The following excerpt, from the article Whose answers do shoppers want – brands’ or consumers’ – online and in stores?, was written by Tara DeMarco and published on Bazaarvoice.com. Read the full article for more information on how to handle different categories of customers seeking information and how to increase your retention rate.
Unanswered questions keep shoppers from buying. Over half (56%) of consumers will leave a retail site if they have questions about a product and the merchant doesn’t provide assistance. Smart retailers now offer consumer Q&A, letting shoppers ask questions on product pages. Shoppers who read it show 94% higher conversion – and 161% higher conversion when they read Q&A in combination with reviews.
But how do you know from whom shoppers want an answer – consumers or brand reps? And how can brands and retailers deliver the desired answers – both online and off?
Seeking questions vs. discussion questions
The type of answer a shopper wants has everything to do with the type of question they asked – and is often tied to the product category.
Seeking questions ask for product-specific use cases, and look for facts rather than opinions. “Does this hotel offer free wifi?” “Does the rear-view camera in this SUV come standard?” Seeking questions are most common in expensive and complex product categories. Our study found that most questions asked in automotive (81%), travel (79%), and consumer electronics (79%) were seeking questions.
Discussion questions, on the other hand, ask other consumers to weigh in with subjective opinions, often at the category level. “What brand of diapers do you recommend for newborns?” “I have sensitive skin, does this sweater’s fabric get itchy?” These questions are often found in commodity categories, allowing more room for personal opinions. Our study found that most questions in CPG (64%), retail (58%), and general manufacturing (53%) were discussion questions.
Because retail-related questions tend to be in the discussion section, we've included the information that DeMarco cites on how to handle them below. View the full article for more information on how your store can best respond to seeking questions.
For online discussers: Foster active C2C Q&A communities
Brand answers to some discussion questions will have value; for example, “Which shade of eye shadow looks best with blue eyes?” Providing expert opinions to these queries fosters a helpful and knowledgeable brand image. But often, consumers ask “Which brand is best?” type questions, making answers from brands less trusted.
To influence these shoppers, brands and retailers should focus heavily on fostering peer-to-peer discussion communities amongst their customers – especially in categories prone to discussion questions. Follow up purchases with an email, inviting customers back to the site to share their trusted, first-hand product knowledge with shoppers. After a consumer answers a question or submits a review, never leave them at a dead end; once someone contributes, they’re more likely to contribute again. Take them to a thank you page that includes a few more related, unanswered questions.
For in-store discussers: Connect them with consumer opinions via mobile and store signage
In-store shoppers with subjective, opinion-based questions might be less likely to ask a store associate for help. And even those with seeking questions may prefer finding answers themselves – 73% of shoppers prefer to handle “simple tasks” on their smartphones in stores rather than speaking to an employee.
Recognizing this desire among shoppers to answer their own questions via mobile rather than ask for human help, Samsung brings richer product information into stores through QR codes, says Sten:
“We’ve used learnings [from Q&A] to build out richer assets that address the things that we’re finding out that people need to know. So we use that feedback loop to create better content on our end and then bring it in more effectively. We’ve played around with QR codes on displays… Digital is much more efficient way of adding to that story.”
Use QR and barcodes on signage in aisles and on product packaging to encourage shoppers to read Q&A via mobile in stores, and learn from questions asked to improve packaging, store signage, web copy, and more.
Answering a shopper question can give them that last bit of information they need in order to make a confident purchase. Brands that fill information gaps everywhere – online and in stores, via brand reps or consumers – will win more sales.