2/23/11

How Emitations uses a question-and-answer tool to spark conversations

90% of the retailer’s questions attract at least one answer from other shoppers.

Zak Stambor , Managing Editor

Because of the products it sells—costume jewelry inspired by pop culture—customers of online-only retailer Emitations.com are incredibly enthusiastic about its products, says CEO Au-Co Mai.  Even so, it can be challenging to harness that fervor into a coherent community focused on its brand.

“Our shoppers and customers don’t just want reviews of our products,” she says. “They want to talk about them, tell stories about them and ask each other about them.”

Take, for instance, jewelry sold by the retailer that is inspired by the Twilight teen vampire novel and movie series. “Our community wants to talk about the jewelry—and about the books and films,” she says. “We want them to have those exchanges here at Emitations.”

To drive those digital conversations to its site, the retailer has integrated technology from social marketing vendor TurnTo Networks. The vendor today is officially launching an “Ask Owners” question-and-answer application that aims to build connections between shoppers by e-mailing a shopper’s question to consumers who have previously bought the item the shopper is considering.

In testing, Emitations’ Ask Owners e-mails had an 8.2% response rate, with 90% of the questions asked about the site’s frequently viewed items receiving at least one answer from another shopper; the retailer did not say what it’s normal e-mail response rate was. Moreover, on average each question received three responses.  “TurnTo is highly effective at getting shoppers’ questions answered, which generates a lot of user content, which helps with both shopper conversion and search engine optimization,” says Mai.

Among the dozen merchant sites that beta-tested the tool, TurnTo says e-mails received a 6% response rate with each question, on average, receiving about three responses.

Those answers come quickly, says the vendor, as most questions receive a response from other consumers in less than four hours. That can produce substantial returns because for all retailers that work with TurnTo, consumers who interact with TurnTo tools convert two to seven times the rate of other shoppers. Other TurnTo tools include Purchase Sharing, which asks consumers who have just completed their purchase why they chose the particular product, and Social Merchandising, which tells shoppers which of their friends also shopped at the store.

For Emitations, the offering is also guiding the site’s merchandising.

“We noticed shoppers asking whether a particular earring was meant for pierced ears because the photo didn’t show the earring post,” says Mai. “So we are redoing the photography on that item to make it clear. That’s pre-purchase insight about the shopper experience on our site that we would not have gotten from a customer review.”

Topics:

Ask Owners, Au-Co Mai, branding, Customer engagement, customer reviews, e-mail marketing, Emitations, jewelry, product information, question and answer, social marketing, TurnTo Networks

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