October 28, 2009, 12:00 AM

Meijer’s beta social shopping tool tests shopper interaction

Meijer has launched beta testing of a social shopping tool on Meijer.com that enables its customers to pose questions to other shoppers who can answer promptly via a widget or later by e-mail.

Grocery and general merchandise chain Meijer Inc. is testing a social shopping tool on its web site, Meijer.com, which allows customers to query other shoppers while they browse the site.

A Meijer.com shopper can click on a tab labeled “Product Advisor” and type in a shopping question on a widget that appears on her computer screen. The advisor then answers the shopper’s question within a few minutes via the widget or can send the response to her e-mail address. The Product Advisor is currently available on the sports and recreation and electronics category pages and will soon be tested in the home and furniture category.

“It’s less intimidating than a live chat, but more responsive than a simple e-mail inquiry form,” says Dawn Bronkema, director, e-commerce at Meijer, No. 489 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

IMShopping Inc. provides the advisor service. It recruits shopping “guides” to answer shoppers’ questions and pays them on a per-answer basis; they can be preselected by retailers. The company offers retailers various pricing options for the services including a performance-based plan and a monthly subscription option, which can vary based on factors such as question volume or catalog size, according to IMShopping.

Customer questions and answers posed on Meijer.com are saved on a microsite and will help the company track customer questions as well as highlight areas where the company might need to provide more information, Meijer says.

Rick McNeill, web design product manager at Meijer, will be speaking at the Internet Retailer Web Design & Usability Conference, Feb. 15-17 in Orlando, in a session titled Step by step: Little changes add up.

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