May 2, 2019 by Rahul Chadha
TurnTo Networks has announced the release of its new SpeedFlex™ widget architecture, supporting its full Customer-Generated Content suite of Ratings & Reviews, Community Q&A, Visual Reviews™, and Checkout Comments™. SpeedFlex™ combines the lightest, fastest-loading widget components with a server-side customization model that gives full control over layout and functionality as well as look and feel.
With SpeedFlex™, eCommerce sites no longer face a trade-off between a slow-loading but easy widget implementation, or a fast-loading but time consuming API project. Now, brands and retailers can have the best of both approaches: customer experiences that are uniquely tailored to their brand and product categories, a quick implementation with minimal effort, and fast page loads that improve conversion rates and deliver meaningful search engine optimization (SEO).
An architecture designed for speed
Page load speed is an important factor for conversion rates and for SEO. Making web pages load faster can reduce abandonment rates by 20%. And with its recent “Speed Update,” Google’s search ranking algorithm now privileges fast loading pages, especially on mobile.
Since product reviews, Q&A, and customer-generated photos are some of the heaviest components on eCommerce sites, the speed improvements provided by SpeedFlex™ can make a significant difference to overall site performance.
Unique customer experiences without API work
SpeedFlex™ enables online stores to easily tailor not only look-and-feel but also layout and even functionality without resorting to time-consuming API work. With TurnTo’s unique new architecture, configurations of all aspects of design and information architecture are composed server-side and dynamically loaded to the production environment. Configurable breakpoints ensure optimized display on all device types from a single theme definition. With this approach:
- Changes made to the configuration appear immediately on the site without the need to edit code on the page itself
- A single page type can support multiple design theme variants for A/B testing
- The functions and experience provided to the shopper can vary depending on the category of the product
Bliss sees dramatic performance improvements
When skincare brand Bliss switched to TurnTo and implemented SpeedFlex™ on www.blissworld.com, the file size and load time of their product reviews components decreased to less than half of what they were before.
“We’ve been highly satisfied with our switch to TurnTo,” said Karilyn Anderson, VP of Digital at Bliss. “With TurnTo’s SpeedFlex™ architecture, we were able to easily achieve a highly customized layout and look exactly tailored for our brand, while at the same time significantly improving our site performance.”
“SpeedFlex™ is not only the highest-performance widget platform for enterprise-scale eCommerce sites today, it’s the foundation for our vision of bespoke customer experiences, going forward,” said George Eberstadt, TurnTo’s Founder and CEO, said. “In today’s competitive world, one-size-fits-all is not a winning strategy; brands and stores have to differentiate and deliver unique, compelling experiences. SpeedFlex™ enables the rapid innovation that leads to real business advantage for our customers.”
Want to find out more about how TurnTo can help your business?
April 24, 2019 by Rahul Chadha
Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods was founded in 1978 by Bob Moore and his wife Charlee, who turned their love of healthy foods and whole grains into a business with the goal of making high-quality natural and organic foods available to as many people as possible.
Today, Bob’s Red Mill is an employee-owned company with globally distributed products and a deeply passionate following—many of the company’s customers rely on it to provide quality gluten-free products due to their sensitivities or allergies.
We spoke with Kevin Irish, Digital Marketing Manager for Bob’s Red Mill, about how the company’s new Customer-Generated Content strategy helped to capture the passion of its most ardent customers for some powerful word-of-mouth marketing.
What was the problem Bob’s Red Mill faced before you revamped your Customer-Generated Content approach?
When I started, Bob’s Red Mill sent me to several food trade shows where thousands of attendees would come to our booth. At every single show a grown person would break down in tears while telling me their story. Bob’s Red Mill had made their life—or the life of someone they loved—manageable for the first time, mostly because they could finally deal with a food allergy.
Then I looked at our website, and none of that emotion was present. None. That was my guiding hypothesis for improving our Customer-Generated Content. If we gave our customers a platform to voice their love for us and our products, we would get lots of good content. And with TurnTo’s platform, I turned out to be right.
How did TurnTo’s products help the company?
Before TurnTo, all we had was a “write a review” button—and a poor user experience for those that clicked on it. There was no review solicitation. I crunched the numbers and found out we were getting about 1.3 pieces of Customer-Generated Content per day. After we implemented TurnTo’s Ratings & Reviews and other products, that jumped to more than 115 submissions per day.
