April 5, 2010, 12:00 AM

A question-and-answer tool lifts conversions for Sierra Trading Post

Sierra Trading Post added a feature that allows customers to post questions to its web site. Since launching five months ago, the company has seen a sharp increase in e-mail click-throughs and site conversions for customers who ask questions.

Five months ago, outdoor gear and apparel retailer Sierra Trading Post launched AnswerBox, a tool from PowerReviews Inc. that enables customers to post questions on its web site that are then answered by Sierra Trading Post employees and other shoppers.

Customers can post questions on product pages by clicking on the Q&A; tab below the product picture and description. If a shopper leaves his e-mail address the retailer notifies him when his question is answered.

Since launching the feature, Sierra Trading Post, No. 73 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, says click-throughs have increased 300% over the company’s other e-mail campaigns for shoppers who posted a questions and received an e-mail notifying them of their question’s response. And, conversions for those shoppers are 50% higher than shoppers who receive other marketing e-mails. The privately held company did not release specific sales figures.

The retailer has received about 6,500 questions since the launch of the tool, says Sarah Glatfelder, the company’s AnswerBox specialist. Glatfelder, other employees and shoppers have provided approximately 7,200 answers to those questions, with some questions attracting multiple responses.

The tool not only drives sales, but gives the retailer an idea about what types of information to give shoppers or where consumers need more product details, she says. Most questions involve apparel sizes, particularly for more specialized gear such as wetsuits.

The tool also adds to the appeal of SierraTradingPost.com, she says. “We want to build a more personal community so people don’t feel like they came here just to shop.”

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