May 2, 2019 by Rahul Chadha
TurnTo Networks has announced the release of its new SpeedFlex™ widget architecture, supporting its full Customer-Generated Content suite of Ratings & Reviews, Community Q&A, Visual Reviews™, and Checkout Comments™. SpeedFlex™ combines the lightest, fastest-loading widget components with a server-side customization model that gives full control over layout and functionality as well as look and feel.
With SpeedFlex™, eCommerce sites no longer face a trade-off between a slow-loading but easy widget implementation, or a fast-loading but time consuming API project. Now, brands and retailers can have the best of both approaches: customer experiences that are uniquely tailored to their brand and product categories, a quick implementation with minimal effort, and fast page loads that improve conversion rates and deliver meaningful search engine optimization (SEO).
An architecture designed for speed
Page load speed is an important factor for conversion rates and for SEO. Making web pages load faster can reduce abandonment rates by 20%. And with its recent “Speed Update,” Google’s search ranking algorithm now privileges fast loading pages, especially on mobile.
Since product reviews, Q&A, and customer-generated photos are some of the heaviest components on eCommerce sites, the speed improvements provided by SpeedFlex™ can make a significant difference to overall site performance.
Unique customer experiences without API work
SpeedFlex™ enables online stores to easily tailor not only look-and-feel but also layout and even functionality without resorting to time-consuming API work. With TurnTo’s unique new architecture, configurations of all aspects of design and information architecture are composed server-side and dynamically loaded to the production environment. Configurable breakpoints ensure optimized display on all device types from a single theme definition. With this approach:
- Changes made to the configuration appear immediately on the site without the need to edit code on the page itself
- A single page type can support multiple design theme variants for A/B testing
- The functions and experience provided to the shopper can vary depending on the category of the product
Bliss sees dramatic performance improvements
When skincare brand Bliss switched to TurnTo and implemented SpeedFlex™ on www.blissworld.com, the file size and load time of their product reviews components decreased to less than half of what they were before.
“We’ve been highly satisfied with our switch to TurnTo,” said Karilyn Anderson, VP of Digital at Bliss. “With TurnTo’s SpeedFlex™ architecture, we were able to easily achieve a highly customized layout and look exactly tailored for our brand, while at the same time significantly improving our site performance.”
“SpeedFlex™ is not only the highest-performance widget platform for enterprise-scale eCommerce sites today, it’s the foundation for our vision of bespoke customer experiences, going forward,” said George Eberstadt, TurnTo’s Founder and CEO, said. “In today’s competitive world, one-size-fits-all is not a winning strategy; brands and stores have to differentiate and deliver unique, compelling experiences. SpeedFlex™ enables the rapid innovation that leads to real business advantage for our customers.”
Want to find out more about how TurnTo can help your business?
March 21, 2019 by Rahul Chadha
Is eCommerce in the midst of a voice search revolution? Maybe.
But so far there’s little evidence to show that voice has had a dramatic effect on the way shoppers are buying things online.
Consider the following: an August 2018 survey from Social Lens Research found that just 10% of shoppers had purchased a new product using a voice command.1
And even though smart speakers like the Amazon Alexa have seen rapid adoption rates2, they have yet to move the needle in purchasing behaviors in any substantial way. Last year, tech news site The Information reported that only 2% of Alexa owners had ever used the smart speaker to make a purchase.3
Why Hasn’t Voice Commerce Taken Off?
Alexa, what’s the holdup?
Voice is well-suited for shoppers reordering regular purchases who already know what they want to buy—things like paper towels and laundry detergent. In those instances, voice is saving customers the trouble of typing, tapping, or clicking their repeat orders.
But voice isn’t always as good at helping shoppers on the path of discovery, those who might not know exactly what they want. These customers are likely to read product details, compare prices, and scan product Ratings & Reviews. That kind of browsing can become kludgy—if not downright impossible—for shoppers using a voice-only interface.
In one survey, RetailMeNot found that more than half of customers didn’t want to shop using a smart speaker because they wanted to see an item before they bought it, even if it was just an online picture.4
The takeaway? eCommerce sites can’t ignore the old way of doing things, even as voice search looms on the horizon. Traditional product detail pages that include visuals are still valuable.
And Customer-Generated Content—not just written reviews, but also rich media like shopper-submitted photos and videos you’d find in Visual Reviews—can help serve customer needs and guide them towards a purchase.