Bob’s Red Mill almost didn’t turn on TurnTo’s Checkout Comments at launch, correct?
Yes, that’s true. One of TurnTo’s customer success reps highly recommended that we include Checkout Comments in our implementation, which was the right call. It’s been a huge success for us, and a feature we never would have thought of ourselves.
Basically, Checkout Comments pops up on an order confirmation page and asks, “Why did you choose this?” We’re getting content gold from that, so much so that we rebuilt part of our website around it to include a visual pinboard of products that get responses.
We use a slightly customized API from TurnTo that lets us only show comments we think are worth displaying. It’s just pages and pages of comments raving about our products, all based on that one simple question at checkout.
Recipes are also a huge draw for the Bob’s Red Mill website, right?
Yes, about one-third of our traffic is to our recipe section. About 18 months ago a bug in the recipe section of our website took our entire site down. When we brought the site back online we completely remade the recipe platform. A large part of that was to integrate TurnTo’s reviews and Community Q&A into the recipes.
On our old recipe platform users were leaving reviews for recipes that were actually questions. Things like, “Can I use almond milk instead of cow’s milk?” We weren’t really serving our customers’ needs.
With TurnTo’s Community Q&A customers didn’t need to leave a question in a review, they could just ask our recipe pros what would work. We soft-launched the feature without telling anybody and our first organic question came in 30 minutes later. We had 260 questions in the first month.
TurnTo even went back to the old questions that customers left in reviews and paired them with answers. Then they imported that content into the new Community Q&A feature so we wouldn’t lose all of that historical information.
Anything else to add?
I’ve worked with other “top players” for Customer-Generated Content collection in the past and was always really disappointed. They nickel and dimed us, lacked support and weren’t open to any changes to personalize or customize their platforms.
TurnTo met all of those basic needs and then offered us even more features. We love how much of the platform is open via API, and how well documented it is. It’s been a perfect partnership.
To learn more about how TurnTo helped Bob’s Red Mill improve their Customer-Generated Content strategy, see our recent case study with the company. You can also watch a presentation Kevin Irish gave on the benefits of TurnTo at Shop.org 2018.
Want to find out how TurnTo can help you?
April 4, 2019 by Rahul Chadha
Is your eCommerce site failing to give your shoppers all of the information they want? Some recent data from Salsify1 suggests that might be the case.
In a survey of 1,000 US adults, Salsify discovered that nearly 70% of respondents abandoned a product detail page (PDP) because it didn’t offer enough product detail or other information.
To put those survey results in context: more people left a product page because they wanted more information than those that left because prices were too high, or because they were concerned about potentially buying a fake product.
Nearly 70% of respondents abandoned a product detail page (PDP) because it didn’t offer enough product detail or other information.
eCommerce sites that fail to do the simple work of including enough product information on their PDPs are basically leaving money on the table.
But the problem is also easily fixable. Here are some key takeaways from the report that eCommerce companies should take to heart:
1. The More Reviews, the Better
112 is the magic number. No, that’s not a typo. It’s the average number of reviews that shoppers want to see when they’re looking at a product online, according to Salsify. And that figure was even higher among younger demographic groups.
On average, shoppers ages 25- to 34-years old wanted to see 159 reviews per product; that figure jumped to an average of 203 reviews per product among those ages 18 to 24.
In short, your customers want reviews. Lots of them. Why? Because a high review count is social proof that a product is good, and that can alleviate shoppers’ hesitation about pulling the trigger on a purchase.
On average, shoppers want to see 112 reviews for each product
“Consumers are really looking for that extra degree of validation, and it’s not even necessarily the star rating,” Andrew Weber, Data Insights Manager at Salsify, told Retail TouchPoints in an interview. “Those ratings are pretty similar between the top performers and poor performers. The difference is the average review count.” 2
2. Images Are Also in High Demand
The desire for more content extends beyond just five-star ratings and written reviews. Customers want to see more visual content like photos and videos on the product page than they did just a few years ago. In fact, Salsify found that shoppers expect a baseline of six images for each product. But even top-selling items in the image-focused grocery and electronics verticals only had an average of four.
