Posted July 24, 2012 by Veronika Sonsev
George Eberstadt of TurnTo identifies the best methods for offering Social Q&A on your retail site and how it can greatly increase customer conversions. Tara Hunt, CEO of Buyosphere, explores the customer’s POV and what influences them before committing to an online purchase.
A recording of the webinar can be found at the bottom of this post.
Finding the ROI in Social Q&A
by George Eberstadt, CEO & Founder of TurnTo
Two models of Q&A: the first can run directly from your storefront & the second with a content oriented environment.
What is Social Q&A?
Getting shopper questions about your products answers by people who really bought those products from you in the past.
There’s two ways to get your questions answered: by people from your customer support center or social, getting your past customers to answer those questions for you.
Yves Saint Laurent gets quick answers from past customers, if a shopper clicks on a button they can ask a question about the product or see previous dialogues from questions already asked.
GoJane is a fashion site with fast turnaround, most inventory sells out within five weeks. The company felt that by the time customer reviews would be written for a particular item that item would have already been out of stock. GoJane used the Q&A strategy because it’s so quick to get feedback for the customer.
- What color did you get
- Is this dress too short for Prom?
- Did you like it?
For Product-Related Questions, Social Answers are Often Best
If you think about product-related questions, excluding questions like ‘is it in stock, does it come in blue, what’s your warranty policy?’ these questions are not about the attributes of the product, they are about store policies, questions only the store can answer. On the other hand, social questions should be answers by peer’s opinions, taste-related questions, ex ‘how did it hold up after two years?’.
This spectrum, from the social to the staff, you see that peer related questions can only be answered by other customers with credibility. If you don’t provide a clearly social way to get those answers shoppers won’t even ask them. Shoppers know if you ask a store clerk ‘does this look good on me’, the answer will obviously be yes; if you ask a peer you’ll get a most objective opinion. Answers from fellow customers have a significant advantage because they will typically go beyond the questions when providing an answer, not to mention the benefit of reducing staff workload. Of course you should get the staff to check the answers and sometimes supplement the answers.
Certain Questions Need Social Answers
Case study: Emitations sells celebrity inspired jewellery (ex the Kate Middleton ring).
Chris S. asked ‘how durable is this ring? Does anyone had issues with the stone chipping?’ Eugene, from the Emitations staff jumped in and said “thanks for you inquiry we have gotten five-star reviews for this ring, here’s an example, we also have a 60 day exchange policy for this ring etc.” This is a good solid staff answer.
Compare this to the social answers for the same product:
Deanna P: “Christopher I was just telling someone today how durable the ring is, most rings will tarnish, this one does not.”
Ms. P: I’m very satisfied with this ring, no problems and I wear it quite a lot.”
At a technical level the staff and social answers are quite the same but the credibility from peers blows away staff answers. There’s no harm that Eugene is chiming in on this, but it’s the answers from peers that is really moving Christopher to convert and purchase.
Even when the staff could answer, social answers often go much further. Even with fact related questions where a staff could answer, the customer answers with added sentiment. Seattle Coffee Gear sells high-end espresso machines:
Dave asked “what size coffee cup fits between the drip tray and the spout on this model? ”
Caroline H: “Four inches is the answer to your question, hope this help! I love my machine!’
Linda R: “I estimate 4.5 inches. You will love this machine I highly recommend it.”
Robyn H: “this machine is wonderful, I use it non-stop.”
Nobody asked these customers to write this, they volunteer the sentiment. That’s something you can get from having your customers answer for you, if you just had the staff answer ‘4.5 inches’ you would miss out on all that extra content.
Active Outreach is the Key to Social Q&A
If you have experience with customer review you know putting customer reviews up on your site doesn’t mean people will actually write them. Most retail sites send out an email three weeks after purchase and ask the customer to write a review, which results in a tiny trickle of reviews. It’s a post and pray approach.
Active Outreach posts questions to past customers in real-time. TurnTo sends out an email to those who have purchased a product explaining a fellow customer has a question and would like help. The email sends the customer back to the store (added purchase opportunity) and they can easily answer the questions.
TurnTo compares answer rates using Active Outreach to those who don’t. Here are the results from asking identical questions for identical items:
Enabling a two way shopper dialog is actually really tricky: you are putting an open dialog on your storefront asking strangers to type in anything they want and emailing that to your customers. You need robust moderation and it needs to be fast. You need an engine for allocating the questions so you are sure no one customer gets bombarded with too many requests. Getting filtering both fast and accurate is crucial.
If you get it right, active outreach is very safe & very effective.
