Where else can you get that kind of voice asks YaDig founder
It's been proven many times that both positive and negative reviews help increase conversion rates for online retailers the world over, says Saif Al Zarouni.
November 21, 2012 6:05 by Muhammad Aldalou
Saif Al Zarouni says the availability of unbiased information makes for stronger customers. He is the founder of YaDig.com, a locally-grown review website that has gained steady popularity for its wide availability of honest (well, almost always) reviews on restaurants, spas, hotels and other services.
It has gained popularity because of its appeal. A costumer would much rather read several reviews about a service before spending his or her own money on it just to – as Al Zarouni says – find out it’s total rubbish.
Last month, YaDig and online retailer Groupon announced that they would be partnering up their services; allowing users to both write and read reviews about Groupon’s deals before making a purchase decision. It will certainly give the process a more trustworthy vibe but is this form of transparency the solution to their problems? Kipp chats with Saif Al Zarouni…
Just to get it out of the way, why do you think nobody else got the idea for YaDig?
I think the idea and need have always existed for a go-to resource of user based information where trusted opinions and advice can be found on anything from a tailor to a brunch. Everyone who has lived here longer than a few months will attest to the hardship of being recommended a place by a friend, only to find out the place is total rubbish. I know for a fact that people often depend on editorial magazines out here for advice on where to go, shop, eat and stay, overlooking the fact that publications are being paid to publish that information. YaDig is the only truly unbiased source for information on where to go when it comes to spending your time and money.
Obviously this partnership will be beneficial for Groupon as people will begin to trust it more but did you approach them or was it the other way around?
It started as a mutual conversation between me and Groupon’s CEO, Alexander Kappes. Groupon really does want their customers to know that they have their best interests at heart and they want people to be able to make educated purchases, which is what YaDig is all about.
Online retailers, despite experiencing growth, still face many challenges. Do you think YaDig (reviews) is the solution to their problems?
It’s been proven, many times, that both positive and negative reviews help increase conversion rates for online retailers the world over. I, for one, as a consumer, feel much more comfortable making a purchase after I’ve seen reviews. We believe that reviews are the future in this region and that people should expect to see reviews before they make a decision, just like people do in the West.
I am not too familiar with YaDig’s revenue model but what’s in it for you in this partnership?
YaDig is a well-funded start up. We do generate advertising revenue through banner ads, sponsored search listings (businesses can promote themselves by sponsoring a search listing ad that is highlighted and placed above the organic search results) and targeted email marketing campaigns. We do not search out partnerships that will lead directly to financial gain as our main goal is helping to increase the voice that the reviewer has. This partnership with Groupon will greatly increase the reach that one person’s review can have. Any person in the UAE now has the opportunity to have their words, their writing, visible to hundreds of thousands of consumers in the country. Where else can you get that kind of voice?
Have you considered similar partnerships with other local online retailers?
We are interested in helping users in all aspects of their life. We believe that more information makes for stronger customers, which is who we aim to empower. We currently don’t offer product reviews at all but we’re open to partnering with any like-minded businesses for a mutually beneficial outcome.
What was the worst review you have ever read?
We get very honest reviews. We very VERY rarely ever remove any reviews and that’s only because of foul language or something completely incorrect and slanderous that’s been proven (our support team investigates 100% of the reviews, really) to be untrue. We have a wall of fame in the office but those are mostly just the funniest, wittiest writings. There have been reviews equating the taste of a restaurant’s food to “rotten cardboard”, and I’ve seen sly businesses write the kindest, most heartfelt, amazing review of themselves and adding a photo to the review that is a map to their shop which was obviously a fake.
We see it all really but the point is, that there are honest opinions that can help steer you towards or away from certain places. We believe knowledge is power.
What do you think “e-tailers” in Dubai are doing wrong or what should they be doing?
I think that there isn’t enough innovation here. People are all trying to do the same thing instead of trying to be different; everyone worries about their competition too much instead of worrying about innovating. If you focus on customer satisfaction and making a service that helps the user, makes their lives easier…you will succeed.