The same went for videos; shoppers indicated they wanted, on average, a minimum of two per product page. And some age groups wanted as many as four to five videos for each product.
3. Customers Trust Each Other
It’s not just numbers that matter—customers also want to see highly relevant reviews on product pages. Salsify found that 30% of respondents said it was a good sign that a brand or retailer understood them when product reviews came from people similar to them.
Today’s shoppers place a tremendous amount of faith in one another to share authentic and honest feedback about online goods. Product ratings and reviews written in a conversational tone resonate better with shoppers, rather than marketing copy, which might read as inauthentic.
4. Shoppers Have Questions—Give Them Answers
Unfortunately for online shoppers, there’s usually no sales associate standing by to respond to questions. But your customers still want answers.
In fact, Salsify found that most shoppers wanted answers for anywhere from eight to 13 questions about a particular product to appear right on the product detail page.
“One option is to put in more textual descriptions that reveal what a specific product feature actually does, or have common Q&A questions literally right on the product page that can be interactively displayed,” Weber said in his interview with Retail TouchPoints.
Salsify also noted that commonly asked questions sometimes reveal shortcomings in product descriptions. Brands and retailers can respond to this valuable feedback by updating their product detail pages.
How TurnTo Can Help
Salsify’s research attests to the need for eCommerce sites to provide their customers with more written reviews, better visual content, and answers to their questions. TurnTo’s industry-leading innovations can help with that:
- More reviews – Our Ratings & Review product is designed to increase review collection rates right off the bat. We do that with features like Inbox Submission, which lets customers submit reviews directly from the body of an email, increasing content collection rates by as much as 200%. Our review solicitations are optimized for mobile, so it’s really easy for customers to submit content on their smartphones. All of that adds up to more Ratings & Reviews for your products.
- Better Visual Content –TurnTo’s Visual Reviews™ product is the easiest way for eCommerce sites to collect even more photos and videos. Our review collection flow is designed to collect photos and videos first from smartphone users—and submit reviews without any typing. These customer-created images can help improve sales at every step of the customer journey.
- Give Shoppers Answers – With our Community Q&A product you can supply answers to customer questions right on the product page. Believe it or not, most customers are happy to share their knowledge—we’ve found that about 90% of questions sent to previous shoppers get answers. But Community Q&A can also draw on information from places like existing product descriptions, previously asked questions, and even a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page to deliver near-instant responses to questions.
Want to learn more?
1 5 New Rules to Tackle Shoppers’ Rising Expectations of Your Brand; Salsify, March 2019
2 Study: 69% of Shoppers Leave a Site if Product Info is Subpar; Retail TouchPoints, March 2019
March 27, 2019 by Rahul Chadha
At first blush, a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page might seem like a dated throwback to the earliest days of the web—more dial-up internet than sophisticated eCommerce selling tool. But an FAQ page is actually a crucial part of a modern digital strategy for eCommerce sites.
A well-crafted FAQ page can free a customer who’s hit a friction point, and then ease them back toward a conversion. The proactive nature of FAQs can also reduce customer service costs by eliminating a shopper’s need to reach out to your customer support team.
Most brands understand the importance of FAQs, according to recent research from Gartner L2. The research company found that more than 85% of brands it examined had put FAQs in their sites’ primary or secondary navigation1, a clear nod to how important they’ve become for eCommerce companies.
But it’s not just about serving your shoppers. FAQs provide a source of high-quality, searchable content that can be used by several other systems in your eCommerce toolbox.
Here are 5 ways that eCommerce sites can max out the usefulness of their FAQs:
1. Give the People What They Want
Customer service communications are a great way to identify problem areas and figure what content you should be putting in your FAQ. Is your customer service team fielding the same questions over and over again? That’s a sure sign that your website is either failing to include the information your customers actually want, or that the particulars are difficult for them to find.
Remember, good FAQ pages are about specifics: How do I use this coupon I received in the mail? How long will it take for my new rug to be delivered? Both the question and the answer should zero in on a clearly defined issue.
2. Keep It Simple
Now you know what information your customers are looking for, so make sure you actually give it to them. Keep your answers short and clear; your language should mirror the question being asked. Don’t be afraid to play around with tone either. You can use jargon or slang if your target audience is a niche one that will get it, but only as long as it’s consistent with your overall brand voice.