Voice Search Isn’t Just About Smart Speakers
Also, the conversation around voice tends to miss a key point: voice search isn’t just about smart speakers. eMarketer estimates that there will be 74.2 million smart speaker users in the US this year.5 But the company also projects that US smartphone users will number 232.2 million in 2019.6
In other words, there will be more than three times as many smartphone users as smart speaker users this year. And nearly everyone with a smartphone can access a voice assistant like Google Assistant, Siri, or even Amazon’s Alexa app. In fact, the Social Lens Research study found that 91% of voice commands are made on smartphones.
The New User Experience is Voice
Unlike shoppers using smart speakers, smartphone users who start their search with a voice query are likely to migrate from the voice interface to review results on their device’s screen. For these customers, voice is just another touchpoint on their path to purchase. Research, browsing, and even conversion can still take place on a more traditional interface: a screen.
As a result, search engine optimization (SEO) strategies that worked well in a pre-voice search world should also deliver results today, and in the near future. But there are still a few unique factors to voice SEO that ecommerce sites should keep in mind.
How to Optimize Your eCommerce Site for Voice SEO
- Speed matters. This is a fundamental pillar of all SEO. Search engines just like websites that are optimized for fast load times. There are a host of tools out there, such as Google’s Page Speed Insights, that can help you make your pages faster.
- Embrace natural language. In the world of voice search, queries are getting longer and more closely resemble how we talk, rather than how we type. TurnTo’s Ratings & Reviews and Community Q&A products can help by populating your product detail pages with “conversational content” written by real people—your customers—that delivers better search results for voice users.
- Support snippets. Google’s “rich snippets” are the details placed between the URL and description of a search result. As we pointed out in our last blog post, TurnTo’s widget platform is fully indexable by Google. That means that Google searches will return the average star rating and number of reviews of your product pages right on the search engine results page. And that usually means better conversions.
- Answer questions. Voice searchers are more likely to phrase their queries in the form of a question. Bolstering your site’s frequently asked questions (FAQ) page can help with voice SEO because FAQ pages include both a question and an answer, something that’s irresistible to search engines. Just make sure the answers you supply are accurate and succinct.
Want to learn more about how TurnTo can help?
1 Voice Commands: Current State; Social Lens Research, October 2018
2 Smart Speakers Hit Critical Mass in 2018; TechCrunch, December 2018
3 The Reality Behind Voice Shopping Hype; The Information, August 2018
4 The 2019 Retailer Playbook; RetailMeNot, November 2018
5 Global Smart Speaker Users 2019; eMarketer, January 2019
6 eMarketer: US Smartphone Usage Will Grow 3% to 232.8M People This Year; March 2019
March 13, 2019 by Rahul Chadha
Let’s start with the obvious: search engine optimization (SEO) needs to be a core element of any eCommerce site’s business strategy.
How can SEO help your eCommerce business? Solid SEO practices can help drive organic traffic to your site, capturing shopper intent and putting your customers seamlessly on the path to purchase.
But if talk of schema markup and other technical jargon makes your head spin and your eyes glaze over, don’t worry. There are some great resources designed to ensure your SEO strategy employs established best practices, even if you’re a beginner.
Start with Google
The best place to start is probably with the 800-pound gorilla of search: Google. If you’re going to focus your SEO strategy on one search engine, make it the company that handles more search queries than any other in the US. According to recent data from Jumpshot complied by SparkToro, Google or Google-owned properties controlled more than 90% of US search share as of fall 2018.1
At the highest level, Google suggests that websites:
- Give visitors the information they want. That means putting high-quality, useful content on your webpages that’s clear and accurate.
- Get other sites to link to yours. When another site links to yours—or backlinks—it’s a signal to Google that your site is reputable and generating good content. These links should be “natural,” meaning they weren’t created for the sole purpose of gaming Google’s algorithm. Google’s software is pretty sophisticated and can ding your site’s search results if it decides that sites are linking to yours in an unnatural fashion.
- Don’t “keyword stuff” or create hidden content targeted to crawlers. It’s tempting to put a bunch of keywords or other hidden content designed to better appeal to Google’s indexing software. But, again, Google can identify these tactics and will rank your site lower as a result.
Google has a helpful SEO Starter Guide that goes into much greater detail on how to improve your organic rankings.
Go Deeper for eCommerce
Google’s best practices are a good place to start. But eCommerce sites need to go beyond the basics to increase the online traffic to their digital storefronts. Thankfully, SEO service and tools provider Ahrefs has created a step-by-step guide for an eCommerce SEO strategy.
The Ahrefs guide understandably highlights the use of the company’s own tools and services, but the guide still contains some valuable concepts that any eCommerce site can apply.
