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Ask the Expert Part One: 3 Easy Hacks for Collecting Even More Customer-Generated Content

September 4, 2019 by Rahul Chadha

Key Takeaways:

  • Optimize your emails by testing subject lines, sending a follow-up email after the initial review solicitation email (RSE) and using features like Inbox Submission to make content collection frictionless.
  • Use Syndication to deepen the content from large brands and widen the content from smaller brands for a better coverage rate.
  • Launch a sampling campaign to drive interest in high-margin, low-volume items, give your evergreen products a sales volume boost, and build a better rapport with your brands.
Ross Reitman headshot

TurnTo Customer Success Manager Ross Reitman

You’ve integrated a Customer-Generated Content (CGC) solution like TurnTo into your eCommerce site and are now basking in an abundance of Ratings & Reviews. That’s step one.

But there’s still room for improvement. Step two is adopting some best practices to collect even more Customer-Generated Content for your site.

In Part One of our “Ask the Expert” blog post series, TurnTo Customer Success Account Manager Ross Reitman—our in-house expert—shares some of the tricks he’s learned to help our clients gather the highest volume of Customer-Generated Content with the least amount of effort.

(In next week’s installment, we’ll take a look at some techniques retailers and brands can use to maximize the value of all the great content they’re collecting).

And now, Ross shares 3 Super Easy Hacks to collect even more Customer-Generated Content for your site:

1. Optimize Your Emails.

Email is really the biggest driver of your content collection strategy. If you don’t have a lot of time to try a lot of things—but want to collect more content—you have to optimize your emails.

I tell all of my clients to send an initial review solicitation email [RSE] and then at least one follow-up email after that. Really, I’m curious about the incremental lift from the follow up email.

Are you getting 1% more reviews from the follow up email? Then it’s probably not worth it.

But I’ve seen clients get 20% increases in their content collection with very little effort with a follow-up email. However, you don’t want to barrage your customers with too many emails, that can result in an increase in opt-outs.

I also tell clients to test Inbox Submission. [Inbox Submission is a TurnTo product that allows email recipients to submit the entirety of their product review from within the body of an email.]

Inbox Submission basically eliminates a friction point from the review collection process, and you can use it with either the initial email, the follow-up email, or both. One of my clients saw a 300% increase in their collection rate with that approach.

There are a bunch of other variables that you can also test with emails. One is the subject line, which I think more people should be experimenting with.

We actually built a product that let one of our large office supply retail clients prioritize the SKUs that they showed a customer in the review solicitation email.  That way they could show new products, or private label products, earlier in the email for multiple SKU orders. It helped them get more content for specific products.

2. Go Broad on Syndication

Women holding handsWhen it comes to Syndication, retailers usually start with their big brands. That helps deepen how much content they’re getting—you have 100 reviews on an HP printer and then you get syndicated content and that becomes 800 reviews, which is valuable.

But if you’re interested in increasing your coverage—the percentage of your products that have some type of Customer-Generated Content attached to them—then you have to start looking at smaller, long-tail brands. Syndication is a good way to get more of those reviews in a scalable way.

Our syndication service lets retailers gather reviews from pretty much any brand source, regardless of whether the brands are our clients. And it’s free—we don’t charge either the retailers or the brands for the service, which really helps us collect a higher number of product reviews for our clients.

3. Tap Into Sampling

Sampling is the other easy way to quickly scale your Customer-Generated Content. It’s a good way to get reviews for higher priced items that don’t sell at a high volume, or for items that you’d like to promote to get a pop on sales volume.

One of my fast fashion clients has some more evergreen products. Their director of eCommerce wanted to give some items that were going to be available through the holiday season a boost, and sampling seemed like a natural way to do that.

Sampling is particularly effective for larger retailers and retailers that have good partnerships with their brands. They can go to brands, pitch a sampling campaign, and build stronger relationships while gathering more content.

Retailers can also go for a double whammy where they pitch brands on sampling and then tee them off for syndication as well.

 

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TurnTo Partner Profile: Curalate

August 28, 2019 by Rahul Chadha

Q&A with Curalate CEO and Co-Founder Apu Gupta

Apu Gupta Curalate CEOApu Gupta is the CEO and co-founder of Curalate, a marketing technology company that provides online brands with the tools they need to help consumers discover their next purchase. Curalate’s Fanreel product, for example, enables online stores to pull images and videos from their customers’ social media feeds for display on eCommerce sites.

Gupta is already a wily veteran of the startup space, having previously founded internet security company TaoSecure. He also served as the COO and CMO of MedPlus Health Services, a company he helped grow to become the second-largest pharmacy chain in India.

We spoke with Gupta to mine him for advice on making eCommerce sites more browsable and getting your influencer strategy up and running. We also managed to get his take on the golden era of hip-hop. Read on!

TurnTo Networks: One weakness of many eCommerce sites is making browsability easier for consumers. How can online stores improve the ability of shoppers to discover new items?

