Podium Raises $32 Million To Turn Product Reviews Into Conversion Opportunities

The customer review platform Podium on Tuesday announced it had raised a $32 million Series A round on Tuesday to support product development for emerging channels and new marketing applications of customer response data.

The round for the Utah-based software-as-service startup was led by Accel Partners and includes Google Ventures, Summit Partners and Y Combinator.

One immediate product focus is an interaction platform based on mobile chat apps like Facebook Messenger, which are becoming common funnels for customer feedback. By integrating with a local business’s CRM or sales system, Podium can send auto-prompt surveys or reviews after a purchase.

The idea is to widen the circle of customer feedback beyond the vocal minority that tend to leave online reviews to “a more representative set of the business’s customers,” said co-founder and CEO Eric Rea.

And though the startup’s roots are in customer experience management, the product is branching into paid media and marketing.

Podium’s technology can message its client’s customers and ask them to leave a review – usually on sites like Facebook, Google, Cars.com or Angie’s List, where people go to read opinions about products or services.

Podium doesn’t do its own audience segmenting or targeting, but those are “among the immense opportunities the board is beginning to think about,” said Andy Collins, managing director at the equity firm Summit Partners.

“We’ve done a lot of work with companies that sell into local businesses and saw the review world was flourishing,” Collins said, “but digging in we saw customers were leaving not just reviews, but really strong follow-up opportunities for a business.”

A follow-up opportunity could include a home service request coming directly through a chat interface like Facebook Messenger, Rea said. Those aren’t direct advertising connections, “but big platforms like Facebook, Google and Amazon have shown that generating reviews becomes the highest-converting form of content.”

Bazaarvoice pursued a similar course last month when it turned its product review network into a data asset for CPG customers, allowing brands to pluck reviews from sites and place them on shelves in a store, which can boost sales conversions just like starred reviews do for ecommerce products.

Podium clients similarly use its scores and ratings as creative or copy for online advertising campaigns or even billboards, Rea said.

“What we find is that getting reviews that speak to customer experience, whether it’s cleanliness, pricing or service, brings up specific themes that matter for those businesses,” he said. “And those tend to be the things potential customers want to know about the business as well.”

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