketing for PowerReviews, said customer reviews can help retailers provide the most relevant and personalized online recommendations to shoppers.

"It's about finding the right product for the right customer," Shaffer said.

Trahan said retailers can use data from customer reviews to learn more quickly about the products they recommend, and also help inform customers.

"You could show the average user rating while recommending a product," she said. "But it's up to the client to decide how they want the [ChoiceStream-PowerReviews] synergy to look in their online environment."

Shaffer said a retailer could determine a customer is looking for a blue sweater using ChoiceStream functionality, and then recommend the highest-rated blue sweater available using PowerReviews functionality.

"You're trying not just to recommend a product, but a product that is proven off the shelf," he said.

Trahan said PowerReviews is able to capture information about a customer who gives a review, which can be of great value to the ChoiceStream engine.

"You can determine shopper affinities and ingest them into the engine," she said.

"We collect data in a structured format," Shaffer said. "A review can be meaningless if you don't know who did the review. A review of an electric guitar from a professional musician has different weight than a review from a beginner."

In the future, both Trahan and Shaffer said the companies hope to incorporate this functionality of PowerReviews into their joint offering so that a retailer could match customer attributes of reviewers with prospective online shoppers. For example, a new parent searching for baby items could be specifically provided with product reviews from other new parents.

Victoria Bracewell Lewis, an analyst with Forrester Research, said two of the most significant technologies impacting hard online customer conversions are systems that provide customer reviews and one-to-one merchandising.

"There is no such thing as mass merchandising anymore," said Lewis.

Lewis said the joint ChoiceStream-PowerReviews solution should be an "impactful" merchandising tool. "Not only will consumers be able to search and look for products, but they will be able to get results generated by other consumers," she said. "The additional component of the personalization of those results makes it even more relevant."

Lewis predicted there will be more partnerships and consolidations in the future to produce solutions similar to the one being offered by ChoiceStream and PowerReviews, as there is a limited amount of technology available to provide this type of personalized merchandising.

ChoiceStream delivers its personalization service through a hosted software as a service. PowerReviews collects customer review content, structures it according to client need, and then publishes it back out to the client, where the structured content is then hosted.

Dan Berthiaume covers the retail space for eWEEK. For more industry news, check out eWEEK.com's Retail Site.