Apu Gupta: With great content.

To date, marketers have tried to help customers find new products online with tools. Reviews help you determine if a product you’re actively considering is right for you. Recommendations attempt to surface products that you might enjoy, but they often do so in such a restrictive way that you’re often presented with more of the same.

Great content, though, can help people browse in the same way they experience social. We thumb through a feed of images and videos created by brands, influencers and our friends, occasionally stopping on something that catches our eye.

And, so, when we talk with brands about how to improve discovery online, we often frame the opportunity as a question. What if this thumb-stopping content existed in eCommerce environments?

We’ve seen from our customers, like Tuckernuck and Monsoon, that customers respond positively to these types of experiences, spending more time on site, converting at higher rates, and finding more products than they otherwise would.

TurnTo: It seems like Instagram is adding marketplace-like features on a near daily basis. What should brands and retailers be thinking about in terms of their Instagram strategy?

Gupta: One of the great misses by brands and retailers today is that Instagram is viewed as a traffic source. Given Instagram’s size, this makes sense. But for the 1,100-plus brands we work with, Instagram—paid and organic—accounts for less than 10 percent of eCommerce traffic.

So what, then, is Instagram’s value? The content.

The shift that brands need to be making when it comes to their Instagram strategy is moving from a focus on driving more engagement and more traffic from social to a focus that includes taking those highly engaging videos and images from social and reusing them to inspire consumers across any touchpoint.

TurnTo: Most, if not all, retailers are still trying to figure out what their influencer game plan is. What’s your advice?

Gupta: With the brands I talk to, there’s a realization that influencers are as valuable for their content as they are for their reach. With that in mind, I’d recommend you start to formulate your influencer game plan by first speaking with the frontline members of your social team.

I remember talking earlier this year with Liz White, the Chief Customer Officer of Fullbeauty Brands, about how her social team was a significant player in changing how their brands chose models. Those team members, she said, understood more than anyone else how Fullbeauty’s brands were being perceived—and received—by its customers.

Your social team will have the types of insights you need to determine which type of influencers you should be working with, why their aesthetics fit your customer base, and how that content can be reused across other touchpoints.

TurnTo: Your Twitter feed is littered with references to Drake, Love & Hip Hop, and Meek Mill. In your opinion, when was the golden era of hip-hop? (It was the 90s, right?)

Gupta: First, let me just say I’m not partial to a particular decade of hip hop. I love the evolution of it, from when I first got into it in the mid 80s to what we got now. I could talk about this in more length than I’ve got. But I will say, I feel most nostalgic about the days of scratching. I grew up around scratch DJs—turntabilists. What people did with vinyl and a needle was, and still is, mind-blowing.

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How TurnTo Can Help Improve Your eCommerce Site’s SEO

August 21, 2019 by Rahul Chadha

Speed Matters for SEO

In recent years, many of Google’s changes to its much vaunted search algorithm and ranking system have made site speed more important than ever. Essentially, Google wants everything on the web to be faster, and now gives preference to sites that load quickly, especially mobile sites.1

TurnTo has made improving our clients’ SEO a core performance metric for our four products—Ratings & Reviews, Community Q&A, Visual Reviews, and Checkout Comments. Here’s how:

  1. TurnTo’s product widgets are written using an extremely lightweight JavaScript framework for the fastest display rendering.
  2. Our JavaScript bundle is one-half to one-quarter the size of our competitors’ and it’s fully optimized for speed.
  3. TurnTo’s code libraries dynamically load only what’s needed on a given page, improving browser performance.

TurnTo JavaScript File Size vs. Competitors

The Freshness Factor

Search engines love active pages that are frequently updated. TurnTo’s products capture more content than the competition with innovations like Inbox Submission, which lets shoppers submit product reviews and ratings directly from within the body of an email. Features like this and others provided by TurnTo give your product pages a steady stream of frequent updates. That’s a signal to search engine web crawlers that your page is important and will boost your SEO as a result.

Star Ratings Drive Click-Throughs

TurnTo’s star ratings are fully indexable by search engines. That lets an average star rating for a product on your website show up right on the search engine results page (SERP). A recent study from Conversion XL found that having star ratings appear in search results can improve click-through rates by as much as 35%.2

Carhartt Product Listing Ad example

Lots of Long-Tail Keywords

Some great news about voice of the customer: your customers write product reviews using the same words and phrases that people searching for those products also use. Product reviews embed these long-tail keywords right into your site, with little to no effort on your part.

Long-tail keywords are especially useful to eCommerce sites because they tend to be three- or four-word phrases that are highly specific and indicate that a shopper is close to a purchase. That means your website and product pages will rank higher in search engine results pages for shoppers who are pretty far down the sales funnel and have signaled a strong intent to make a purchase.

