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About the Authors:
Novisa Petrusich
Associate
Novisa Petrusich is an associate with First Analysis. Novisa joined the firm in 2018 from Crosstree Capital Partners, a boutique health sciences investment bank, where he was responsible for sell-side merger and acquisition processes and financial advisory. He previously worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he was a part of the private company services group providing customized audit, tax, and advisory services for privately held businesses and private equity portfolio companies. Novisa graduated from the Florida State University College of Business with a bachelor's degree in finance and a minor in applied economics. He was also a member of the Florida State Seminoles football team.
David Gearhart, CFA
Senior Vice President
David Gearhart has worked in finance and investment for two decades and joined First Analysis in 2011. He works with entrepreneurs as an investor and as an advisor on growth transactions to help build leading Internet of Things and e-commerce software businesses. He has played a key role in building First Analysis’ Internet of Things and e-commerce franchises and is a thought leader in his sectors, having authored several widely read white papers. He supports First Analysis' investments in CoolR Group, EdgeIQ, Freeosk and SmartCommerce. Prior to joining First Analysis, he was an accountant with The Northern Trust Co. and an options broker with American Option Services. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University with a concentration in economics and finance and his MBA at DePaul University with a focus on finance and entrepreneurship. He is a CFA charterholder.
First Analysis E-commerce Optimization Team
Matthew Nicklin
Managing Director
David Gearhart
Senior Vice President
Richard Conklin
Managing Director
Novisa Petrusich
Associate
First Analysis Quarterly Insights
E-commerce Optimization
Customer review technology: Continued innovation means more opportunity
November 29, 2023
  • Today, basic consumer-facing review technology is considered a commoditized, mature area. However, there are areas of innovation where providers offer differentiated solutions. These areas represent compelling growth opportunities for emerging providers and their investors.
  • Several factors are driving this innovation, including advances in machine learning and natural language processing technology, increasing e-commerce regulation, and growth in e-commerce's share of total retail sales.
  • We map the market and explore five review technology subsegments in detail: core review data management platforms, vertical review platforms, social listening platforms, review data analytics platforms, and customer intelligence platforms. We also highlight some key players in and adjacent to each area.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Includes discussion of TRIP and seven private companies

Evolution of customer review technology

Where review technology is headed

Challenges facing the review technology market

Five trends to keep in mind

Core review data management platforms

Vertical review platforms

Social listening platforms

Review data analytics platforms

Customer intelligence platforms

Review technology: An overlooked area primed for the spotlight

First Analysis E-commerce Optimization Index near one-year high

E-commerce M&A: Notable transactions include Affable.ai and PowerReviews

E-commerce private placements: Notable transactions include Faire Wholesale and Pitchy.io

Evolution of customer review technology

In the internet era, the average consumer follows a predictable pattern when shopping online: search; land on a product page or marketplace; look at descriptions, cost and special offers; compare against competitors; and (perhaps most crucially) read or view customer reviews. Customer reviews are so important because they are a goldmine of data. They provide personal anecdotes about, and evaluations of, the exact products and services prospective buyers are evaluating. They provide information about attributes such as size, fit, taste and strength that may not be available in other marketing and sales material.

Before the internet, review data (and often even basic product and service data) was not easily accessible. For product and service insights, people mainly sought views from trusted personal acquaintances. That changed with advent of the internet, which ultimately made millions of reviews on hundreds of websites and marketplaces available to consumers in a matter of seconds.

But this didn't happen overnight.

In the late 1990s, review functionality was nascent and primarily associated with marketplaces. Some companies focused on review aggregation, and a few prominent players like Rateitall.com, Deja.com and Epinions began to dominate the space. This developing landscape witnessed a wave of mergers and acquisitions, most notably Google's acquisition of Deja.com, which offered online comparison-shopping services, search capabilities, online ratings, and internet discussion forums. Today, Google is considered a review powerhouse where businesses need to rate highly if they expect to gain consumer trust and drive business from search engine optimization and the Google platform.

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