- 8% average answer rate on question emails, <0.3% opt out rate
- 90% of questions receive first answer is typically under an hour
Benefits of using Social Q&A on your retail site
1. Increased shopper conversion
- 15% of orders come from people who interact with Q&A while shopping
- 200-700% higher conversion rate than baseline
- social Q&A generates 2-3X the UGC of customer reviews
- 8% answer rate on email brings lots of past customers back
- Customers who come back to answer convert at 2-3X the baseline
4. Reduced call center load
5. Data collection
- pre-purchase engagement captures shopper profile info (esp with social sign-on)
- Additioanl insight – Questions (pre-purchase) reveal gaps in merchandising that customer reviews (post-purchase) don’t uncover
Social Q&A: fitting into your marketing mix
by Tara Hunt, CEO of Buyosphere
There is some anxiety when purchasing online items, even when returns are free and easy.
Shopping from the Customer’s POV
Traditional shopping model three-step process: stimulus, decision, experience. Due to the rapid changes of online retail, a 4th step must be added to this process (Step 2. ZMOT, see below).
Step 1. Stimulus: something external makes me want to buy something. Celebrities wearing something will make you want to buy a particular item, reading a magazine, friends post on Facebook a picture of a great hat, pins on Pinterest etc.
Companies that help at this stage:
Pinterest, Facebook Ads – these companies help on ramp a customer. Investing in advertising, social media. Hoping to get your product in front of as many people as you can.
Step 2. ZMOT (Zero moment of Truth) If customers want to buy something they will shop an average of 10.7 different sources in their decision-making process:
Why are they doing this? They want to feel more secure in their purchase decision. It’s no ‘do i trust this store with my credit card’ anymore but ‘do i really want to go through the hassle of having to return this if I don’t like the product.’ So there is a lot of research a customer goes through before making a purchase.
Companies that help at this stage:
Buyosphere, Google Ad Words: you want to appear at the moment of research, when someone is starting to search for different options for a dress or shoe etc. Its a targeted approach, getting infront of a customer that’s looking for you and getting them to your site.
Step 3. Decision: Customers want to hear from our peers, the store, the professionals, experts. Even if a product is not within a customer’s budget, seeing comments might steer them into converting. Feedback from past customers from Modcloth gets feedback about fit, length, quality and body type so new customers can make a purchase and increase the chances they will be happy about it.
Companies that help at this stage:
TurnTo, Chat&: affected by customer service. The #1 issue for shopping cart abandonment was that there were too many steps in checking out. On-site Q&A, secure payments, anything that eases the customer’s decision and taking away their anxiety
Step 4. Experience: this is pretty standard – if customers have a good experience with a product they will come back. C Wonder for example, has an incredible dressing room experience: you can set the lighting, the music, making shopping at the store a really satisfying experience. This makes people want to share that experience and make people want to have that experience themself.
Companies that help at this stage:
TurnTo, ShareThis: making your customer even more proud of their purchase by sharing it with others. Social media social reviews, word of mouth. The best way to find new customers if existing customers will sing your praises.
Your marketing funnel. The biggest net cast will cost you the most money and its also where you have the least control of the situation. Q&A affects every level of the marketing funnel.
Buyosphere: Fashion Suggestions from Real People
Fashion shopping community where customers can get advice from fellow community members, fashion experts and editors. Collaborative style guides are created by stylists and bloggers. This is all user generated content with the opportunity for designersa and brand to participate in the creation of the style guides as well as answering the Q&A.
Buyosphere Style Guides:
Created by style editors, 32 in the Buyopshere community. Professional stylists, well-known fashion bloggers and professional bloggers who have been published in magazines. They create a guide (either collaborative or solo) around a certain topic ex jewelry with cause, best wedges for summer, cutest fall coats. Idea behind the guides is to demystify fashion – stylists are encouraged to use products not commonly found to promote product discovery.
Anyone can ask questions on the platform, people have asked “I saw Jessica Alba wearing this jacket where can I find it”, or “these are my favorite jeans, they no longer make them, anywhere I can find jeans that fit similarily,” or “what can I wear to a summer wedding?”
These are the types of questions only a human being can answer, that you can’t get through search engines. These customers want to uncover treasures not commonly found on sites.
Women have 20 different style profiles, men have 18 – customers chose what profiles they most liken to. When retailers join the site they can identify what their products’ style is so customers can discover new retail sites that fit their style.
Case study: theworldofwonderful.com
The core business model of Buyosphere is not only that your peers answer your questions for you, but also for retailers and designers to answer the questions themselves. When you have a designer account you have a price to answer the question and at that point you can decide whether or not you want to answer that question. Recently Buyosphere has a question about a cheaper clutch. Julia, the designer of theworldofwonderful.com, answered the question with a link to her retail store. Six weeks later Julia sold out of her entire stock.
Result: if she didn’t take initiative and reach out to customers she would have never seen this kind of success. Retailers can pin their products online all they want but it doesn’t guarantee that your customers will discover you.