August 27, 2008, 12:00 AM

Social networking tools unite Circuit City shoppers and resources online

Big-screen TV shoppers struggling with technical jargon while shopping on CircuitCity.com can get the advice of friends and other consumers through new social networking tools and product ratings. Shoppers can also connect online with the retailer’s product specialists.

Big-screen TV shoppers facing a mystifying array of models and technical jargon now can bring along a friend while shopping at CircuitCity.com. New social networking tools and ratings resources on the site enable visitors to chat with others and review magazine articles rating TVs and other electronics gear.

A social media platform from Pluck Corp. also enables visitors to connect online with company product specialists for advice on tricky purchases, such as high-definition TVs, digital cameras and personal computers.

Circuit City says its goal is to connect with and learn from consumers. “We’re not just presenting deals, we’re listening to what they are saying in forums,” says Todd Feldman, senior manager of emerging marketing channels. “Shopping in a store is a social experience, why not replicate that online?”

The platform, dubbed CityCenter, counted more than 5,000 contributions per month from May through early August; identified active participation in 35 product category forums, including frequent interaction with both Circuit City and the retailer’s Firedog technical staff; and hosted 15 topical and contest photo galleries, the retailer says.

CircuitCity.com has had consumer forums in place since 2006, but now visitors can create user profiles and log in to all forums with a single sign-on, Feldman says.

CircuitCity.com has also added topical blogs on TVs, computers and other products. “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.”

The new tools build on the retailer’s existing social networking features that include product demos, 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.

Circuit City is looking to better serve the research-minded consumer electronics shopper by providing broader resources, because “customers believe and trust different sources of information as they make decisions,” Feldman says.

billb@verticalwebmedia.com

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