It’s no secret that Q&A software has a ton of benefits for customers and businesses. Q&A capabilities provide answers to consumers’ purchase-blocking questions and give them the little boost of confidence they may need to purchase a product. Skechers, one of our Q&A clients, said: “Because a customer who submits a question is already engaged, if we can give them the answer they want in a timely fashion, they usually buy the shoe.”

Brands and retailers adopting a Q&A solution have seen a large number of questions submitted by potential buyers. In fact, one of our IR100 clients saw more than 19,000 questions submitted in their first four months using the PowerReviews Q&A solution, Social Answers.

Receiving tons of questions from your customers shows that they’re engaged with your site and looking to make a purchase, but answering all of those questions can seem daunting to some internal teams. If you’re worried that the volume of questions will be too high for your internal and customer support teams to handle, there are ways to not only reduce the burden on your team, but also provide better answers to purchase-blocking questions from your potential buyers.

PowerReviews offers two additional answer sources: the On-Demand Answer Community and Ask a Product Owner. The On-Demand Answer Community leverages a group of researchers to answer product-specific customer questions and the Ask a Product Owner feature leverages your existing base of customers who have recently purchased your products to provide answers to questions asked by other shoppers. Some of our clients use only the On-Demand Answer Community and Product Owners to answer buyer questions.

The On-Demand Answer Community is an excellent resource to quickly answer questions, but I want to focus on Ask a Product Owner in this post. Ask a Product Owner not only ensures that your internal team won’t be overwhelmed with question volume, but provides other benefits as well.

Here are the 4 reasons to adopt an Ask a Product Owner feature if you are implementing a Q&A solution or you already have one on your site:

1. Lessen the burden on your internal team

Implementing a Q&A solution on your site will not overwhelm your team if you use multiple answer sources, especially Ask a Product Owner. Surprisingly enough, past customers love answering questions from future buyers. With past product owners’ willingness to answer many of the questions asked by potential buyers, your customer support and internal teams can focus on other tasks, while you collect more quality content for your product pages. Currently, one of our top retailers uses Ask a Product Owner to answer more than three quarters of the purchase-blocking questions asked on a daily basis.

2. Allow your customers to continuously participate

Ask a Product Owner isn’t just beneficial for your potential buyers and their conversion on your site. When potential buyers ask a question, your product owners are the first to be notified through an email to answer the inquiry and help shoppers make the right buying decision. Using the Ask a Product Owner feature also allows you to re-engage your customer base and turn your product owners into brand advocates and regular content contributors.

Social Answers Screenshot

3. Faster answer times

Product owners tend to answer questions faster than internal teams. One of our IR100 clients saw faster answer times (median answer time of 9 hours) once they began using the Ask a Product Owner feature on their site.

4. Provide authentic and experience-related information

Internal and customer support teams are knowledgeable about products sold on their sites, but they can’t provide an experience-based answer like a product owner. An answer from a product owner adds authenticity, which provides a level of comfort for your future purchasers, especially if they are buying a high consideration item like a crib or an expensive snowboard.

When adopting a Q&A capability, be sure to use the multiple answer sources provided to ensure that your customers get faster and more authentic content without putting a burden on your team.

Kaitlyn Carpenter

Kaitlyn is the Associate Product Marketing Manager at PowerReviews. She recently graduated from the University of Chicago, where she studied Political Science and Germanic Studies. After years of assigned reading, she is excited to finally choose the books she picks up.

With the release of the Apple Watch and the confluent rise of mobile device use in-store, retailers are beginning to think long and hard about in-store technology. In my last blog post, I discussed the importance of reviews as part of the in-store experience. Ratings and reviews provide authentic, quality content and give consumers confidence when buying, even in-store.

Reviews for the in-store shopper

Recently, Toys R’ Us added ratings and reviews to their baby registry scanners. Consumers use the registry scanner to scan the UPC codes on the products they want to add to their gift registry. When the product is collected by the scanner, the consumer can select to see product reviews both before and after adding the product to the registry list.  When I heard about this addition to the Toys R’ Us shopping experience, I put myself in the shoes of those moms and dads-to-be who are making a baby registry for the first time and have little knowledge when it comes to baby products. Ratings and reviews, especially in this instance, provide additional insight into the products and makes the process easier and less stressful. If I were in this position, however, I’d likely have a ton of specific questions about the products. This made me think, Q&A would be a great supplement to ratings and reviews during the in-store experience.

While a baby registry made me think of this relationship, Q&A capabilities can further enhance the shopping experience and complement in-store ratings and reviews for any retailer. Q&A gives curious shoppers an opportunity to ask specific questions that might not have been discussed in the reviews.

With this in mind, here are 4 reasons Questions and Answers should supplement Ratings and Reviews in-store:

1.) Your consumers are already engaged if they are asking a question.

Consumers who have specific questions about a product are already interested in buying, especially if they are in-store.   In fact, Skechers’ eCommerce Merchandising Manager said: “Because those who submit questions are already engaged, if we can give them the answers they want in a timely fashion, they usually buy the shoe.” Once consumers receive an answer to their question, they’re ready to buy.

While consulting ratings and reviews is on the top of consumers’ to-do list–even while in-store– potential buyers still end up having a few questions they would like answered before jumping into a purchase.  Q&A capabilities give specific answers to consumers’ specific questions, which may not have been discussed in the reviews and provides buyers with the little boost of confidence they may need to purchase a product.  Answering questions while a potential buyer shops in-store lowers their chances of walking out of the store empty handed or waiting until they go home to buy the product online.