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Sources:

1 Using Page Speed in Mobile Ranking; Google Webmaster Central Blog, January 2018

2 Do Review Stars on Google Help Click-Through Rate?; Conversion XL, December 2017

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TurnTo Releases New SpeedFlex™ Widget Architecture for Faster Site Speeds and Highly Tailored PDPs

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

Compared to the other leading enterprise customer content platforms, TurnTo’s SpeedFlex™ provides a JavaScript bundle that is one half to one quarter the size and is parsed, evaluated, and executed by the browser 2-3 times faster.

To achieve these performance levels, TurnTo wrote the SpeedFlex™ code from the ground up using the most modern and efficient reactive JavaScript to deliver a full enterprise feature set in the smallest package. Speed is further improved through a configuration model that loads only the exact code needed for each page and the replacement of heavy sprite graphics with vector SVG images.

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?

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Ratings and Reviews and the Psychology of Popularity

November 13, 2017 by George Eberstadt

A version of this article was originally published by Total Retail on October 5, 2017.

The Association for Psychological Science recently published an interesting study on consumer shopping behavior, showing that when two comparable products have similar average ratings, shoppers are significantly more likely to choose the product with the larger number of ratings.

This finding won’t surprise e-commerce retailers, but in the psychology world, it’s an illustration of herd mentality leading to irrational decisions. When two comparable items have low ratings, it would be more logical for shoppers to pick the one with FEWER total reviews, as it’s possible that the poor average rating is a fluke — an unrepresentative sample of grumpy reviewers. An item which has a large number of low ratings, on the other hand, is very likely to actually be a dud. Yet even in these cases, where both choices are poorly rated, shoppers prefer the one with the larger number of reviews, because a high review count signals popularity, and people tend to buy what’s perceived as popular.

The e-commerce implications of this study are clear — retailers need to signal to shoppers that the items they sell are popular. Travel sites do this well by showing an indication of the recency and volume of bookings. Take Hotels.com for example:

And here’s another example from Orbitz:

On retail sites, product review volume is among the most powerful ways to signal popularity. While influencing review volume may feel difficult because it seems there are only so many people that want to write product reviews, there are actually many strategies to increase review collection.

For starters, it’s a mistake to think that the number of product reviews that can be collected has a hard limit based on the willingness of customers to write them. It’s more like drilling for oil — some comes out in a gusher, but there’s a lot more in the ground that you can get out by using clever techniques. To illustrate, we recently had a customer begin sending follow-up “please review your purchase” emails a few days after their first request. The retailer expected that the follow-up would get a much lower response rate than the initial email, believing that most customers motivated to write a review would respond to the first request. Surprisingly, the response rate to the follow-up email was 80 percent of that of the initial email — nearly the same. This showed that many of those customers that didn’t respond to the first email had no aversion to writing a review, they just happened to get the request at the wrong moment.

Since many customers ignore a request to write a review for reasons of convenience rather than intent, retailers can increase review collection simply by taking the friction out of the collection process. Strategies aimed at motivating review writing (e.g., incentives) can help, too, but they can also have side effects (e.g., reduced trust). Reducing friction is the low-hanging fruit. Technology that enables customers to write and submit reviews from inside an email rather than requiring a clickthrough to a web form can more than double submission rates. A simple change from a button that says “Click to write a review” to a display of five stars with the message, “Start by rating it” can add 50 percent to the response rate. Allowing users to write reviews before requiring authentication, rather than leading with a log-in demand, can double collection rates.

On mobile devices, allowing photos to be submitted without first requiring the user to author a review can multiply visual content collection up to four times. Asking a user who has just submitted a review to review other items they’ve purchased is five times more likely to produce an additional review than the initial email. It’s common for this “Do More” technique to increase total review volume by 50 percent to 100 percent.

The lessons are clear: Increasing review volume can have a major impact on sales by tapping into the popularity effect, and review volume can reliably be increased with the proper tools and techniques.

 

 

 

Behind our new look

February 5, 2016 by John Swords

I thought I would take a minute and share a few words on TurnTo’s new branding that launched last month.  For those of you that read our blog through our content feed, I encourage you to stop by the new website to see it in action.

The New TurnTo Networks Web Presence

While Visual Reviews was in development last year, we began work on a new brand system that would not just convey our vision for TurnTo, but also integrate and showcase our growing number of products and services.

For the logo, we aimed to communicate our community building vision, technical innovation, and fanatical attention to results, which are all core to our mission.  The new mark breaks with some traditional conventions in logo design which gives us the flexibility to use it in more sizes and treatments.

TurnTo logo background treatment

The supporting modular systems of color and content structure provide clarity and consistency across all of our media touch points.

TurnTo Suite Branding System

Design consultant Erica Heinz worked closely with our product and marketing teams to develop the new program.

“The new look is bright, clear, and responsive, reflecting the company’s spirit of innovation and service. The brand system gives each product a distinct identity and adds a unique, modern mark to represent interconnectedness.”

