SAN FRANCISCO — Although Bazaarvoice has snapped up its chief competitor, plenty of alternatives remain in the market for online product ratings and reviews, the social commerce company’s industry expert testified Monday.
The Department of Justice sued earlier this year to undo Bazaarvoice’s 2012 purchase of PowerReviews, arguing that it created a virtual monopoly for the Austin-based company, which collects and displays feedback from consumers for brands and retailers. As the bench trial before U.S. District Judge William Orrick III entered its third week, Bazaarvoice expert Jason Goldberg, a veteran e-commerce consultant, offered a far different take on the market.
“There are more choices today for ratings and reviews,” said Goldberg, who is vice president of commerce strategy at Razorfish, a digital advertising agency. “It’s a trend that’s only going to continue.”
Lawyers for the Department of Justice and Bazaarvoice sparred over how much of a threat those players present.
Questioned by Bazaarvoice attorney Scott Sher, a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Goldberg testified that social commerce companies such as Reevoo, Pluck and Gigya — all more recent entrants in the U.S. market for product ratings and reviews — are viable alternatives to Bazaarvoice. A shortage of high-profile clients should not discredit a company, he added.
“Sometimes clients appreciate hearing about the latest, newest, most novel solution,” Goldberg said. “By definition, those don’t initially start with a marquee client.”
Sher presented a slide of Gigya clients which listed Hewlett-Packard, Nike, FedEx and others. Prodded by DOJ lawyer Adam Severt, Goldberg acknowledged during his cross-examination that most companies listed on the slide hired Gigya for services other than ratings and reviews.
Severt raised other concerns about the competitors still standing. Adobe offers a ratings and reviews service that it does not even use on its own website, he pointed out. The owner of another company, Rating-System.com, continues to work full-time at Men’s Warehouse, Severt said.
“Would you recommend to a large client like Best Buy that it select Rating-System.com for its website?” Severt asked.
“There would be a very high threshold of due diligence that would have to happen first,” Goldberg responded.
Many companies are casting aside external solutions like Bazaarvoice in favor of building their own product ratings and reviews platforms, Goldberg said. The accessibility of source code and falling cost of technology has made it easier than ever for companies to develop the platforms internally, he testified.
Sophisticated social networks have forced companies like Bazaarvoice to compete on new fronts, Goldberg added. Facebook allows comments written by its users to appear on e-commerce sites, and Pinterest displays product information beneath users’ pins, he noted. Given the finite budgets companies set for customer engagement, both sites threaten Bazaarvoice, Goldberg said.
“All these things take time to implement and resources to implement,” he said.
During his cross-examination by Severt, Goldberg said that he was not aware of companies that had given up their product ratings and reviews platforms in favor of social networks or other tools.
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