November 13, 2008, 12:00 AM

How customer reviews help Office Depot target customer segments

Office Depot has found that customer review content included in e-mail marketing campaigns targeting specific segments of customers has produced significant increases in conversion rates, director of online marketing Emily Pelosi says.

Office Depot Inc. has found that customer reviews content included in e-mail marketing campaigns targeting specific segments of customers has produced significant increases in conversion rates, director of online marketing Emily Pelosi says.

Office Depot, using consumer-generated product reviews processed through a Bazaarvoice application, has also incorporated consumer reviews in landing page optimization projects and paid-search marketing campaigns. In each case, the retailer has used its Coremetrics web analytics tool to see a strong boost in metrics including click-through rates, sales-producing conversion rates and sales volume, Pelosi says.

“This is one of the most interesting programs I’ve ever worked on because we’re putting the consumer first in our marketing content,” she says. Injecting consumer reviews content into e-mail marketing messages and on landing pages helps to target consumers with interests similar to those expressed by customers who wrote the reviews, she adds. “This is really powerful when we produce copy that talks to specific customer segments.”

When shoppers fill out a product review form on Office Depot.com, they identify themselves by information such as age, occupation and particular interests. This personalized information combined with their review content can serve as a passive means of marketing to segments of customers, because other customers with similar backgrounds and interests will identify the review writer when visiting OfficeDepot.com, Pelosi says.

But the office supplies retailer can also take a more proactive approach when injecting customer reviews into e-mail marketing messages targeted at groups of consumers with demographics and interests similar to the review writer’s, she adds.

Office Depot, No. 3 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, has also found that customer reviews in paid-search ads attracts more visitors and buyers to its retail e-commerce site.

The retailer first deployed consumer reviews content through Bazaarvoice to its e-commerce site earlier this year. It then incorporated information from the reviews content, such as “5 Star Customer Reviewed HP Monitor, Read Reviews & Save at Office Depot,” in paid-search ads.

Using web analytics, Office Depot conducted tests that showed that search ads featuring keywords related to consumer reviews content on OfficeDepot.com outperformed search ads without customer reviews-related keywords, Pelozi says.

The search marketing campaigns that used the customer reviews-related keywords produced a 78.5% increase in ad click-through rates, and a 23.8% increase in conversions to sales, she notes. As a result, Office Depot increased revenue by 196.6%, and the number of buyers by 183.3%, in the search ads using reviews-related keywords compared to search ads without reviews-related keywords, Pelozi says.

“I’m ecstatic,” she adds. “Even negative reviews have been helpful, because we’ve been able to post responses that show how we addressed problems.”

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