3. If You Have a Lot of Questions, Group by Topic
Gartner L2’s research found that nearly nine in 10 brands organized their FAQ pages by topic, highlighting a best practice. By grouping a lengthy list of FAQs by topic you’re giving shoppers a better user experience by organizing your content and giving them some visual breathing room, rather than wall of text. You’re also make it easier for shoppers to scan content that’s similar in nature, and might be related to their original question.
WhatsApp, for example, does a great job of breaking up its FAQ by device, platform and vertical. The service rightly assumes that WhatsApp Business users are more likely to have more questions in common with one another than with WhatsApp users on an iPhone.
4. Guide Your Shoppers Back to the Purchase Funnel
FAQs should be a detour on the customer journey, not a dead end. Include links in your FAQs that will guide your shoppers back to the path to purchase, but only when they’re relevant. Think hard about using calls-to-action that serve shoppers’ interests first and foremost, not yours.
5. Search Should Be Top-of-Mind
Shockingly, Gartner L2 found that only about one-quarter of brand sites it analyzed took the effort to make their FAQ pages searchable. Big box brands were leaders in this regard, while fashion and hotel brands lagged behind. Both retailers and brands can benefit from instituting good SEO practices on their eCommerce site’s FAQ pages.
Start by creating a multipage FAQ instead of cramming all of the information on one page. You can add a search bar to your FAQ page if you think it will help shoppers get to the answers to their questions faster, or if you have a lot of information for customers to parse through.
How TurnTo’s Community Q&A Can Help with eCommerce FAQs
TurnTo developed its Community Q&A product to deliver fast answers to shopper questions from a resource they trust: other customers who’ve already bought the product. Answers to questions submitted to Community Q&A come from a number of sources. They can be drawn from previously answered questions, product Ratings & Reviews, as well as other relevant product content.
In addition, with TurnTo’s Community Q&A your FAQ pages—and any other pages on your website for that matter—are searchable, giving shoppers instant answers from both customers and your own in-house experts at the same time.
One of the major benefits of TurnTo’s Community Q&A is that it keeps shoppers on your product detail page even when they have a question that’s unrelated to a particular item.
In the example above, a customer on a product detail page wants information about Cole Haan’s shipping and tracking features. Community Q&A can serve up an answer without forcing a shopper to navigate to another page, removing a customer’s potential digression from a conversion.
Want to learn more about how TurnTo’s Community Q&A can help?
1 Helping Customers Help Themselves; Gartner L2, March 2019
March 13, 2019 by Rahul Chadha
Let’s start with the obvious: search engine optimization (SEO) needs to be a core element of any eCommerce site’s business strategy.
How can SEO help your eCommerce business? Solid SEO practices can help drive organic traffic to your site, capturing shopper intent and putting your customers seamlessly on the path to purchase.
But if talk of schema markup and other technical jargon makes your head spin and your eyes glaze over, don’t worry. There are some great resources designed to ensure your SEO strategy employs established best practices, even if you’re a beginner.
Start with Google
The best place to start is probably with the 800-pound gorilla of search: Google. If you’re going to focus your SEO strategy on one search engine, make it the company that handles more search queries than any other in the US. According to recent data from Jumpshot complied by SparkToro, Google or Google-owned properties controlled more than 90% of US search share as of fall 2018.1
At the highest level, Google suggests that websites:
- Give visitors the information they want. That means putting high-quality, useful content on your webpages that’s clear and accurate.
- Get other sites to link to yours. When another site links to yours—or backlinks—it’s a signal to Google that your site is reputable and generating good content. These links should be “natural,” meaning they weren’t created for the sole purpose of gaming Google’s algorithm. Google’s software is pretty sophisticated and can ding your site’s search results if it decides that sites are linking to yours in an unnatural fashion.
- Don’t “keyword stuff” or create hidden content targeted to crawlers. It’s tempting to put a bunch of keywords or other hidden content designed to better appeal to Google’s indexing software. But, again, Google can identify these tactics and will rank your site lower as a result.
Google has a helpful SEO Starter Guide that goes into much greater detail on how to improve your organic rankings.
