The 2011 Social Shopping study from my company's e-tailing group found that consumers rely on social commerce tools to make purchase decisions. When consumers were asked the impact of the following social tools on their buying behavior, 59 percent said customer reviews and 42 percent said Q&A had a significant impact. Facebook activity registered at 13 percent.
Even though the data is compelling that Q&A is consumers' No. 2 social commerce tool, fewer than 20 percent of e-commerce sites have Q&A capabilities. More e-commerce sites have the Facebook "like" button and other Facebook features than have Q&A.
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Why are 80 percent of e-commerce sites missing the boat?
First, the volume of consumer questions can outpace the ability of the organization to answer them. However, innovations in intelligent routing to experts across and outside of the organization increase the number, speed, and accuracy of answers.
Second, the cost of staffing to answer questions can seem prohibitive. However, innovations in using the social Q&A content in virtual FAQs and other techniques to aggregate content for the same question decreases the staffing required to answer questions.
Third, the performance of Q&A is not well understood. The following are four compelling performance factors that demonstrate that the business case for Q&A has very positive returns.
Retailers need to prioritize evaluating Q&A for their business. Innovations in Q&A, and the demonstrated performance of the consumers' No. 2 social tool in the buying process are reasons to do so.
Thank you to my colleague Mark Baker, client success manager, for his contributions to this column.
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Cathy has over 20 years of experience in both multichannel and online retail and a deep understanding of consumer needs and goals. Cathy's proven track record spans a range of industries and companies, from start-up ventures to multibillion dollar operations. Cathy is currently a Board Member at Ulta Beauty (ULTA), the largest beauty retailer that provides one-stop shopping for prestige, mass, and salon products and salon services in the United States. She has served as SVP, marketing & sales at PowerReviews, the world's most widely deployed social commerce platform, where she was responsible for overseeing the company's rapid customer and revenue growth. Prior to PowerReviews, Cathy held executive-level positions at Walmart: chief marketing officer Walmart.com, vice president of market development, global e-commerce, and vice president of product management and multichannel integration. Ms. Halligan has also held executive positions with leading retailers Williams-Sonoma, Gymboree, and Blue Nile, and was an associate partner at Prophet, a leading management consulting firm. She started her career as a marketing coordinator at Lands' End.
For real-time social commerce news and updates, follow Cathy on Twitter at @CathyHalligan.
March 19, 2014