It was very important that the entire system be designed mobile-first to ensure great experience across devices and continents.  We were fortunate to have former MoMA and New Yorker web developer/artist Dan Phiffer lend his talents to bring the new brand to the web.

Our team is excited about the new look and we hope you fall in love with it too.

TurnTo makes CIO Review Magazine’s Top 20 list of retail solution providers for 2015

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.”

TurnTo is the Fastest-Growing UGC Solution Provider to the IR500

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.

The very best awards come from your customers

February 5, 2015 by George Eberstadt

Dear Newegg,

Thank you for the opportunity to work for you, and thank you for the recognition.  The best is still to come!

Your friends at TurnTo.

Newegg Awards 2015 Eggie to TurnTo as Best Community Partner

Newegg Awards 2015 Eggie to TurnTo as Best Community Partner

TurnTo Launches A State-Of-The-Art Product Ratings & Reviews System

December 3, 2014 by John Swords

We’re thrilled to announce the general availability of our state-of-the-art product Ratings & Reviews system.  You can read the press release here or download the product fact sheet here.

To provide some more context, I sat down with our CEO to discuss how this new product came about.

Heather:  TurnTo is well known for providing the top-performing community-powered Q&A solution for eCommerce.  Why branch out to Ratings & Reviews?

George:  Well, we resisted for a long time!  One reason we’ve been able to build up such a lead on the Q&A side is focus.  But 4 things changed our minds. I’ll go through them:

  • First, some businesses wanted to adopt our Q&A without increasing their vendor count.  Our Q&A has always been targeted at businesses that take a best-of-breed approach to vendors; but with integrated Ratings & Reviews we can meet the needs of those who prefer suite providers, too.
  • Second, we identified some very exciting ways to integrate the two products to deliver more value than either can alone.
  • Third, we realized that all of the enterprise-grade infrastructure we built for Q&A could be leveraged by our Ratings & Reviews product, enabling us to rapidly build out the application and launch with a full enterprise-ready feature set.
  • And finally, our customer research revealed some pretty wide-spread dissatisfaction with the existing choices and a strong demand for a better option.

Heather: What was the overall philosophy behind the design of TurnTo’s Ratings & Reviews product?

George:  We spent a lot of time talking with both current customers and prospects to understand what they wanted in a Ratings & Reviews product, and the feedback was very consistent: all the important functions that have been proven to work, beautifully executed, on an enterprise-grade platform, at an affordable price.  We also heard consistent requests to stay away from bells and whistles that don’t add value and clutter up the user experience or make the system management difficult just to appear different.  The architect Mies van der Rohe was famous for saying “God is in the details”, by which he meant creativity doesn’t necessarily require wild gestures – there’s plenty of opportunity for innovation in just honing an idea until it’s really right.  I’d say that was the philosophy guiding us here.

Heather: OK, so there’s nothing radically different about TurnTo’s Ratings & Reviews product, but are there still some innovations you’d like to point out?

George:  At the application level, one nice touch is that the “purchaser credential” (like the Verified Buyer badge) provides an approximate date of purchase.  That increases the credibility of the review and also enables the shopper to see how much experience the reviewer has had with the product.  We also offer state-of-the-art mobile capabilities – responsive design right out of the box and phone-optimized UX for review collection.  Plus, as I mentioned, we’ve found some very valuable new ways to integrate Ratings & Reviews with Q&A.  For example, when a shopper enters a question, our Instant Answers feature now searches the Ratings & Reviews for relevant information (as well as the existing Q&A dialog and the store’s knowledge base).  Also, the please-review-your-purchase email can now include an offer for customers to get help with their recent purchase from others who already own the item.  That turns Q&A into a post-purchase support tool; and by coupling it to the  review solicitation, stores can head off potential negative reviews and turn them into positive ones.

Heather: How has the market received TurnTo’s Ratings & Reviews so far?

George:  The reception has been great.  Many of our existing Q&A customers have already or are in the process of switching their reviews over to us, too.  Many of our new customers are signing up for both reviews and Q&A together.  And we’ve even got a some new customers who are starting with our Ratings & Reviews and planning to add Q&A later.  And that’s all before we’ve really started to market this new product.

Heather:  Does this mean TurnTo is no longer a “Q&A first” company?

George:  No, we’re still Q&A-first.  We expect that online business who are satisfied with the current reviews providers will still come to us for best-of-breed community-powered Q&A.  It’s already the industry leader, and we have many big enhancements coming in 2015.  But when you look the whole package of our Ratings & Reviews offering – the product itself, TurnTo’s outstanding support, affordability, integration with our industry-leading Q&A, and our extraordinary roadmap – it compares very favorably to the existing alternatives.

Google has Created an Important New SEO Opportunity for Online Stores

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.