Go Deeper for eCommerce
Google’s best practices are a good place to start. But eCommerce sites need to go beyond the basics to increase the online traffic to their digital storefronts. Thankfully, SEO service and tools provider Ahrefs has created a step-by-step guide for an eCommerce SEO strategy.
The Ahrefs guide understandably highlights the use of the company’s own tools and services, but the guide still contains some valuable concepts that any eCommerce site can apply.
Ahrefs suggests that eCommerce companies:
- Do keyword research. This entails using keyword planning tools to figure out the best keywords for both category pages and product detail pages. That can include the use of “long-tail” keywords that might not be immediately obvious, but that can deliver strong results over a long period of time.
- Optimize on-page SEO strategies. This does involve creating meta tags and schema markup. But don’t worry, the Ahrefs guide will walk you through those techniques, as well as the benefits of things like optimized URLs and unique content on both category pages and product detail pages.
- Fix “technical” SEO problems. This includes things like removing duplicated content—something that Google’s crawler is not terribly fond of—as well as eliminating “deep” or “orphaned” pages that are more than three clicks removed from your home page.
How TurnTo Can Help with SEO
Ratings & Reviews are incredibly important to shoppers. Our research shows that three-quarters of shoppers are less likely to buy something from a site that lacks Customer-Generated Content like Ratings & Reviews.
Why? Because Customer-Generated Content provides an authentic voice to shoppers from a trusted source—themselves.
But more than that, product reviews can yield serious benefits for your SEO efforts. TurnTo’s Ratings and Reviews are fully viewable and indexable by search engines. That means shoppers who submit a review are actually adding relevant keywords to your product detail pages, without you having to do anything.
Reviews also give product detail pages unique content, something highly regarded by search engine algorithms. Product detail pages that are regularly updated are also indexed by search engines with greater frequency, delivering even more value to your SEO strategy.
TurnTo’s widget platform is fully indexable by Google. And the indexability of our reviews also means they’re included in Googles’ “rich snippets,” the search results that include extra information, like a product’s star rating, that’s placed between the URL and the description of a search result.
Rich snippets like the one seen above tend to get higher click-through rates, generating more traffic for your site.
In addition, TurnTo’s Community Q&A product, which lets shoppers answer questions posed by other shoppers directly on the product detail page, also provide the same SEO benefits. They offer new, organically created content that’s updated frequently and can help surface items to customers on search engines.
Want to learn more about how TurnTo can improve your SEO strategy?
1 2018 Search Market Share: Myths vs. Realities of Google, Bing, Amazon, Facebook, DuckDuckGo, & More; SparkToro, October 2018
December 16, 2015 by George Eberstadt
Each year at this time, CIO Review Magazine picks 20 technology solutions for the retail business that stood out during the previous year. TurnTo was selected as one of them in their just-published 2015 list. Here’s a link to their official citation. Their explanation did a very nice job summarizing the changes that are taking place in shopper behavior and the resulting challenges and opportunities for online sellers. Reprinting it here:
Product ratings and reviews have been a staple of eCommerce since Amazon introduced them in the mid-90s. But the basic model hasn’t evolved much, while the online environment has changed dramatically. Phones have passed computers as the primary means through which many people access the internet. Visual content has become far more important in the online product discovery and selection process. Social media has trained people to value 2-way interactivity over passive content consumption. Messaging has taught people to prefer their text shorter and shorter.
Set against this backdrop is New York-based TurnTo Networks, the fastest-growing provider of so-called “customer- generated content” (CGC) tools for top eCommerce businesses and brands. TurnTo’s mission has been to update the basic ideas of traditional ratings and reviews to address the changes in the ways people shop online and how they create and use CGC in the process. To accomplish this, TurnTo has developed an innovative suite of customer-content applications for eCommerce built around this new environment: mobile-first, highly visual, 2-way interactive, and short-form text.
