September 28, 2006, 12:00 AM

CompUSA learns the power of peer review

Nearly all shoppers like consumer reviews as a helpful online shopping tool, according to a study by J.C. Williams Group, and CompUSA reaping the benefits of a hosted consumer reviews service. The retailer found one group of users that produced a 50% higher conversion rate.

A J.C. Williams Group study recently polled shoppers on which online tools they found most helpful in making purchase decisions. Of nearly 2,000 consumers surveyed for the “Transforming the Multi-channel Shopper” report, 92% rated customer reviews very helpful or extremely helpful-outpacing the next highest-rated shopping tool, keyword search, by a healthy margin.

In January, after implementing customer reviews on its site via hosted service from provider Bazaarvoice, determined that visitors who came to the site after finding a customer review on the site via AOL, Google, MSN or Yahoo had a 50% higher conversion rate than the typical CompUSA visitor. They spent an average of 20% more as well.

CompUSA is leveraging the customer reviews further by sending them beyond its site by syndicating them to search shopping engines and Froogle. About a quarter of the site’s 80,000 products have been reviewed, and that number continues to rise, says Al Hurlebaus, senior director of e-commerce for CompUSA. “Our top-selling products are the products that receive the most reviews,” he says.

Shopper-generated video is adding another dimension to customer reviews on its site with a feature that allows visitors to create and view video product reviews. Under a partnership with Grouper Networks Inc., a user-generated video sharing service, shoppers can use one-click web cam technology to record and upload video product reviews, which are embedded directly on product pages. shoppers interested in contributing video reviews register for Grouper through a co-branded web page. No additional software is required to create or upload the video content.

Both the off-site syndication and the video customer review format show how quickly the notion of customer reviews is taking hold-and already evolving-in the online shopping realm. While too early to gauge the success of the newest formats, the retailers who are pioneering customer reviews online are betting on long-term results.


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