Flip-flop Reviews Spark Sales for Bath and Body Works

Specialty store Bath & Body Works had two difficult issues that Shannon Glass knew she had to address. The director of Internet operations for Bath & Body Works parent company Limited Brands recognized the store’s products are difficult to describe adequately through simple online listings. Secondly, she realized her customers were talking about the company’s branded products all over the Internet, just not on the store’s own site.

The store specializes in fragrant beauty products for bath and body care, facial skincare, hair care and spa items; however, Glass realized since customers would be unable to actually smell or touch those products while shopping online, the next best thing was providing reviews of those products from other customers who had tried them personally. The challenge was finding a way to take advantage of the apparent desire among beauty product consumers to post reviews about Bath & Body items online.

“We weren’t looking to solve a problem, we were looking to move in on an opportunity,” Glass said. “We had a lot of people that were passionate about new fragrances. They were asking one another if they liked it or not. They already had their own channels and we wanted to harness that and put it where the products are sold.”

Youngandfun Fuels E-mail Conversion
To allow its customers to interact with each other directly from its Web site, Bath & Body Works turned to hosted social commerce application firm Bazaarvoice. The company installed the Bazaarvoice ratings and reviews system to allow customers to share feedback, experiences, and recommendations on personal care products. Bath & Body Works launched the system on June 1st., and tested it with a specific campaign around FitFlop, a new flip-flop style footwear product.

A Bath & Body Works e-mail campaign for the FitFlop not only included information on how the footwear was “biomechanically engineered” by doctors at the Centre for Human Performance at London’s South Bank University, but links and feedback from the reviews on its site. Simple reviews like “Amazing Shoes!” from “MomofThreeGirls in the Southwestern U.S” and “…the difference was almost instant!” from “Youngandfun in St. Paul,” along with a link to additional postings, was enough to sway readers to check out the product, according to Glass, who compared it to similar e-mail campaigns that didn’t include the reviews.

Bath & Body found that the FitFlop campaign achieved 10 percent higher conversion and 12 percent higher sales per visitor as compared to campaigns that did not include customer ratings and reviews.

“We were very pleased with the results,” said Glass. “To introduce a high-price product without a commercial enticement to it… the marketing push being the great reviews that we were sharing, the results were quite impressive.”

In addition to higher conversion rates, the Bazaarvoice system also allowed Bath & Body Works to identify a previously untapped resource, the “super-reviewers.” These advocates have posted in excess of 100 separate messages on the site, according to Sam Decker, chief marketing officer for Bazaarvoice.

Making the Most of Reviewer Fervor
“What Bath & Body Works was definitely seeing is 20 percent of reviewers are super-reviewers,” said Decker. “Once they got going and saw these reviewers and many different functions in these groups, they paid attention to it. It opened their eyes to the many different ways to use their brand advocates.”

Now, the company is taking steps to more directly include these excessively-posting brand advocates in future advertising campaigns, said Glass.

“In 2008 we’re looking to see how we can work with them to leverage them on the Web site,” she said. “We do have a core set of people that are submitting over 100 reviews, both good and bad. This is something that we’re putting on our roadmap, about how to leverage those prolific reviewers.”

The use of the Bazaarvoice system has also let Bath & Body Works customers create a database of reviewed products far larger than what Glass had expected in the short time since it’s been installed.

“One thing that made us stand up and take notice was within four months we had nearly 50 percent of our products reviewed on [Bazaarvoice],” said Glass, who said the site has an average of 2,500 product listings. Ninety percent of the product reviews were positive, she added. “The fact that there are that many people out there that want to be heard… there is definite demand for our brand and to provide user generated content about it.”

In addition to Bath & Body Works, Limited Brands owns retail firms including Victoria’s Secret, C.O. Bigelow, Henri Bendel, La Senza, and The White Barn Candle Co.

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