February 21, 2013, 11:14 AM

GoJane.com boosts organic search traffic 20% with social question-and-answer tool

Customers ask and answer up to 200 product questions on the site each day.

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A question-and-answer tool has helped GoJane.com boost its natural search traffic 20%.

Teen fashion retailer GoJane.com, a recent acquisition of its larger competitor Aeropostale Inc., No. 114 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, boosted its natural search traffic 20% after adding social question-and-answer to its product pages, the retailer says. GoJane customers now ask and answer up to 200 product questions on the site every day, with nearly all of that content indexed by search engines, which lifts its natural search rankings, says Amy DeVore, customer service and social media manager at GoJane.

The social Q&A tool, provided by vendor TurnTo Networks Inc., allows shoppers to click an Ask a Question button on product detail pages to pose queries about items. If they select that the question is about a store policy, like returns or shipping, the question is flagged for staff to answer. Otherwise, TurnTo sends the question—such as, “Does this blouse run small?”—via e-mail to a customer who has already bought the item. Most customers answer those e-mails, and do so within 24 hours, DeVore says.

Their answers pass through GoJane for approval—the retailer removes or hides questions and answers containing inappropriate language or words, she says—then the questioner receives an e-mail with the response. Both the question and answer are also added below the product details for that item on GoJane.com.

TurnTo takes just a few days to go live for a retailer, requiring the retailer to add a piece of code to their web site and setting up some data feeds, CEO and founder George Eberstadt says. Retailers pay for the service in a monthly or annual fee, which scales according to the size of their business: small merchants typically pay $100 to $1,000 per month; medium-sized merchants, $1,000 to $10,000 per month; large merchants, $10,000 per month and up, he says. One of the most popular items on the GoJane site, a pair of lace-up, American flag-adorned high-heeled boots sports 192 questions and 845 answers in the social Q&A section of its product details page. Customers can search those answers in a pop-up box when they click on Ask a Question before deciding to submit a new one. “It’s a pretty constant stream of communication,” DeVore says.

The depth of responses can get extremely specific, she says. For example, one customer asked whether the boots have a certain chemical smell, as synthetic shoes sometimes have. Eight customers answered with their opinions regarding the flag boots and general suggestions for getting rid of unwanted shoe scents.

That’s well beyond what typical product reviews cover, DeVore says, making this version of customer feedback more valuable in some ways to online shoppers, especially since they cannot touch or try on apparel items before buying. Though she doesn’t have specific numbers to share, she says returns have dipped while overall conversions have risen since adding the TurnTo’s technology to the site.

Shoppers who ask and answer questions convert 250% more than GoJane.com’s baseline rate and more than 20% of orders on the site come from customers who interact with the social Q&A tool, says GoJane founder Tony Pang. Additionally, past shoppers who answer questions for customers convert four times more often than average shoppers, he says.

“Today, customer engagement is the key to building long-term shopping relationships,” says Deena M. Amato-McCoy, a retail research analyst at Aberdeen Group. “This grows increasingly hard as shoppers have more access to digital solutions that they use during their pre-shopping research, often making them more educated than the sales team available at their favorite retailers.”

That is fueling a trend among retailers to add more digital tools for customer engagement and education to their offerings, she says, with social Q&A a particularly popular option because it allows customers to shop at their own pace.

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