Rugs Direct Rolls Out Red Carpet for Bazaarvoice

Everyone knows customer reviews can boost sales, but how do you get started? Our case study shows what it can cost, how it's employed and what the benefits are, namely less returns, more profits and no keyword costs.
Rugs Direct, a popular online seller of area rugs (and art, bedding and furniture) often received glowing, unsolicited reviews from customers. So the company decided to feature those customer testimonials in a box on the site.

"We knew customer testimonials are important in the retail industry, that people believe other people more than they believe the company doing the selling," explained Rex Creekmur, the director of marketing at Rugs Direct, "but we weren't sure that a lot of our customers even noticed we had that [testimonial box] there."

What online consumers increasingly wanted, he kept hearing and reading, was a way to connect with other consumers, on the actual e-tailer site (as opposed to a third-party site), to share ratings and reviews of products.

Rugs Direct Home Page
Magic Carpet Ride: Rugs Direct experienced less returns, more sales and saved on keyword costs by employing customer reviews at its site.
(Click for larger image.)

"They want to see what other people have bought. They want to know what other people think about it," said Creekmur. "We actually read articles that said that in the future the number one criteria as to whether or not somebody buys from a site is going to be whether or not they're going to be able to read reviews and see what other people said about products on that site."

Consumer Ratings and Reviews Convert
According to a CompUSA-iPerceptions study, 63 percent of consumers said they were more likely to purchase from a site if it had product ratings and reviews. And JupiterResearch found that 77 percent of online shoppers used consumer-generated product reviews and ratings — and that those who found them useful were more loyal to those businesses.

Amazon, of course, figured out the importance of social commerce long ago. And its customer ratings and reviews have made the e-commerce site one of the most well known — and most trusted — in the world. But until pretty recently, there weren't a whole lot of options for smaller e-commerce businesses who didn't have millions to spend, like Amazon, on developing or buying social commerce applications, as Rugs Direct's Creekmur discovered.

Creekmur seriously began his hunt for a way to allow Rugs Direct customers to safely and securely post ratings and reviews on the site in early 2007, but he found few vendors who could meet the company's criteria and budget. Then he checked out Bazaarvoice.

Bazaarvoice Makes Selling Online a Social Experience
Launched in January 2006, Bazaarvoice offers e-commerce businesses of all sizes (though it's probably too expensive for very small mom-and-pop Web stores) outsourced social commerce applications that come bundled with marketing and analytical tools and technical assistance, starting at around $2,000 per month.

Bazaarvoice's two main products are its Ratings & Reviews and Ask & Answer applications, which it sells separately or bundled. It also offers a service that allows e-tailers to display hyperlinked snippets of reviews in leading shopping portals (SyndicateVoice); another that creates a hosted, search-engine-optimized destination page where customers can navigate product categories to find and read all of the social content available on a site (SearchVoice Microsite); channel-specific applications, for banking, healthcare and manufacturing; and soon will debut Bazaarvoice Stories, an application that lets consumers share their product success stories on a site.

According to Bazaarvoice chief marketing officer Sam Decker, installation typically requires about 20 hours of IT time, depending on which and how many applications you plan on deploying and on how many pages, and is very straightforward.

Ease of implementation was a big selling point for Rugs Direct, which didn't have a lot of time to spend deploying a new application or doing lots of troubleshooting. While it took about two weeks to get the Ratings & Reviews and SearchVoice Microsite applications fully operational, "our IT department said it was one of the easiest implementations they've ever encountered," said Creekmur. And he added that Bazaarvoice assigned two people to work directly with the Rugs Direct IT team, to make sure installation went smoothly.

(Continue to Page 2 for details on reducing return and increasing sales)

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