TurnTo’s line-up includes an up-to-date take on traditional Ratings and Reviews, a Community Q&A product that enables shoppers to get their product questions answered by peers who already own the items, a “micro-review” gathered at the point of purchase called a Checkout Comment, and a Visual Reviews product built around the reality that many people would rather use their phones to take pictures and video than to fill in forms and type. Together, these products fulfill the basic promise of customer ratings and reviews while taking the value delivered by customer content to a new level
Not only do these new and updated tools better meet the needs of today’s shopper, they also help online sellers address important challenges that traditional ratings and reviews don’t solve well. For example, stores with “fast-turn” catalogs, such as fashion, often have trouble building up customer reviews before items go out of stock or out of season. But TurnTo’s Checkout Comments start generating content from the first moment an item is available for sale. Or consider highly complex products like cameras and electronics. It’s impossible for reviews or standard product information to anticipate all the questions a shopper might have before purchasing. For that, Community Q&A is an effective way to quickly get prospective buyers the information they need. Or how about the whole category of do-it-yourself–from home improvement to cooking to crafts? Stores often want to call attention to the results of the products they sell–the projects made with their tools and supplies. Text reviews of product features can never highlight these outcomes the way proud photos taken by real customers can.
“Traditional ratings and reviews remain very important, and it’s crucial for stores and brands to use a platform that collects the greatest volume while ensuring authenticity,” says George Eberstadt, CEO, TurnTo Networks. “But it’s no longer enough to stop there. Customer behavior has moved on, which has created great opportunities for sellers to use these new types of customer-content to create better experiences for shoppers while addressing some of their most important merchandising challenges.”
October 13, 2015 by John Swords
Community Q&A got the late night talk show treatment last week. Stephen Colbert had Late Show guest Cate Blanchett perform a live reading of answers from owners of a Hamilton Beach travel blender.
Here’s the video:
August 17, 2015 by John Swords
That’s exactly what Ian MacDonald, Director of eCommerce for Silver Star Brands has experienced leveraging TurnTo’s Community Q&A. Ian was looking to improve SEO performance, increase website traffic and lift conversion rates. He thought he’d find an answer using customer-generated content, but he already had ratings and reviews. He needed more.
Ian implemented our Community Q&A and proprietary “Checkout Chatter” products which immediately began creating Customer-Generated Content.
Silver Star Brands’ customers can get quick answers to their questions right on the product detail page from fellow customers, staff experts, and the store’s FAQ content from the help center. To maximize the usefulness of this utility, Ian strategically used an “input teaser” on the product page, enabling shoppers to submit their questions without having to scroll.
Additionally, at the time of purchase, Silver Star Brands’ customers are asked the simple question “Why did you choose this?” TurnTo’s Checkout Chatter enables the company to collect short, positive sentiments from customers, equating to more Customer-Generated Content for their sites that is indexable for search engines.
Here are just a few results Silver Star Brands have realized thus far (a link to the full case study is below):
As a “bonus” – this incredible volume of Customer-Generated Content from both Q&A and Checkout Chatter is indexed by search engines, which has greatly improved Silver Star Brands’ SEO.
May 28, 2015 by John Swords
[Updated October 11, 2015 to reflect changes Internet Retailer made to their 2015 Top 500 database since the date this was first published.]
According to the newest data from the leading trade publication, Internet Retailer, TurnTo Networks Inc. is the fastest-growing user-generated content (UGC) solution provider to the “IR500” – the top 500 online retailers in North America.
Of the top 3 solution providers in Internet Retailer’s “Customer Reviews and Forums” category – TurnTo, Bazaarvoice, and PowerReviews – only TurnTo showed significant growth from the 2014 tally to 2015. The number of top 500 retailers using TurnTo grew by 53% during the period, while the number using Bazaarvoice declined 3% and the number using PowerReviews declined 12%.
Measured by the annual web sales of the retailers served, the results were even more dramatic. TurnTo grew 198% during the period, while Bazaarvoice grew 2% and PowerReviews declined 1%. Additionally, the Internet Retailer 2015 research shows that 50% of the annual web sales of the PowerReviews customer base is represented by a single customer. Excepting this, the total annual web sales of TurnTo’s IR500 customers would be ahead of PowerReviews and second only to Bazaarvoice overall.
I had a quick chat with our CEO, George Eberstadt, to get his thoughts on the reasons for this growth.
Me: George, the first thing people are going to ask on seeing these numbers is what’s driving them. So, what’s driving them?
George: First let me say – and I don’t want to be too saccharine about this – it’s humbling and gratifying to get this kind of trust from these businesses. The alternatives have been around a while, so we recognize that the retailers adopting us are making a bold move rather than the safe choice.
