October 23, 2008, 12:00 AM

Sports e-retailers play to customers’ passions with new technology

At sports equipment retailers Evo and Golfballs.com, new community-oriented technology applications support efforts to play to the passions customers have about recreational activities and keep them engaged as loyal shoppers.

At sports equipment retailers Evo and Golfballs.com, new community-oriented technology applications support efforts to play to the passions customers have about recreational activities and keep them engaged as loyal shoppers.

Outdoor sports gear and apparel retailer Evo, which sells online at evogear.com, faces an ongoing challenge to further engage its passionate community of skiers, snowboarders and other outdoor enthusiasts, says head of e-commerce Nathan Decker.

Having deployed a customer reviews application from PowerReviews Inc. three years ago, Evo wanted to make it more community oriented and deployed in August the vendor’s new AnswerBox application, which adds a customer-driven question-and-answer feature. The AnswerBox invites customers who enter product reviews to also post questions and answers about Evo’s products in a forum shared by other customers as well as by Evo’s merchandise experts.

The new feature’s multiple purpose is to further engage customers, to learn more about what customers want and need, and to provide more efficient customer service and lessen the load on inquiries to customer service reps. It also provides a more customer-friendly interface for entering comments, plus an easier way for Evo managers to run reports on what customers are saying about their products.

It’s doing the job as expected, Decker says. “We’re definitely seeing more customer engagement, and more questions coming through,” he says.

At Golfballs.com, CEO Tom Cox is also planning to build on the passions of his customers, golfing enthusiasts, by working with Google Inc.’s OpenSocial development framework. The plan is to develop traffic-generating widgets, such as one that might be called “Hole-in-One,” that customers can place on their Facebook or other social network pages to share information on things like golf scores, the clubs they use and even personal designs of golf shoes.

“Golfers love to talk about their game,” Cox says. He’s also planning to launch the similarly sounding Golfball.com as a golfer’s social network site, possibly with a wish list that could connect to e-commerce pages on Golfballs.com.

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