May 14, 2007, 12:00 AM

Bazaarvoice launches Ask & Answer to build on ratings and reviews

Bazaarvoice`s Ask & Answer, a hosted service, gives consumers the opportunity to hear from other consumers on specific questions about products on a retail site.

Bazaarvoice, a hosted consumer ratings and reviews vendor, has launched a new application that expands the utility of consumer-generated reviews on retailer sites. Ask & Answer, a hosted service, provides consumers the opportunity to ask and answer specific questions about products on a retail site without leaving the product page.

“Consumer reviews solve one problem. They answer the question, is the product good?” says Bazaarvoice vice president of marketing and products Sam Decker. “But they don’t answer all of the questions consumers might have about a product.” In fact, a study by Allurent last year found that as many as 67% of shoppers leave a retail site due to lack of product information online.

In the new application, specific questions a consumer might have-such as “Will these headphones fold up small enough to fit into a briefcase?”-can be posted and answered right on the product or category page without requiring the person posting the question or answer to leave the page. To encourage timely answers, the retail sites using the Ask & Answer service have dedicated content managers who can answer on the retailer’s behalf.

To promote consumer participation in answering questions, the questions can be posted in several areas on the retail site to expose them to a wider audience. Bazaarvoice also can provide strategic counsel on tactics such as sweepstakes to encourage consumers` participation in answering questions.

When a question is answered, the system generates an e-mail containing the answer to the poser of the question. But Decker also notes the impact of the service goes beyond getting an answer to an individual consumer. Unlike answers given in phone calls, chat or e-mails to retailer contact centers that evaporate after that one-to-one communication, the answer remains on the site for all to see. In addition, Decker notes, retailers glean insights and marketing intelligence from the posts.

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