And I think that’s the short answer to your question. The customer-generated content space hasn’t seen much bold innovation for a while, and retailers that are tired of the same-old haven’t had alternatives – especially at the enterprise level. We bring the fresh perspective, smart innovation, and fanatical commitment that a lot of retailers are looking for.
Me: Can you put your finger on any particular TurnTo innovations that the market has been responding to?
George: I think it’s a mix – some big, some subtle. For example, we were the first to introduce the “active outreach” mechanism for getting fast community answers to shopper questions. That was really the breakthrough that makes community answering work. Then, we expanded our vision of Q&A to include answering an ever broader range of shopper questions even faster, so we added instant answers and knowledge base features. Q&A is still a new frontier with lots more opportunities for major innovations, and we’re pursuing those.
Checkout Chatter is another example. It’s simple and highly effective. And it’s a TurnTo exclusive.
Ratings & Reviews, on the other had, is a more mature area, so our innovations have been less revolutionary, though they still have a big impact on ROI. For example, our ready-to-wear UI is exceptionally clean, elegant, and mobile-friendly while still providing easy customizability either through CSS or our comprehensive API. Our review-solicitation email answer flow automatically authenticates the user, leading to more reviews from verified buyers – especially on mobile devices. Our transaction history integration enables the system to ask for reviews on previously purchased items immediately after a user writes a review or answers a question, which increases total review volume by 20-30%.
Me: Are there any other reasons you think retailers are switching?
George: I think our customer success process and the great team behind it is another reason. By focusing on the business as well as the technical aspects of integrating our tools, we ensure customers get the most value from them. And we don’t just move on to the next customer as soon as the last one is set up; no one is fully optimized on the day they go live, and we are pretty relentless in follow-through over time. That’s a hard thing for retailers to get a sense of during an evaluation, but it comes into play in our high customer retention and referral rates, which is a big part of our growth.
Data from the IR500 survey by Internet Retailer are available at www.top500guide.com.
August 19, 2014 by George Eberstadt
Mobile Commerce Daily has a nice article summing up the comments from Todd Sprinkle, VP, Content & Platform Innovation at QVC, at eTail East about how QVC is using video for post-purchase support. They explain,
QVC initially tested a post-purchase email to customers with follow-up on content on how to use or assemble certain items, especially particularly complicated ones. When returns decreased, the company broadened its thinking on the post-purchase experience to include video on how to use, how to wear and how to love something.
QVC’s strategy makes sense on many levels: decreasing support costs, deepening brand engagement, increasing customer satisfaction, and encouraging repeat purchase. It’s also interesting that while QVC started with a focus on complex items, they’ve broadened out to apparel as well (most of which you won’t normally put in the “complex” category).
Another powerful way to achieve the same benefits – without all the work of video production – is to leverage community Q&A. Shortly after an order is delivered, send an email offering the purchaser the opportunity to ask questions of customers who previously bought the same item. Customers will reliably help each other resolve their issues, and the direct shopper-to-shopper engagement you’ve provided will do more to strengthen their relationship with your brand than interaction with your staff would have. (Of course, your staff will also monitor these questions and provide additional resources where needed.) QVC could combine the offer to ask a question with their video email to double the effect. Another great place to extend the offer to ask a question is in the email where you solicit a review, since it enables customers who are having difficulties to get them resolved before they write a critical review. It’s also powerful to put a tear sheet in the box with the order pointing the buyer towards the Q&A utility, if they have any questions, or to printing that info on the receipt or the return instructions; those are great ways to head off returns and improve your c-sat scores.
QVC’s innovations are pointing the way toward a larger post-purchase support trend where we expect to see a lot of investment and creativity over the next few years. Tip-of-the-hat to them.
April 10, 2014 by George Eberstadt
We are beaming! No, Jeff Bezos didn’t mention us by name. But this is just as good. In his annual letter to shareholders, Bezos devotes an entire section to the success Amazon has had with their Community Q&A feature:
One recent success is our new feature called “Ask an owner”. It was many years ago that we pioneered the idea of online customer reviews – customers sharing their opinion on a product to help other customers make an informed purchase decision. “Ask” is in that same tradition. From a product page, customers can ask any question related to the product. Is the product compatible with my TV/Stereo/PC? Is it easy to assemble? How long does the battery last? We then route these questions to owners of the product. As is the case with reviews, customers are happy to share their knowledge to directly help other customers. Millions of questions have already been asked and answered.
