The enterprise solutions market is flooded these days with endless variations on a theme when it comes to the software you’re looking to integrate into your business. So how do you choose, and how can you be confident that you’re choosing the right one? Vendors ultimately just want to sell you a product, reading analyst reports can be time-consuming and lead to muddled conclusions, and long meetings discussing all the options eat into everyone’s busy work day.
Now, there’s a new way to tackle the job of selecting a specific software or service. Startup company G2Crowd is taking its cue from the success of Yelp (News - Alert), and is applying this buyer review approach to business software.
TMC recently had the chance to talk with Godard Abel, CEO of G2Crowd, to learn more about how customers can increase their confidence when buying business software.
TMC: To start, can you tell me a little bit more about G2 Crowd as a company? What did G2 Crowd set out to accomplish for enterprises and software users when it began?
Godard Abel: My co-founders and I spent the last decade building BigMachines into a business software leader that was acquired by Oracle (News - Alert) in 2013. We saw how difficult it was for our customers to choose the best software, and that traditional analyst rankings from firms such as Gartner and Forrester (News - Alert) could not keep up with the rapid emergence of new sales and marketing software. Due to mobile, social, and cloud the pace of innovation is only quickening, and it’ll only be more difficult for traditional analysts to keep up.
Based on these pains and on how we easily we can now select consumer products and services online using peer reviews, we thought there must be a better way for people to select business software.
TMC: What was it about Yelp that inspired you to apply the same logic to business solutions? What kinds of problems did you see businesses facing when it came to choosing the right software for their specific needs?
Abel: We now all rely on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor and Amazon in our personal lives. These sites feature peer reviews to help us make quick, easy purchase decisions. Why shouldn’t this be the same for the business software space as well? We believe that G2 Crowd is another part of the consumerization trend in the enterprise.
When my co-founders and I worked together at BigMachines we sold our cloud software to both mid-sized companies and global corporations such as GE and Symantec. We saw how much both mid-sized and global companies struggled to select technology. Many would spend three months just to build a shortlist and 12 months to make their selection. Teams of five to 10 people would be involved and which could cost hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of dollars, and years of manpower.
Still, at the end of all this, they lacked confidence in their choice and many software projects still go bad.
Small businesses aren’t immune to this either, and wasted time and money can mean the difference between a business becoming profitable, and one that folds. SMBs just can’t afford expensive analyst research, so they go to Google (News - Alert), where it might be difficult to find unbiased advice.
This is where we think G2 Crowd can help. We can assist those in the market to not only build shortlists, but to gain insights on the pros and cons of various solutions from their peers.
TMC: What types of software are covered on your website? How are new solutions added and categorized?
Abel: Our site now features nearly 17,000 reviews covering many software categories, including CRM platforms and marketing automation suites, SEO tools, HR management suites, recruiting tools, and accounting software.
As our site is driven by user-generated content, many of these products are added by our users and visitors, based on the categories that currently exist. We then vet these submissions to the best of our abilities.
We’ve found in many cases vendors will contact us because of the categories users put them in. (Sometimes they disagree!) This gives us an opportunity to not only encourage them to claim their pages, but learn more about their categories as well.
Lastly, we’ll update categories occasionally based on industry trends, new players – that sort of thing. As the categories evolve, we’ll add new sub-categories as needed.
TMC: After offering this platform to users to share their business software experiences and ratings in Beta, what kind of results did G2 Crowd find relating the number of reviews for a product to buyer confidence?
Abel: We found that there was a steady rise in buyer engagement as more reviews are added. There’s a sharp increase in page views on product pages that have more than 10 reviews, and engagement increases substantially on pages that have up to 50 reviews. At which point, it starts to level off.
In addition to the number of reviews on a given product page, the types of reviews that are posted are important as well. A recent study by review company Reevoo, shows the presence of negative reviews can actually improve conversion by 67 percent.
Our site data supports this as well, as negative reviews (those with one or two stars) on G2 Crowd get 200 to 300 percent more clicks and views than positive reviews.
TMC: Sites like Yelp and Amazon, which are known for their heavy use of user reviews, have had problems with fake reviews in the past. Is there a way to safeguard this kind of practice from happening on G2 Crowd?
Abel: We have several safeguards in place:
First, we require registered users to authenticate with LinkedIn (News - Alert) if they haven’t already. This has a two-fold benefit: not only does this help ensure the quality of the reviews we receive, but it also helps site visitors segment review data by LinkedIn data points, such as company size and the reviewers’ industries.
Secondly, we incentivize quality during the actual review process. We encourage reviewers to not only post more thoughtful responses, but answer optional questions as well. Reviewers can even post screenshots of the product in use on their computers. As they answer more questions, their review grade improves. (Pictured.)
Finally, we vet every review that comes in. Not only do we examine the LinkedIn profile of each user that submits a review, but we flag reviews that are questionable, or written by users we think are employees, rivals, partners of or consultants for the company whose product they reviewed.
This might seem extensive to some, but bear in mind we have nearly 17,000 total reviews – not a small number in the business software space, but manageable.
On the other hand, a consumer review site like Yelp, which has a much lower barrier of entry, has 61 million local reviews, and a recent Harvard Business School study found roughly 16 percent of those reviews to be fraudulent. That’s a lot of reviews to keep up with. Thanks to our safeguards we have been able to avoid those problems and we will remain vigilant to keep the reviews trustworthy.
TMC: Looking ahead, where do you see G2 Crowd making the biggest impact? What direction do you see for this type of open, unbiased reviewing approach in the future?
Abel: G2 Crowd can ultimately help all businesses make better technology purchases. All businesses now need to adopt emerging mobile, marketing and cloud technologies to remain competitive. Businesses need a trusted resource that can keep up with the latest innovations and give businesses real insights on how to choose and implement them.
Ultimately by adopting the best, most innovative technologies, we will help thousands of companies select the best software to compete better and grow.
Godard Abel is co-founder and Chairman of G2 Crowd, a business software review site based in Chicago, Ill. G2 Crowd leverages user feedback, data and real-time algorithms to rank vendors on customer satisfaction and more.