August 14, 2009, 12:00 AM

Online appliance retailer uses Twitter to solicit customer feedback

ElegantAppliance.com, an online retailer of home appliances and electronics, views Twitter as more than just a marketing channel. The two-year-old retailer has relied on customer comments made via Twitter to improve its web site.

Katie Evans

Managing Editor, International Research

ElegantAppliance.com, an online retailer of home appliances and electronics, views Twitter as more than just a marketing channel, says Matt Lalande, vice president of business development. “It’s not about us going to customers,” he says. “It’s all about interaction with them.”

The two-year-old retailer has relied on customer comments made via Twitter to make user-friendly changes to its web site, Lalande says.

“We’ve changed our site so much based on feedback from people just throwing out comments-‘put this here, put that there,’” he says. “It’s really cool to get comments like that from people who are not tech people, but just regular people. 90% of the time we implement what people tell us.”

The retailer recently put the contact for live chat at the top of the page because of customer suggestions on Twitter. Other customer-inspired changes included making the Buy Now button more prominent on the product page and enlarging the Free Shipping button. The retailer didn’t know that customers were overlooking the smaller Free Shipping button until it received repeated questions about free shipping via Twitter, Lalande says.

ElegantAppliance also uses Twitter to promote products, particularly seasonal items such as dehumidifiers. The retailer, which sells products for prices just slightly above the minimum prices set by the manufacturers, offers further discounts via coupon codes posted on Twitter.

“We really push the coupon codes on Twitter,” Lalande says. “That way, we can take our lowest, rock-bottom prices and offer our followers and other people coupon codes. That has resulted in a ton of sales.”

This year, sales have increased “a couple of hundred thousand dollars” due to Twitter-related promotions, he says. At year-end 2008, prior to Twitter, sales totaled about $700,000 at ElegantAppliance.

ElegantAppliance is careful not to over-post on Twitter, limiting posts to 10 or 15 times a day. About half the postings are promotions, while the rest are answers to customer questions or requests for customer comments on the site or products.

“Unless you’re Dell or Zappos, people aren’t really interested in following e-commerce companies,” he says. “They just don’t want to get bombarded with ads and marketing and this deal or that deal.”

For ElegantAppliance, Twitter has proven to be an invaluable resource for improving its business, Lalande says. “It allows us to interact and announce sales and specials and get feedback from people without spending a half million bucks on surveys and public opinion polls,” he says. “Twitter followers have actually changed our business.”

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