Ahrefs suggests that eCommerce companies:
- Do keyword research. This entails using keyword planning tools to figure out the best keywords for both category pages and product detail pages. That can include the use of “long-tail” keywords that might not be immediately obvious, but that can deliver strong results over a long period of time.
- Optimize on-page SEO strategies. This does involve creating meta tags and schema markup. But don’t worry, the Ahrefs guide will walk you through those techniques, as well as the benefits of things like optimized URLs and unique content on both category pages and product detail pages.
- Fix “technical” SEO problems. This includes things like removing duplicated content—something that Google’s crawler is not terribly fond of—as well as eliminating “deep” or “orphaned” pages that are more than three clicks removed from your home page.
How TurnTo Can Help with SEO
Ratings & Reviews are incredibly important to shoppers. Our research shows that three-quarters of shoppers are less likely to buy something from a site that lacks Customer-Generated Content like Ratings & Reviews.
Why? Because Customer-Generated Content provides an authentic voice to shoppers from a trusted source—themselves.
But more than that, product reviews can yield serious benefits for your SEO efforts. TurnTo’s Ratings and Reviews are fully viewable and indexable by search engines. That means shoppers who submit a review are actually adding relevant keywords to your product detail pages, without you having to do anything.
Reviews also give product detail pages unique content, something highly regarded by search engine algorithms. Product detail pages that are regularly updated are also indexed by search engines with greater frequency, delivering even more value to your SEO strategy.
TurnTo’s widget platform is fully indexable by Google. And the indexability of our reviews also means they’re included in Googles’ “rich snippets,” the search results that include extra information, like a product’s star rating, that’s placed between the URL and the description of a search result.
Rich snippets like the one seen above tend to get higher click-through rates, generating more traffic for your site.
In addition, TurnTo’s Community Q&A product, which lets shoppers answer questions posed by other shoppers directly on the product detail page, also provide the same SEO benefits. They offer new, organically created content that’s updated frequently and can help surface items to customers on search engines.
Want to learn more about how TurnTo can improve your SEO strategy?
1 2018 Search Market Share: Myths vs. Realities of Google, Bing, Amazon, Facebook, DuckDuckGo, & More; SparkToro, October 2018
November 18, 2015 by George Eberstadt
A new study from L2 of the CPG personal care market looks at the relationship between review volume and search engine results and finds:
…products with more reviews enjoy superior search visibility.
SEO is a major reason to maximize the number of reviews you collect, but there are others:
- A high review count displayed alongside the average star rating signals that a product is popular and also increases trust in the average rating by showing it is based on a meaningful sample. In fact, a higher review count can more than make up for a lower average rating. In this recent study, 61% of respondents preferred a product with a 4.5 star average based on 57 reviews over the same item with a 5 star average based on only 4 reviews.
- Larger numbers of reviews drive higher average ratings by tapping into the “happy middle” of the customer base to dilute the over-influence of the often unhappy extreme that otherwise dominates. Jockey.com (underwear) recently found that sending an email to request reviews not only increased review volume by 7X, it also increased the average rating across the site by a half a star – a HUGE effect.
While it’s no surprise that more-reviews-is-better, in practice, we find many brands and stores are so focused on the average star rating for their products that they undervalue the raw volume count and miss opportunities to increase collection.
The L2 study points to review syndication from brand sites to retail sites as an effective strategy for increasing review volume at the point of purchase. We would add that merchants should consider an open strategy for in-bound syndication, as closed networks can have significant limitations in reach, complexity, and cost.
We would also recommend that stores and brands evaluate their mechanisms for collecting reviews, as platform limitations can crush the volume of reviews collected. For example, the furniture store Raymour & Flanigan doubled the volume of verified-buyer reviews they collect by switching to an approach that automatically authenticates known reviewers rather than requiring a separate authentication step. And for unrecognized users, a flow that enables review creation before requiring authentication is essential. (Do you make your visitors register before they shop?!?)
July 17, 2015 by John Swords
Collecting great customer-generated content (CGC) is only half the game. Figuring out how to use it for maximum impact is the other half. Here’s an example of a brand using a particular type of CGC – what we call “Checkout Chatter” – to power a great email campaign. Tip-of-the-hat to Sur La Table for their creativity. We think you’ll find this inspiring.
Here, Sur La Table is building the email around a selection of the checkout comments from their “Cart Talk” pinboard. They are not only introducing the Cart Talk function of the site, they are making a range of their products look super attractive by augmenting the product images with this particular type of CGC, providing endorsement and social validation. While customer reviews can be difficult to work into outbound messaging without undermining their authenticity, checkout comments have a different feeling – an immediacy – that makes them well-suited for promotional uses.
