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Thursday, Jul. 19, 2007 at 3:22 pm

Say What You Will About Wal-Mart — Seriously

By Robert Gorell
July 19th, 2007

A 5-star move from Wal-MartRetail giant Wal-Mart announced today that it will allow customer reviews on for the first time. The move may be a small step e-commerce, but it’s a giant leap for corporate transparency and the growing popularity of word-of-mouth marketing.

The New York Times (Reuters) has the scoop:

[...] Chief Marketing Officer Cathy Halligan said in an interview the retailer decided to launch the new feature quickly following a three-week testing phase in which it received more than twice the number of reviews it was expecting.

It is the No. 1 customer-requested feature,” she said of reviews and ratings.

. . . “We are not planning any specific sales acceleration as a result of launching this feature,” Halligan said. “But one could expect that providing our customers with the No. 1 requested feature and something that connects 130 million people to each other has got to accrue benefits.”

For more on the benefits to both business and customer, Andy Sernovitz’s blog has an appropriately biased — and spot-on — account of why this is a great day for Word-of-Mouth.

(Congratulations to Bazaarvoice on liberating the world’s largest retailer for its customers!)

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Comments (16)

  1. I spent a minimal amount of time glancing over some of the new articles related to this topic including the one printed in The New York Times. I wasn’t able to find any mention of Bazaarvoice. Isn’t this just a tad bit ironic?

  2. Rob,

    Where’s the irony? It’s quite possible that the Times reporter, among others, didn’t see the significance of mentioning Bazaarvoice in the piece. Isn’t it a consultancy’s job to make the client look good, first and foremost?

    Besides, we’re discussing their role. Is that not word-of-mouth, er, mouse?

  3. Rob,

    You may want to check out the Advertising Age article today, which does mention us:
    At Last, the Reviews Are in: Wal-Mart Wakes Up to the Power of the People

    But Robert Gorell is correct, and I didn’t expect Wal-Mart’s CMO to mention us in her quotes. And that’s fine. We are just extremely happy to be working with Wal-Mart on such a major initiative.

    Founder and CEO, Bazaarvoice

  4. Brett,

    I agree with Roberts remarks as well. I wasn’t saying that anyone did anything wrong. I simply found it odd that none of the articles discussing the implementation mentioned Bazaarvoice. More often than not, the company providing the new service is listed in a feature announcement such as this, especially when the service provider is a market leader like Bazaarvoice. When I hear word-of-mouth marketing or ratings and reviews I think Bazaarvoice. That’s the only reason I expected to see the name mentioned and that’s what I found ironic.

  5. I see what you mean, Rob, but alas… What good would it do for Brett as a voice of corporate humility to worry about such things? ;) Still, folks in the industry know, and that’s what matters (to folks like us, mind you, and not necessarily the public at large or potentially lazy journalists).

    So, congrats on the AdAge piece, Brett, and keep up the great work!

  6. Thanks Rob, I sincerely appreciate your kind words regarding thinking of us when you hear “word-of-mouth marketing” or “ratings and reviews”. We are having a blast in this business, and learning a lot about practical applications of Web 2.0, word of mouth, and user-generated content in the process. We call it “social commerce”, and our CMO, Sam Decker, has described that term well in this article:

  7. [...] that big chains like Wal-Mart are getting hip to consumer-generated reviews, Yelp has the power to do the same for small [...]

  8. [...] course, some are better at implementing customer reviews than others, but it's becoming clear that [...]

  9. I am redesigning my website to show customer reviews of products. We are planning to send emails to customers after they have purchased a product.

    Biggest questions are:

    1. How long after the customer orders a product is it a good idea to request a product review? 3 weeks? a month?
    2. What question or questions do you ask the customer to get a more favorable answer that will BETTER influence a future reader of the review?
    3. Besides their written comments about the product, should I want/allow them to rate the product? On a 1 to 10 scale? 1 to 5?
    4. Should I ask for a separate ratings, for each of the following? Customer Service, Product quality, Product Satisfaction?

    Thank for your feed back………….

  10. I went to a Walmart Store in Pembroke, NC. The shopping experience was very pleasant as usual. I found everthing that I wanted with no trouble. My problem is getting out of the store. Out of 15 cash registers that were in the store there was only one register open with a checkout clerk. There were self checkouts, but likemy self many people do not like to use them, so we just stand in line for twenty minutes or more waiting to be checked out. It seems that a store as large as Walmart could have at least three clerk run registers open at all times to cut down on checkout time. This would be a big step in helping customer relations.

  11. Clifford,

    Have you tried buying online instead? We often talk about people browsing online, then buying in the actual store. But I’d like to know whether you’d consider browsing in the store, then buying online — or just shopping online at altogether. Do you feel something’s lost online, or does it have more to do with just wanting to get the things you buy from Wal-Mart on your own time (i.e., not waiting for the stuff to ship).

    Thanks for your comment. I think a lot of folks out there are overwhelmed by the sheer size of these “superstores.”

  12. [...] to review products online. Although they're clearly trying to beef up their own stockpile of online reviews (after adding the feature in July of this year), is it really any different than getting a [...]

  13. I live in the small town of Wadesboro,NC. I always try to buy from the local stores. It helps provide jobs and promotes the local economy. When Wal Mart moved all the fabric from the store I was disappointed. However, I tried to accept this as a needed change the department giant felt it needed for economic measures. Now I am very angry. Moving all the thread and sewing notions has placed economic hardship on the citizens of this county. Not many of us do a lot of home sewing anymore. We still need to adjust a hem, sew on buttons, make alterations, quilt, etc. Now, we are forced to drive 30 miles to buy a spool of thread. With the cost of gas this becomes an economic hardship. I thought Wal Mart cared more for its customers than to do this. It is a joke that there are four sewing machines still in the store. Yet, you can’t buy thread for them.

  14. The Alamogordo,NM store has got to be the worst WalMart in the US. Do you wait until you are completely out of something to order more. That is usually 2 weeks. You just sold the very last bottle of L-Lysine. You had no 3 gallon water bottles. You were also out of 1 gallon bottles. You had no 96% fat free popcorn. At least 1/3 of your pegs in the beads section was empty. I have had to wait for 2 months for you to restock bread flour. There has been no stick butter since Sept. 25 in the store. The new and revised is NOT better.

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