TurnTo Social Q&A Delivers >3X More Answers Far Faster Than PowerReviews Q&A

November 6, 2012 by George Eberstadt

We don’t usually link to our competitors’ marketing collateral; they don’t usually link to ours.  But when we saw PowerReviews’ latest case study of their “Social Answers” product running on Skechers.com, we thought it would be interesting to check out just how “Social” it really is.  We figured: if this is the site they are featuring in their newest case study, it has got to be their newest product and a best-practice implementation.

So we did a simple test.  We asked a normal shopper question on each of 8 products on Skechers.com through the PowerReviews tool and we asked the identical question about the identical product on Shoes.com, which also sells Skechers shoes and uses TurnTo for Social Q&A.  Like usual, we kept track of when answers were posted, and if the answers were emailed before they were posted we counted the earlier email time.  Half the questions were asked on both sites at around 9:00am eastern, and half were asked at around 1:00pm.

The bottom line: TurnTo generated >3X more answers total, >90% were truly “Social” (from actual past customers), most arrived in 1/3 the time, with 1/4 the staff workload vs PowerReviews.

  • Just one hour after the questions were submitted, the 8 questions asked through the TurnTo system had generated 7 social answers.  There were no answers to the questions asked through the PowerReviews system.
  • At 8 hours, the TurnTo system had delivered 16 social answers and 2 staff answers.  Still none through PowerReviews.
  • At 24 hours, TurnTo was up to 20 social and 2 staff answers.  PowerReviews delivered 8 staff answers – one to each question – but no social answers.  In fact, even after 2 weeks, PowerReviews never produced a social answer.
  • At 24 hours, 7 of the 8 questions asked through TurnTo had received at least 2 answers total, including at least one social answer.  One of the TurnTo questions was unanswered.  The 8 questions asked through PowerReviews received one staff answer each.

 

Skechers says they’ve seen a 30% increase in sales when Q&A is installed on their product pages.  We believe it, and we congratulate them!  Social Q&A is a powerful way to increase conversion and to create the sort of user-generated content that search engines increasingly favor.

But we also wonder: imagine how much better their results would have been if their Social Q&A system delivered 3X more answers with most answers coming from actual past customers in under 8 hours (many in under 1 hour), the way TurnTo’s does?

Appendix: here are the specific questions asked on each shoe type.

Product Question
Skechers Men Energy – Downforce Can these shoes be worn in the rain?
Skechers Women’s Keepsakes Postage Can I wear these outside?
Skechers Work Women’s Softie Med/Wide Are these shoes good for running?
Skechers Women’s Dream Come True I have a pretty wide foot. Will these shoes work for me?
Skechers Men’s Sparta I need a good pair of shoes for street running and hiking. Do you think these shoes will work for both?
Skechers Women’s Keepsakes Boiling Pt I have a wide calves and am worried these boots won’t fit. How wide is the calf area of the boot?
Skechers Women’s Dlite Clog I have a pretty narrow foot. Do you think these shoes will fit me well? Are they good for lots of walking?
Skechers Work Men’s Galley I’m on my feet at work all day… are these shoes very comfortable?

An Overview of the Shop.org Annual Summit

September 20, 2012 by John Swords

September 10th marked the start of this year’s Shop.org Annual Summit in Denver, CO.

The Summit always seems to be the ideal place for online retailers and brands to close the conference season. In addition to the myriad of social activities, the Summit brings industry leaders and innovative players together and allows attendees to gather that one last nugget or exchange that one last idea with fellow retailers before they head for holiday lockdown.

Following is a summary provided by the Shop.org blog on five sessions:

Are you making one of these 4 online marketing mistakes?

With everything that goes on in retail/e-commerce, mistakes are bound to be made.  Luckily, some of the most common ones are easy to fix.  Read about the top 4 mistakes online marketers make, and how they can be remedied here.

Cost-effective tactics to optimize SEO performance

SEO may be one of the most valuable online strategies, right after email, but are you utilizing all the available resources to optimize?  Learn more about it here.

How to be a web analytics hero

Getting the most from your website requires more than just reporting.  You must analyze!  Landing pages, search functions and product details should all be examined.  Learn more here.

Why site speed matters for big time retailers

In life, most people don’t like waiting and the same goes for online shoppers.  Read an interview with Ted Middleton, Vice President of EdgeCast Network, for insights on why your page load times matter and how to keep yours fast here.

H&M: Lessons learned from David Beckham’s Super Bowl ad

I think the title is self-explanatory on this one!  Read about the tactics and strategy H&M used when planning to launch their Super Bowl ad surrounding David Beckham’s underwear line here.

For those of you not familiar with this event or have not attended in the past, this year’s Summit had one of the biggest turnouts recorded and with the Shop.org promise that ‘attendees will acquire valuable strategies and tactics to improve online and multichannel retail business’, you may want to check it out next year. This Summit is confirmed for September 30-October, 2013 in Chicago, IL. We hope to see you there!

What to do if your “social” Q&A doesn’t actually get social answers?