2.) Give your consumers several information sources.
With the addition of an in-store Q&A feature, consumers will have an additional information resource.  On busy weekends or holiday shopping days, sales associates are not always readily available to answer consumers’ questions.  The integration of Q&A gives consumers the ability to ask their questions and receive answers via their mobile device without the hassle of hunting down a store employee who may not even be able to provide the answer.

Using multiple answer sources for Q&A also enables your potential buyers to hear from real Product Owners or Subject Matter Experts within your company.

3.) As you receive questions, a virtual FAQ is created.
One of the biggest caveats to a Q&A functionality for in-store use is answer time.  While an answer in 24 hours is acceptable while shopping online, in-store answers need to be within minutes.  With the use of multiple answer sources like Asking Subject Matter Experts, Product Owners, or using an On-Demand Answer Community, quick turnover on questions asked is entirely possible.

As questions are asked and answered, an FAQ begins to be created on the product page.  With the presence of the FAQ, questions will not be asked twice and consumers will have access to a number of previously asked questions and their answers, providing more useful content during the shopping experience and lessening the burden on your answer sources.

4.) Capture more quality content.
Q&A capabilities will not only further engage your customers in-store, it will also increase your site’s SEO value.  The questions asked and the answers given on your site become permanent assets on the product page, making your site more relevant, useful and fresh–all characteristics Google looks for when ranking page sites.

Q&A provides an additional capability to enhance the shopping experience when coupled with ratings and reviews integration.  Q&A can help retailers cover all bases during the in-store buying experience and ensure that consumers are receiving all of the necessary information prior to a purchase.

Kaitlyn Carpenter

Kaitlyn is the Associate Product Marketing Manager at PowerReviews. She recently graduated from the University of Chicago, where she studied Political Science and Germanic Studies. After years of assigned reading, she is excited to finally choose the books she picks up.

A few weeks ago, I went to Target looking for a vacuum cleaner. When I arrived at the cleaning section, I was faced with several different models.  With my minimal understanding of all things cleaning (my mom can attest to this), I pulled out my phone and started Googling each of the models, looking for differentiators and reviews.  I landed on Amazon (we knew that was coming), started reading the reviews and then inadvertently started looking at the price differences.  After seeing that Amazon sold the model I wanted for $20 less (and free shipping), I ordered online and left Target empty handed.  This story is a nice segway into the main topic of my post, which is beacon technology and how it can help companies prevent customers from the very behavior I described in my above instance.

Recently, several retailers and stores have launched beacon programs, in order to provide in-store consumers with coupons and relevant store promotions.  Just this week, County Market grocery stores announced a 45 store beacon technology launch.  For those unaware of what a beacon is, they’re small bits of hardware that can be placed throughout a store and have the ability to pinpoint your location via a smartphone and a retailer’s app.  Once they pinpoint your location, they can send you information in the form of push notifications.  These push notifications can be in the form of coupons, relevant store promotions, and…reviews. 84% percent of store visitors use their devices before and during their shopping trip, creating a nice opportunity for stores to utilize beacon technology and influence buyer behavior.

With that it mind, let’s look at reasons why beacons and reviews are a match made in heaven and the benefits of push notifications.

1.) Consumers are always checking reviews

In The Power of Reviews survey of 800 consumers, 95% of shoppers use reviews and 86% say they’re an essential part of purchasing decisions.  Additionally, nearly one third of consumers under the age of 45 consult reviews for every purchase (in-store and online).  If customers rely that much on user-generated content, make it easy on them and use beacons as a way to present authentic review content.  Remember back to my vacuum story—the pure reason I went online was to get an opinion from users.  I wasn’t looking to price compare, I wasn’t looking for a better deal, I only wanted to know which model I should buy. However, my searching brought up prices and I automatically took that bit of information into account, as well.  Some push notifications with product reviews and information would have saved me an entire step and I would have likely bought the vacuum at Target.

2.) Consumers hate having human interactions while they shop

Shoppers welcome any opportunity to not have to speak with a sales associate (myself included). In fact, a recent Deloitte Study found that 8 in 10 respondents said they prefer to uncover information on their own devices or from a store kiosk, than ask a sales associate.  Using beacon technology to provide this information to consumers would make the shopping experience more comfortable and authentic.  If a majority of consumers are actively avoiding sales associates, give them the relevant information they’ll end up searching for anyway by using beacon technology’s push notifications.

3.) Beacon technology will increase your review content

Not only will beacon technology enable customers to access review content and other relevant information on their smartphone, it will also promote consumers to write more reviews. As shown in The Power of Reviews survey, 54% of consumers said they needed some kind of reward or motivation to write a review.  Not only will beacon technology allow for customers to get the most relevant information on products while they shop, but it will also enable stores to easily reward customers after they have written a review with relevant coupon notifications when they visit the store.  Push notifications could also be used as reminders to shoppers to review products if they visit the store at a later date.

The opportunities are endless with the use of beacon technologies. Consumers can benefit from having a way to get the information they want and seek out while they shop in-store, and stores can enhance the shopping experience and increase in-store sales.

Kaitlyn Carpenter

Kaitlyn is the Associate Product Marketing Manager at PowerReviews. She recently graduated from the University of Chicago, where she studied Political Science and Germanic Studies. After years of assigned reading, she is excited to finally choose the books she picks up.

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