Sur La Table’s “Cart Talk” captures customer sentiments at the time of purchase with the simple question, “Why did you choose this?” and turns it into a social share on the site for those still browsing. Because it is captured at the point of purchase, the sentiment is consistently positive and it is a great asset to build enthusiasm around products – not to mention SEO.
It’s just one piece of the ongoing strategy Kevin Ertell, SVP of Digital at Sur La Table has for building community with customers leveraging product insights contributed by the customers themselves. You can read and hear more about that in our previous blog entry.
Our clients using Checkout Chatter capture these checkout comments from shoppers on up to 15% of all orders. What brand wouldn’t benefit from massive amounts of positive-sentiment user-generated comments about their products that could be easily sprinkled throughout their site? Empowering customers with the ability to share their thoughts or experience with purchased products helps reassure their fellow shoppers that they will be making a wise decision. And that leads to increased conversion rates.
October 25, 2013 by George Eberstadt
Scott Anderson of Iterate Studio sent me an internal memo he wrote last week on the implications of Google’s movement towards semantic search. It’s interesting and important, and he offered that I could share it. So here it is:
I pulled the attached article from my favorite SEO/SEM site. It gets into “semantic search” which is the big new thing at Google as evidenced by Knowledge Graph, which is a meager step 1 down a path to answering complex questions for searchers.
Since Google wants to be the place that dishes up answers to questions, the clear SEO implication for ecommerce sites (well, any site for that matter) is to dish up more and more quality answers to relevant questions.
This frankly makes TurnTo an even more strategic solution provider. Using customers to ask and answer questions in their own words for SEO is actually a main reason we adopted it at Vitamin Shoppe.
Of particular interest given Google’s increasing focus on complex questions is the product’s support for category-level questions, which are more likely to be asked on Google than the very detailed product questions. Again, it’s user generated content so there isn’t a burden on the retailer’s overworked staff.
While TurnTo’s mission is to lower customer support costs and humanize the user experience, the content getting generated is right in the bullseye of what Google wants to see.
Traditional SEO practices will remain essential, but the future is already here.
Promoting the idea of Q&A on eCommerce sites at the category (or “topic”) level the last couple of years has felt a lot like pushing a rock uphill. On the whole, our customers have been focused on the traffic and conversion benefits to the product detail page. So at first I thought it was coincidence that we’ve recently had a number of our customers come to us to begin implementation of category-level Q&A. But what’s really happening has become clear: businesses are figuring out that more general topic discussion and Q&A content is increasingly important to their organic traffic strategy. And they are realizing that hosting this sort of discussion on their category pages is a great way to generate it.
September 24, 2012 by George Eberstadt
If you know customer reviews, you know that half of the value – maybe more – is in the insights you can extract. So you might think the same is true for Social Q&A, since these are the two main sources of user-generated content on product detail pages. But you’d be mistaken. For Social Q&A, engagement is the key, which means that if your Social Q&A system isn’t delivering massive customer interaction, it’s falling short.
In a recent talk I gave to a gathering of e-commerce execs from major brands and retailers, I asked the audience for a show of hands on this: if they were forced to turn off part of their customer review system, which part would they chose? The options were:
- Turn off the back end. Visitors to their sites and storefronts could see all the reviews, as could search engines, but all the analytics would be gone.
- Turn off the front end. All the analytics would be available, but none of the content would be visible to shoppers or search engines.
The room split exactly in half.
At the Shop.org Summit last week in Denver, the CMO of a fashion brand told me he had just run a rigorous A/B test on their customer reviews. He was new to the brand, and even though they’d had reviews for a while, he didn’t want to just assume it was working. He tested the overall, site-wide effect on conversion (not just whether items with reviews did better than items without, or whether high-scoring items sold better than low scoring items). His discovery: negative lift! Overall, sales dropped a bit when reviews were turned on. So I asked if he was going to turn reviews off. He said that hadn’t been decided; the insight value they got from reviews was important enough that they would probably keep them after all. (There’s neat recent story on how stores are using the insights from customer reviews to steer their businesses in the Wall Street Journal.) n.b. Fashion brands seem to have a stormier relationship with customer reviews than many other retail segments. Your mileage may differ…
If you have had this sort of experience with customer reviews, you might think that the value equation is about the same for Social Q&A. But it’s not. While Social Q&A can also deliver valuable insights, it is first-and-foremost an engagement tool. You are not going to make up for poor Q&A engagement with analytics.
