Of the three segments of social commerce – daily deals/group buying, shopping communities, reviews and recommendations – it’s the latter that is the most established yet gets the least attention. Bazaarvoice, the leader in review services for retailers and brands, announced it would acquire its biggest potential competitor PowerReviews for about $150 million, $30 million in cash. Besides taking out a competitor, Bazaarvoice will get access to PowerReviews’ original small-business customers as well as some bigger enterprise plums, adding to its ability to syndicate reviews across its merchant partners and analyze social commerce data from the results. PowerReviews has been positioning itself as the backbone of a social CRM play – which is a bit of a reach – but the combination is certainly a stronger source of social commerce data and services.
In January, I wrote that Facebook’s app ecosystem lacked a marketplace, and that it should copy features from a handful of companies and add a paid-search like mechanism for promotion. Well, Facebook announced the App Center with several of those features – no paid listings – and announced a beta probram to support paid apps. As CNET points out, it’s more of a showcase than a store. It doesn’t end-run Apple’s store, but rather points to mobile apps there. Promotions are driven by user ratings, and there’s no sign of curation or merchandising by Facebook humans. It’s not clear how or whether viral promotion off the marketplace will change. I don’t see any personalization angle yet. While this is a big step in the right direction to support its developers, Facebook has a long way to go.
Ebay’s recent purchase of Hunch illustrates how social media has leveled the playing field for e-commerce recommendations engines. Mixing human-powered reviews with algorithm-powered recommendations will be a key driver of social commerce.
As eBay has evolved from its person-to-person auction roots into a retail hub and e-commerce infrastructure provider it has become a pretty aggressive technology acquirer. Its latest move is on the recommendations engine Hunch, possibly for $80 million. Ryan Kim thinks Hunch will be another piece of its e-commerce technology platform, and Hunch’s founders say that eBay will use Hunch on its own site to expose buyers to products that collaborative filtering recommendations would probably miss. Hunch’s engine uses machine learning to understand unstructured data, and makes recommendations based on a user’s social network connections (Likes, who he follows on Twitter, etc.) as well as a Q&A process it uses to tailor a “taste graph.” That’s completely different from the consumer reviews companies that I wrote about in my weekly update, but they’re all parts of next-generation commerce.
Yes, he’s a PR guy, but Edelman’s Steve Rubel has one of the better social media and marketing “predictions” pieces I’ve seen this season. His five ideas worth watching are exactly that. Steve argues that attention is often worth more than reach, but that most media buyers either can’t or won’t buy inventory that way yet. He makes a good case that brands can play a role in curation and thought leadership. I’m less convinced marketers should be platforms, but they should definitely enable their “content” to be shared and syndicated. For instance, I’ve heard compelling stories on how Bazaarvoice harvests user reviews on brand sites – that’s where the mavens are – and re-circulates them to retailers’ sites that otherwise might be overwhelmed by lowest-common-denominator opinions.
I’m tired of Facebook financials – and I’m analyzing Facebook’s industry position and clout for Monday – so let’s talk about something else. Silicon Alley Insider suggests Facebook is the future of television. Our own Michael Wolf is way ahead of them, with much deeper analysis. I always thought on-screen trash-talking would be a killer TV app even though surveys I ran suggested otherwise. And future TV guides will definitely accommodate recommendations – from friends as well as algorithms and editors – and maybe what your friends are watching now. But wait, isn’t Xbox the future of TV?