September 27, 2011 by George Eberstadt

[For a downloadable version of this study, click here.]

To date, Q&A on ecommerce sites has been primarily a tag-along application to customer reviews (provided by vendors that specialize in customer reviews). This approach results in a Q&A model that’s more like customer reviews than a true social experience between shoppers and customers, missing the benefits that a truly social approach to ecommerce Q&A provides.

The key to Social Q&A is that shopper questions should reliably and quickly get answered by real customers, and participants should have the ability to go back-and-forth beyond the initial question, if they choose to. If shopper questions receive customer answers only rarely or after an extended period, the shopper is disappointed and the store has missed the chance to provide a fast reminder to the shopper about the purchase she was considering. Further, getting past customers to share their experience with real shoppers is a great way for stores to keep their relationships with the customer base fresh. The rise of social networks has conditioned people to expect a high level of interactivity from social applications – so if a Q&A tool isn’t providing that, it’s not really Social.

On many online stores’ Q&A systems, we’ve observed that most answers come from store staff.  That can be an OK supplement to social answers (especially if the staff are really experts), but the store may be better off directing those questions to a live chat or phone line so the staff can interact with the shopper in real time.  And if a shopper wants to know something subjective – like how the product held up after 3 months, or how it felt, or just if it’s really as fabulous as they hope it is(!) – they may only want an answer from someone like them who really bought the item.  A Q&A system that relies heavily on staff answers also isn’t really Social.

That’s why TurnTo created an approach to Q&A for ecommerce that reliably provides a true Social experience – multiple, fast answers from real purchasers with continuing back-and-forth dialog. To measure the difference between the TurnTo approach and that provided by the leading customer reviews vendors, Bazaarvoice and PowerReviews, we conducted a simple test. We asked 16 shopper questions on a range of sites with Q&A powered by TurnTo and these other vendors, and we tracked how long it took for the answers to arrive.  Here are the aggregated results:

 

Methodology:  In our test design, we tried to keep the playing field level. We asked general questions that could easily be answered by anyone with experience with the product. We tried to ask the identical question about identical products wherever possible. Where not possible we tried to pick featured items on the Bazaarvoice and PowerReviews sites likely to have high traffic and have been purchased many times (no new arrivals items were used). We tried to pick sites where the Bazaarvoice and PowerReviews Q&A tools were implemented in a highly visible way on the page. That meant that the PowerReviews and Bazaarvoice sites were not always the largest in each vertical (in particular, in the photo gear category), but more often than not, the Bazaarvoice and PowerReviews sites had far more traffic than the TurnTo sites, and they did so in aggregate. We checked the item page where each question was asked at exactly the specified intervals and counted posted answers. We also provided our email address with each question asked and counted answers received by email.  (The Bazaarvoice and PowerReviews stores often emailed answers well before those answers appeared on the sites, in some cases even before the questions appeared on the sites.)  None of the sites were alerted in any way about this test. All questions were submitted on Wednesday, August 10, 2011 between 9am and 11am eastern time.  Here were the test sites that we used:

On each site, we asked 4 questions.  So in total, we asked 16 questions per vendor.  Here are the details of the answers received, by individual site.  (All numbers are for social answers – answers from customers – except those in parentheses, which are answers from store staff.)

Staff answers:  We also tracked answers from store staff.  These are shown in parentheses in the table above.  At the end of the two week test period, the questions on PowerReviews sites received a total of 10 staff answers vs 7 social answers.  The questions on Bazaarvoice sites received a total of 5 staff answers vs 9 social answers.  No staff answers were received on the TurnTo sites – note that 15 out of 16 questions on TurnTo sites received at least 1 social answer within 24 hours.

We encourage you to try this test for yourself.

The raw data:  Here are the urls for all the item pages for all questions in the test.  The asker is “Andrew P”, “Andrew RP” or “Anonymous” – also look for a submit date of August 10th where that is shown.  Note that on the Bazaarvoice and PowerReviews sites, we counted answers received by email, even though some of those answers – in some cases, even the questions – were not posted on the site by the end of the test period.

SunnySports (TurnTo)
http://www.sunnysports.com/Prod/HSRAP.html
http://www.sunnysports.com/Prod/ERKTS.html
http://www.sunnysports.com/Prod/NFCVJWN.html
http://www.sunnysports.com/Prod/TMBCHTM.html

GoJane (TurnTo)
http://www.gojane.com/54695-stuff-pleated-twist-front-clutch.html
http://www.gojane.com/55317-stuff-floral-print-wayfarer-sunglasses.html
http://www.gojane.com/52138-shoes-patent-platform-pump.html
http://www.gojane.com/45392-shoes-mid-rise-combat-boot.html

