August 12, 2008, 12:00 AM

Circuit City juices up social networking tools and ratings resources

CircuitCity.com has added social networking tools that enable online shoppers to connect with each other and Circuit City associates when researching electronics gear.

Circuit City Stores Inc. has added social networking tools that enable online shoppers to connect with each other and Circuit City associates when researching electronics gear on CircuitCity.com. The electronics retailer also renewed agreements with ConsumerReports.org and Popular Photography and Sound & Vision magazines, three independent resources that offer product ratings and recommendations.

A social media platform from Pluck Corp. enables customers to connect with shoppers and company product specialists when considering tricky purchases, such as High Definition TVs, digital cameras, MP3 players and personal computers.

The platform, dubbed CityCenter, has counted more than 5,000 web site user contributions per month during the past 90 days; identified active participation in 35 product category forums, including regular and frequent interaction with both Circuit City and the retailer’s firedog technical staff; and hosted 15 topical and contest photo galleries, which have attracted more than 2,500 user-submitted photos, says Circuit City.

CircuitCity.com has had consumer forums in place since 2006, but now visitors can create their own user profile and log in to all social forums with a single sign-on, Todd Feldman, senior manager of emerging marketing channels, tells Internet Retailer.

“Consumers now can post comments to the online community about consumer electronics topics within our categories. They can assist other customers or just be an enthusiast,” Feldman says.

CircuitCity.com now also includes topical blogs on TVs, computers and other technology. “There are people on my team dedicated to writing blogs about three times a week,” Feldman says. “We want our bloggers to stay on the cutting edge of what’s out there in the consumer electronics market, but also to allow customers to comment on those blogs. Next we will be able to leverage comments on the blogs and our bloggers can pull out ideas and write about them to generate more discussion.”

CircuitCity.com also can link its blogs to Pluck’s customer network that includes news organizations and content syndicators, he says.

Circuit City’s goal for the social networking tools is connecting with and learning from consumers. “It’s a new way of reaching consumers outside traditional advertising means using content that we create,” Feldman says. “And it allows us to listen to our customers. We’re not just presenting deals, we’re listening to what they are saying in forums. Shopping in a store is a social experience, why not replicate that online?”

The new tools build on the retailer’s existing social networking technology including more than 1,000 product demos, more than 150,000 visitor ratings and reviews, wish lists and product finders.

In addition to more social networking technology, CircuitCity.com will host an expanded library of Consumer Reports’ product ratings and buying advice along with new product reports from experts at Popular Photography and Sound & Vision.

Circuit City is looking to better serve the research-minded consumer electronics shopper. “The reason we provide broad content, including manufacturers’ product information and resources like Consumer Reports, is that customers believe and trust different sources of information as they make decisions,” Feldman says. “We are trying to be a conduit for the information they need to make buying decisions.”

Circuit City is No. 16 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

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