Last week Boston-based BzzAgent, a word-of-mouth marketer with extensive analytical capabilities, was acquired by dunnhumby, a direct-response marketer, also with extensive analytical capabilities, that in turn is also owned by U.K. retailing giant Tesco. (American readers should know that dunnhumby works extensively in the U.S. with Kroger.)
Bzz you should notice
I’ve worked directly with BzzAgent, and it’s always been a great experience. The starting point of their capabilities is a network of some 800,000 Bzz agents, consumers who receive product samples from manufacturers hoping to generate positive word-of-mouth. Just search on Twitter for #ImaBzzAgent, #BzzAgent or @BzzAgent to see the conversation they drive. As their CEO Dave Balter has pointed out to me in the past, BzzAgent is more than a network of “advocates,” they truly understand social media and analytics.
To oversimplify a bit, BzzAgent is great at driving consumers toward brands, and dunnhumby is great at closing the sale at a particular retailer – which is also known as shopper marketing. This is a powerful model for manufacturers and retailers alike.
3 reasons you should care about the BzzAgent acquisition
1. Shopper Marketing holds Social Media accountable. As Balter put it in an interview last week, social media “is still in the world of ‘likes’ and clicks, but substantial budgets just don’t come from that. Shopper marketing, on the other hand, is the ultimate measurement vehicle. It’s a thousand percent about ROI.” Yesterday someone posted on Ad Majorem that social media is just media, not necessarily an advertising vehicle, and they’re right if no one knows its effect on sales.
2. The path to purchase still ends at bricks and mortar. I’ve posted before that Social = Mobile. If you accept that premise, and observe that shoppers carry mobile devices into stores, we can also say Social = Retail. Apple and Google mobile platforms offer plenty of apps for looking up product information. Twitter is a secondary market for online coupon offers. At some point the cash register rings and its usually at a physical store.
3. There’s a trend forming. Not only did dunnhumby acquire BzzAgent but Walmart acquired Kosmix, which for lack of a better term we’ll call a “social commerce” platform. Read more about Kosmix here, here and here. And then there’s Groupon, which is also a blend of social media, shopper marketing and e-commerce. In short, retailers are figuring out how to harness the power of the Internet.
Perhaps now someone will figure out foursquare’s reason for being.