“Ask an Expert” is an occasional feature where we ask ecommerce experts questions from online merchants. For this installment, we address a question about how to encourage customer feedback. It comes from Rita Perdue, CEO and owner of Pick My Decor, an online store that sells home décor products and collectibles.
For the answer, we turn to Paul Chaney, Internet marketing director for Bizzuka, a content management software company, and a longtime contributor to Practical eCommerce. He is an expert in social media marketing and the author of a book on social media marketing entitled The Digital Handshake: Seven Proven Strategies to Grow Your Business Using Social Media.
If you’d like to submit a question, email Kate Monteith, staff writer, at email@example.com and we’ll attempt to address it.
Rita Perdue: “I’ve been hearing how social media can help grow your business. I’ve set up a Twitter account and a blog. I’ve got a ‘share this’ app over each product so customers can bookmark, or add to Digg and Delicious, and I have a ‘share with a friend’ feature with each product. I’m thinking about setting up something on my website that will encourage more customer interaction, but I need some advice. What media tool would provide the best platform for me to network with my customers?”
Paul Chaney: “Rita, the answer to your dilemma may lie in the use of specific rating and review software. For example, Groundswell, the book by Forrester Research analyst Josh Bernoff and former analyst Charlene Li, suggests that ratings and reviews allow you to ‘tap into customer’s enthusiasm.’ The authors cite Ebags.com, a company that has experienced 30 percent annual growth year after year for the eight years it has been selling handbags and luggage online. The company ‘turned customers into a powerful asset,’ said the authors, and it now places their ratings and reviews front and center on the site.
“In terms of increasing customer engagement, ratings and reviews encourage visitors to return more often to read recently updated reviews. It is even better if RSS feeds can be tied to product reviews so updated information is automatically delivered to subscribers.
“There are a number of stand-alone software products that can be easily embedded in your ecommerce store.
“The Amazon-style system allows users to rank a product or service on a scale of one to five stars and make comments (reviews) related to the product for other users to read. Email notifications allow the administrator to approve comments before adding them to the website. Pricing starts at $50.
“This tool seems to be even more feature-rich than Review-Script. Different types of ratings can be combined into one rating box. It offers an RSS feed, and you can manage, modify and delete your customer ratings and reviews. Use of the platform is free, at the base level, for up to 20,000 page views.
“This is another popular ratings and review system. But, its fees start at $2,000 per month, a bit pricey for smaller ecommerce sites.
“Specifically designed for smaller merchants, this service starts at $80 per month.”
“While the question of how to increase customer interaction and networking with your customers is a broad one, incorporating a ratings and review system into your ecommerce site is a great first step.”