KitchenwareDirect (TurnTo)
http://www.kitchenwaredirect.com.au/The-5-in-1-Multi-Cooker-5L
http://www.kitchenwaredirect.com.au/Global-Ikasu-7pc-Knife-Block-Set
http://www.kitchenwaredirect.com.au/Red-Pizza-Maker
http://www.kitchenwaredirect.com.au/Scanpan-Classic-Covered-Chef-Pan-32cm

Adorama (TurnTo)
http://www.adorama.com/INKD7000.html
http://www.adorama.com/CA702002ISU.html
http://www.adorama.com/GBSLBK.html
http://www.adorama.com/IDS8GBUC215.html

Sierra Trading Post (PowerReviews)
http://www.sierratradingpost.com/high-sierra-us-snowboarding-team-backpack~p~3901j/
http://www.sierratradingpost.com/marmot-titan-backpacking-tent-2-person-3-season~p~88182/
http://www.sierratradingpost.com/marmot-precip-jacket-waterproof-for-women~p~2283c/
http://www.sierratradingpost.com/asolo-fsn-95-gore-tex-hiking-boots-waterproof-for-men~p~72552/

Johnston & Murphy (PowerReviews)
http://www.johnstonmurphy.com/product.aspx?pid=80786
http://www.johnstonmurphy.com/product.aspx?pid=72913
http://www.johnstonmurphy.com/product.aspx?pid=80374
http://www.johnstonmurphy.com/product.aspx?pid=75845

Hayneedle (PowerReviews)
http://www.hayneedle.com/sale/fagorelectricallinonemulticooker.cfm
http://www.hayneedle.com/sale/calphalonkatanacutlery14pieceknifeset.cfm
http://www.hayneedle.com/sale/presto03430pizzazzpizzamakeroven.cfm
http://www.hayneedle.com/sale/rachaelrayhardanodized10piececookwareset.cfm

Abes of Maine (PowerReviews)
http://www.abesofmaine.com/item.do?item=NKD7000
http://www.abesofmaine.com/item.do?item=CN7020028ISII
http://www.abesofmaine.com/item.do?item=NKCFDC1
http://www.abesofmaine.com/item.do?item=SDCF8GBXA61

Bass Pro Shop (Bazaarvoice)
http://www.basspro.com/Badlands-Diablo-Day-Pack-Backpacks/product/102015/-1507491
http://www.basspro.com/Eureka!-Solitaire-Tent/product/58274/90919
http://www.basspro.com/The-North-Face-Venture-Jacket-for-Ladies/product/10224821/134865
http://www.basspro.com/RedHead%C2%AE-Everest-Hikers-for-Men/product/19193/115209

Bluefly (Bazaarvoice)
http://www.bluefly.com/Rebecca-Minkoff-fire-engine-leather-Beloved-Mini-crossbody-bag/cat20428/315738502/detail.fly
http://www.bluefly.com/Betsey-Johnson-black-contrast-stem-wayfarer-sunglasses/cat60024/314050001/detail.fly
http://www.bluefly.com/Pour-la-Victoire-aqua-patent-leather-Irina-platform-pumps/cat20458/314292102/detail.fly
http://www.bluefly.com/Ash-black-leather-Remix-studded-tall-boots/cat20448/312714301/detail.fly

Walmart (Bazaarvoice)
http://www.walmart.com/ip/Hamilton-Beach-6-Quart-Stay-or-Go-Slow-Cooker-33162/4012120
http://www.walmart.com/ip/Ginsu-14-Piece-Stainless-Cutlery-Set/7942211
http://www.walmart.com/ip/Presto-Pizza-Oven/3218
http://www.walmart.com/ip/Stansport-13-Cast-Iron-Fry-Pan/16349862

Cameras Direct (Bazaarvoice)
http://www.camerasdirect.com.au/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product2_10001_10002_19502
http://www.camerasdirect.com.au/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product2_10001_10002_10620
http://www.camerasdirect.com.au/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product2_10001_10002_11838
http://www.camerasdirect.com.au/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product2_10001_10002_11588

 

Bazaarvoice is a registered trademark of Bazaarvoice, Inc.PowerReviews is a registered trademark of PowerReviews, Inc.

Meet with us at the NRF Innovate11 Conference

March 2, 2011 by George Eberstadt

Coming to the NRF Innovate11 Conference in San Francisco next week?  Interested in Social Commerce?  Stop by and see us in booth 52.

Or be one of the first 10 to pre-schedule a 15 minute appointment with us at the show, and we’ve got a $50 gift certificate for you from Amazon or Apple.

Send us an email here to schedule your appointment.

The fine print: One gift certificate per company.  For pre-scheduled appointments only.  Qualified retailers only.

 

The “Right Time” Web and Social Commerce

August 21, 2010 by George Eberstadt

I gave this presentation at the MIT Enterprise Forum of NY a year and a half ago.  The NY Times Bits blog piece today on comments by Venrock’s Brian Ascher about the “Right Time Web” made me dust it off.  I tidied it up a bit (but not much).  My predictions about the imminent arrival of the “Trusted Reference” model in the e-commerce world were at least a year too soon – I left those unchanged.  (Brian’s colleague David Pakman also blogged about this in the spring.)