As the pioneers of the Active Outreach(TM) mechanism for getting fast answers to shopper questions from real product owners, we were flattered a year ago when Amazon first rolled out this feature to see them following our model so closely. Now, we’ve received the only bigger compliment we could have wished for: this approach has been the same smashing success for Amazon that it has been for the >100 stores that use TurnTo for Community Q&A.
Of course, we haven’t been sitting around waiting for Amazon to catch up. Our newest version introduces great capabilities Amazon hasn’t got to yet: instant answers, FAQs, category and topic Q&A, a magnificent new user experience, mobile capabilities designed for the omni-channel world, and lots more. So, Amazon shoppers, keep your eyes open; we’ve got a pretty good idea what you’ll be seeing next, and it’s fabulous!
And if you sell online and are tired of eating Amazon dust, give us a shout. We’ll show you what the future looks like, too.
October 25, 2013 by George Eberstadt
Scott Anderson of Iterate Studio sent me an internal memo he wrote last week on the implications of Google’s movement towards semantic search. It’s interesting and important, and he offered that I could share it. So here it is:
I pulled the attached article from my favorite SEO/SEM site. It gets into “semantic search” which is the big new thing at Google as evidenced by Knowledge Graph, which is a meager step 1 down a path to answering complex questions for searchers.
Since Google wants to be the place that dishes up answers to questions, the clear SEO implication for ecommerce sites (well, any site for that matter) is to dish up more and more quality answers to relevant questions.
This frankly makes TurnTo an even more strategic solution provider. Using customers to ask and answer questions in their own words for SEO is actually a main reason we adopted it at Vitamin Shoppe.
Of particular interest given Google’s increasing focus on complex questions is the product’s support for category-level questions, which are more likely to be asked on Google than the very detailed product questions. Again, it’s user generated content so there isn’t a burden on the retailer’s overworked staff.
While TurnTo’s mission is to lower customer support costs and humanize the user experience, the content getting generated is right in the bullseye of what Google wants to see.
Traditional SEO practices will remain essential, but the future is already here.
Promoting the idea of Q&A on eCommerce sites at the category (or “topic”) level the last couple of years has felt a lot like pushing a rock uphill. On the whole, our customers have been focused on the traffic and conversion benefits to the product detail page. So at first I thought it was coincidence that we’ve recently had a number of our customers come to us to begin implementation of category-level Q&A. But what’s really happening has become clear: businesses are figuring out that more general topic discussion and Q&A content is increasingly important to their organic traffic strategy. And they are realizing that hosting this sort of discussion on their category pages is a great way to generate it.
March 27, 2012 by George Eberstadt
Dell just relaunched their community for IT professionals, rebranding it from AppDeploy to ITNinja, and changing the interaction model from forum to Q&A. This follows the Q&A models used in other IT communities like Spiceworks and StackOverflow. It’s a subtle but important change. A lot of forum discussion takes the form of Q&A anyway, but adding the formal structure of Q&A has advantages.
The core difference is this: a person asking a question is generally seeking answers, while a person making a comment is often seeking an audience. The person seeking an audience tends to have a more “selfish” set of motivations, like establishing a reputation or promoting an agenda. Those goals are often better served through vehicles like blogs where the commenter has more control over how their contributions are presented, and where their posts can be easily seen in aggregate. Hybrid community/blogs where a newsfeed spans across posters but individuals’ profiles are still prominent (like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr) satisfy the goals of commenters particularly well (thus the success of these platforms – there are a lot of commenters out there!). On the other hand, commenters who participate in forums tend to be motivated more by the desire to be helpful than by the goal of self promotion, and if your goal is to be helpful, answering questions is a great way to do it! So, community forums tend to attract answer-seekers and answer-providers, making Q&A the natural framework.
Of course, the distinction isn’t black-and-white, but Dell’s decision to switch from a forum model to a Q&A model is further evidence that Q&A is gradually taking over from forums as the interaction model for communities.