To put it simply: an unanswered question is a real downer, whereas no one ever knows about the review that was never written. Unanswered questions on your product detail page scream “nobody home”. First, there are the disappointed shoppers who asked questions and never heard back. Then there are the shoppers who come later and see all the unanswered questions stacked up. Sure, you can hide unanswered questions, but that makes it even less likely they get answered, and it doesn’t help the person who asked. You can have your staff answer all the questions, but then you’re probably better off with a live chat approach, and you’re missing out on all the benefits of getting your real customers to interact with your shoppers. In short, if your Social Q&A system doesn’t quickly and reliably get lots of customer answers to shopper questions, you’re probably better off not inviting shoppers to ask. It’s better not to create expectations if you’re not going to be able to fulfill them.
On the other hand, if you get Social Q&A right, the massive customer engagement it generates effectively drives top-line growth. One fashion merchant that uses TurnTo for Social Q&A sees 1100% conversion lift from those who ask questions or read dialog from others. And it’s not an isolated effect – about 25% of their orders come from shoppers who interact with Q&A before purchasing.
Further, there are the SEO benefits; Social Q&A done right produces 2-4 times as much user-generated content (UGC) as customer reviews, which is great for driving organic search traffic. If your Social Q&A system is not delivering enough customer engagement to produce UGC at scale, it’s under-performing.
So the next time someone tells you that engagement isn’t important for Social Q&A – that it’s the analytics that matter, just like for customer reviews – start by asking what sort of customer engagement their Q&A system produces.
January 16, 2012 by John Swords
Congratulations to InkJetSuperStore for winning the Social Media Marketing category of Retail TouchPoints’ Customer Engagement Awards 2012!
You can read Retail TouchPoint’s article here and download the complete Customer Awards Report from there, but in a nutshell it was through a nomination process, the winners were selected based on, but not limited to, four specific criteria:
- Unique shopping/promotional offerings
- Customer engagement strategies
- Customer analysis
- Technology innovation
Using the TurnTo technology, InkJetSuperStore has increased conversion, AOV, and loyalty. Here are some of the results from the past couple of months.
- Shoppers who asked questions or read Q&A from others converted at a rate 80% higher than those who didn’t – an especially significant lift since Inkjet Superstore is a replenishment business with a high repeat customer rate and a very high conversion rate.
- The average order value of shoppers who interacted with TurnTo was 14% higher than the AOV of those who don’t.
- 16% of all purchasers answered the question “Why did you choose this item?” following check-out (through the TurnTo Purchase Sharing function).
You can see from the complete list of winners below, InkJetSuperStore is sitting in good company:
- Casual Male Retail Group (CMRG)
- David’s Bridal
- Foot Locker
- Hot Topic
- Inkjet Superstore
- Rutter’s Farm Stores
- Tasti D-Lite
- Urban Outfitters
And if winning the award was not exciting enough for InkJetSuperStore and TurnTo, George and I were at the Retail TouchPoints booth @ NRF on Monday as he accepted the award on behalf of ILan Douek, President of InkJetSuperStore, as Ilan was unable to attend.
Over here we like to say “When you connect your shoppers to your customers, good things happen!” and apparently that not only means conversion, loyalty and SEO for our customers, but now includes industry recognition…again, congratulations to InkJetSuperStore!
To learn how TurnTo can improve the metrics that mean the most to you and your business, give us a shout @ 908.752.9658 or email firstname.lastname@example.org (yes, a shameless plug from me).
April 1, 2011 by George Eberstadt
Here’s the full video from our webinar on Tuesday with our partner and leading Yahoo Store design and development shop FastPivot. It’s about an hour.
March 14, 2011 by George Eberstadt
Join us and leading Yahoo Store services provider FastPivot for a webinar on:
Tuesday, March 29, 2011 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM EDT
Question-and-Answer systems are one of the hottest topics on the social web. Now learn how to use Social Q&A on your store to increase conversions, bring past customers back, improve your SEO rankings, and drive fresh traffic from social networks.
The goodwill of your customer base is the #1 asset of your business. Don’t leave it locked away. Adding Social Q&A to your store can release this untapped goodwill to generate more sales by connecting your shoppers directly to your customers. That’s what makes it “Social” – this isn’t just another customer service tool; this is a level of community engagement you’ve never seen before. Results include: – Shopper questions about popular items typically receive 3-6 answers from customers within 24 hours – 80% of these questions receive their first customer answer within an hour or two – 7% of past customers receiving a shopper question email return to the store to provide an answer – Shoppers who engage with Q&A convert at a massively higher rate – as high as 7X the baseline – Often produces more user-generated-content (UGC) than customer reviews with attendant SEO benefits During the webinar we’ll walk you through a number of live examples of Social Q&A in action on Yahoo! Stores. Register here