July conversion lift numbers

August 5, 2010 by George Eberstadt

This shows the conversion rate of shoppers who interact with the TurnTo Social Merchandising widget while on one of our partner merchant sites vs the baseline conversion rate for that site.  Each letter here is one store.  We’ve picked the biggest stores from our network, since the data are most robust there (ie not just the ones where the data are most positive).  Full-month for July.

TurnTo presentation at the New York Tech Meetup last night

August 4, 2010 by George Eberstadt

Many thanks to Nate and Brandon for another fabulous NYTM.  Here’s our first public demo and announcement of the general availability of TurnTo 2.0 (aka the Social Commerce Suite).  The TurnTo segment starts at 10:30 and runs for about 3 minutes.

Watch live streaming video from nytechmeetup at livestream.com

Introducing the TurnTo Social Commerce Suite

June 8, 2010 by George Eberstadt

It’s a big day at TurnTo: we’re introducing our Social Commerce Suite.  (Yes, we know that it’s ambitious to call it a “Suite” with just 2 products – please humor us. Also, there’s more in the pipeline…) Official press release here.

So what’s new? 1. We’ve done a nearly complete overhaul of our current product, now branded “Social Merchandising” and 2. We’re introducing a new product called “Social Purchase Sharing”.

Social Merchandising. We’ve made improvements top to bottom.

  • Shoppers who open the widget but don’t personalize it by checking for friends will now see a range of other customers and their purchases designed to give the site that buzzing busy-store feeling and to encourage consideration and purchase of more items. (The goal is to address one of the big limitations of the shopping online: lots of stuff in the stores, but no people.)  We’ve built a ranking engine that selects which customers and which items to show, ensuring the greatest relevance given limited data.
  • We’ve made the value and process of personalizing the widget a lot more transparent to the user, so many more of those who open the widget will go the next step and personalize it to see their own friends in place of those the system picks. Underlying this is a simplification of the sharing rules to a vanilla Twitter-style “follow” model. (See our last post about the importance of simplicity when it comes to privacy and sharing.) We’ve also switched to delegated login for most of the friend list sources we support, including the newest Facebook protocols. (The short explanation: it’s better.)
  • The widget now shows big, attractive product images throughout, so not only are shoppers seeing which of their friends also shop at that store, the purchases those friends made look particularly inviting.  Good for cross-sell and order size improvement.
  • The comment mechanism has been redone to both capture more input from buyers and to show it more visibly to shoppers.
  • We’ve made significant enhancements to the guts of the system to provide greater speed and reliability. These include use of a Content Delivery Network as well as a range of server-side caching and summarizing strategies. The design point was to be able to support the largest ecommerce sites out there.
  • We’ve added new tools for optimizing the button that calls up the widget. It doesn’t do stores any good to have a fabulous social merchandising tool if only a few shoppers use it. We now provide a range of more interactive button designs as well as tools for doing rotation tests (randomized A/B/C tests) of alternatives. In its initial use, we’ve already seen large engagement rate improvements.

In a nutshell: you have to see it. So here’s the first screen shot we’ve released:

Social Purchase Sharing. Our partner merchants have been telling us how valuable it is when a customer posts to their social network (most often Facebook and Twitter) about their purchase. So we’ve added a simple tool to significantly increase the amount of purchase sharing online stores can generate. It’s an overlay that appears on the order confirmation page right after a purchase and makes a clear, persuasive appeal to share. The permission obtained from the buyer is also used to power the Social Merchandising widget, so the “sharing” appears both on the social networks and on the store site itself. Here’s an example of the overlay – just picture it on top of your order confirmation page. (See also our blog post on “Like” vs. “Bought”.

The TurnTo Social Commerce Suite will be generally available to online retailers at the beginning of Q3, 2010. If you are in Chicago this week for the Internet Retailer show (IRCE), please come by booth #431 and we’ll give you a full demo. If you’d like more information on the thinking that went into these products, please have a look at the white paper we just released: Onsite Social for Online Commerce.

New whitepaper out: Onsite Social for Online Retail

May 27, 2010 by George Eberstadt

After over a year in the market helping a few dozen innovative online retailers add social shopping features to their stores, we thought it was time to synthesize and share the big lessons we’ve learned.  So here [drumroll] is our new whitepaper: Onsite Social for Online Commerce.  In it, we get specific about things like:

  • How to leverage social networks for Social Merchandising within your store
  • How to most effectively encourage shoppers to share news of their purchases with their social network friends
  • Why adding Social to ecommerce sites requires different strategies than for content sites
  • What sort of results are realistic to expect

We’re just putting it out there – no registration required to get it.  If you find it thought-provoking, we hope you’ll get in touch with us and pass it on to others.  Enjoy!