Using Past Clients to Help New Shoppers

Ecommerce merchants strive to answer questions from shoppers. Relevant, useful answers presumably increase conversion prices. We recently spoke with George Eberstadt, founder and CEO of TurnTo, about his company’s system that relies on previous customers to answer questions from potential ones.

Practical Ecommerce: What’s TurnTo?

George Eberstadt:“TurnTo provides a societal question-and-answer usefulness to online stores. It runs on the item detail page of the storefront also helps shoppers get answers to questions from those who really purchased those products previously.”

PEC: You are CEO and founder of TurnTo. When did you start the organization?

Eberstadt:“We started this about four and a half years back. But the first year and a half or so was concentrated on a related product lineup. In Internet years, we are probably 3 years old.”

PEC: Do you own the business?

Eberstadt:“We are privately funded — located in nyc.”

PEC: With evaluations and testimonials, general social networking dialog, and the numerous sophisticated merchandising features which exist, why do online shoppers want another approach to research a product?

Eberstadt:“Surely, ratings and reviews continue to be the gold standard for consumer feedback about goods, and nearly all of the shops using our system have customer ratings and reviews when they opt to add social Q&A in addition to that.

“There are a whole lot of instances where Q&A can be really useful, like when there aren’t any reviews yet. The ability to reach out and receive the product info you need [from societal Q&A] is useful. At the opposite end of the spectrum, if there are 2,000 testimonials and you don`t really need to plow through all 2,000 to obtain the reply to the question you’ll need, being able to ask a question is the more efficient method to discover the solution. There are some folks who simply prefer to learn more in the more interactive manner as opposed to exploring for it, and there are those that are suspicious of the authenticity of testimonials.”

PEC: Describe the procedure, please, for your system. What does a shopper see? How does this work?

Eberstadt:“When a shopper is on a product detail page, she’ll see a button which says’Got questions? Get quick answers from people who actually purchased this item,’ or’View 5 questions and 25 replies,’ and she is able to click anywhere on that utility. She will be taken to the Q&A place on the page where there will be an area to submit a new query, and all the conversation that has already been recorded is available. She is able to browse through the questions and the answers, or there is a search utility so that she can easily see if her question has already been asked and answered.

“As shoppers submit a query, this is the place where the TurnTo unique sauce comes in. To be certain we really deliver on the promise to get answers, we take that query and we email it to folks who brought the product before.”

PEC: Do those previous customers know they are going to be getting the email?

Eberstadt:“It is treated as a marketing email, so those individuals have consented to accept that sort of communication from the shop, and the message explains very clearly what this is all about. There are two important links in the query email. One says ‘Answer this question.’ And one says’Do not send any more questions.’

“Just to give you an idea of how well received this email typically is, on average that email has answered in an 8% rate, whereas the determine rate is just 0.2 percent, normally. The majority of our shops tell us this is one of the only best performing advertising emails, with numbers like that.”

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PEC: Eight percent of previous clients answer the email?

Eberstadt:“The open rate on the question email is about 30 percent, and the click through rate is generally about 10 percent, then there is a little fall off, so approximately 8% of all of the men and women who received the email really submit a response. Since that rate is so large, it means that you don’t actually have to send the query to that lots of people to find an answer. Typically we will coach our shops to create 60 the target amount of people to obtain any specific question. That means on average each query would get about 5 replies from previous clients. The majority of those answers would return within the first 24 hours. On average the first response gets shipped back within one hour when someone first asked the question.”

PEC: Do the previous customers get paid anything for this?

Eberstadt:“We have a few shops who have incorporated a loyalty program, but we have not seen that makes a massive difference. Whatever their motives, it does not need an incentive.”

PEC: If I am a merchant, I may be sensitive about mails I am sending to previous customers because I want those customers to come back and buy from me again. Thoughts on that?

Eberstadt:“Let me discuss some general data about the conversion impact of the entire tool, and I will save that specific case for my final number. What we see is people who ask questions while shopping typically convert at a rate between 5 and 11 times greater than the baseline for the shop. Now obviously that is a well-qualified pool. Individuals who open the utility and read Q&A conversation that others have posted typically convert at a rate between 3 and 7 times greater than the baseline for the shop. The conversion rate of previous customers who return to answer questions is on average 2-3 times greater than the baseline for the shop. So again, they are past clients. It is a well-qualified pool. However, these are people who only came back to answer queries. They didn’t return to shop.”

PEC: How much does your product cost?

Eberstadt:“It is a tiered pricing model, with an yearly contract. Our tiniest stores typically pay a couple hundred a month to the system. Our bigger stores pay a couple thousand dollars each month.

“it is a fixed fee. The amount of the fee is based complete on the size of the shop, and we attempt to correlate it to worth, but it is not a cost-per-acquisition sort of model. It’s a flat yearly fee once the price was determined.”

PEC: We have many distinct readers with many distinct carts. Does your solution integrate with all shopping carts?

Eberstadt:“There is about a dozen that we’ve live integrations with at this time. We’ve packaged integrations with Magento and Demandware. We’ve got integrations with Volusion and on Yahoo! shops, and a lot more. We do custom solutions, if it’s easy to get into the data. So our system is really flexible. We aim to have the ability to work on a really wide assortment of shopping carts.”

PEC: If an organization is using a cart which requires a customized integration — possibly a hosted cart or a certified cart — is that going to cost additional money?

Eberstadt:“The first and the last question is what platform do you run on, and when this is one that we all know we have difficulty on, we will say what the constraints are. We charge a flat installation fee that is usually a few months worth of the yearly license. But we do not charge any more than that to perform the job based on what the specific cart is.”

PEC: Anything else?

Eberstadt:“While conversion is part of the value here, another large part is the search-engine-optimization benefit. Having new, changing user-generated content that is indexable directly on the item detail page has actually become best practice for accessing SEO organic traffic.”