TurnTo Networks Solves The FAQ’s Of Social Q&A

When you’re online shopping for the perfect dinette, or the prettiest pair of earrings that are just your mum’s style and her birthday’s coming up, where do you go to learn about the items you’re eyeballing online?

George Eberstadt, CEO of TurnTo Networks, has the answers.

I recently had the opportunity to interview him about socializing online commerce, a great new tool they’ve introduced to business owners who want to take dialogue with their customers to the next level.

What is social Q&A, exactly? Can it be described in 10 words or less?

Get multiple, faster answers to shopper questions FROM REAL CUSTOMERS. (Sounds pretty good to us!)

What, exactly, is TurnTo for a small business owner? What are the benefits for them?

Most customers are happy with the stores where they shop, but very few will pro-actively shout about it. On the other hand, when asked by friends and other shoppers about their experience at a store, they’ll willingly share their positive feelings. So if stores can figure out a way to connect shoppers to their past customers, something good usually happens.

TurnTo provides a suite of tools to connect shoppers with a store’s past customers. “Ask Owners” lets shoppers direct questions to people who really bought the products they are considering. “Social Merchandising” tells shoppers which of their friends (from Facebook and their address books) has shopped at the store they are visiting. Purchase sharing runs on the order confirmation page, and asks buyers “Why did you choose this?” and shares the answers with other shoppers.

And the benefits?

The overall effect is increased conversions, mounds of user content that improves search engine rankings, past customers brought back to the store, and new traffic driven from Facebook and Twitter.

What are the costs? Are there price tiers, or one price?

Pricing is a flat monthly fee, based on the scale of the store using the system. Entry pricing is $150/month.

How does it work?

Ask Owners enables shoppers to ask questions right from an online store’s product pages. Those questions get emailed to customers who purchased that product in the past, and the answers get sent to the shopper. Typically a question is sent to 60-80 past buyers and these emails get a 7% answer rate, resulting in 3-6 responses. The first responses arrive within hours and often even sooner.

What other products are out there similar to TurnTo? What makes TurnTo shine in comparison?

There are other Q&A systems for ecommerce, such as Amazon’s new Askville, but all follow a bulletin-board model: post your question and hope it gets answered. TurnTo directly engages a store’s entire customer base resulting in more responses, and with a faster response time. Most stores using TurnTo report that the system generates more user content in total than their customer reviews system.

With a better return rate than most other customer review sites and Q&A forums, as well as an opportunity to hear customer opinions both about online presentation and using the product to better understand what your customer is looking for, TurnTo provides tremendous possibility for small business owners. They have a built-in dialogue with current and potential customers, and it gives people a sense that they’re truly being heard.

Delena Silverfox is a freelance writer and full-time student. She majors in Psychology at Grand Canyon University and expects to earn her BS in Psych in 2012. She hosts a blog about Natural Parenting and is currently writing a book about the subject.

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