This blog post is guest-written by Anna Skaya, Bazaarvoice Community Manager in the UK. This is part of a series of blogs on building and sustaining healthy Q&A communities.

Spring is here, and every respectful Brit is heading into the country, armed with a bike, tent and Sat Nav in hand. Of course, the best place to go for all your spring gear needs is Halfords, the UK’s leading travel solutions and in car technology retailer, and one of Bazaarvoice’s most mature and successful retail clients. With both Ratings & Reviews and Ask & Answer, Halfords is optimizing UGC to give their customers the information they need to make the best purchase decision, from your first bike to your first Sat Nav.

Bazaarvoice teamed up with Halfords for some initial analysis to see the kinds of benefits Ask & Answer is driving for the business. Working with Coremetrics, Halfords showed an increase in Average Order Value, Buyer/Visitor Ratio, and a double-digit increase in page views per session for users that have interacted with Ask &Answer. Not surprising, since with over 12,000+ questions and answers on the site — most answered by the dedicated Halfords Web team — Halfords is off to a fantastic start and sees a great opportunity to get their community experts more involved in contributing answers.

This week I sat down with Jon Asbury, Channel Development Manager at Halfords, to talk about the value and need for user-generated content on the site.

1. What made you decide to add Ask & Answer to your site?

Halfords provide great expertise from colleagues in our stores and we wanted to provide a similar customer-focused experience online. Ask & Answer offered us a way to do that and harness the user community without significant investment in internal resource. Plus we were convinced that it would drive additional value in upsells and conversion.

2. What has surprised you the most about participation?

Very surprised at the volume of questions (Which begs the question what customers would have done if they couldn’t ask the question!) and the range of products queried. I am happy to see that our teams are so engaged with this product – we are building a community online, and Ask & Answer is one of the best ways for us to get to know our customers, and their needs.

3. What internal changes have you seen with the introduction of user-generated content?

Questions quickly flagged deficiencies in product descriptions and data, which were quickly filled and informed plans for next season. Colleagues in category teams help with really technical questions that the community couldn’t answer, which in turn informs POS and leaflet content.

The Product Quality team also help with technical questions and follow up issues raised (particularly from rejected questions) with suppliers. Going full circle on many of their processes is showing additional value for us and our suppliers. True win-win!

4. What can you recommend to other retailers who have A&A on the site to drive success? What are your top best practices?

Keep on top of questions — if it isn’t answered within a few days by the community, make sure an official answer is given. Make sure there is a team able to pick up routine answers who are knowledgeable in their area and set up daily workbench alerts for them. We see that this initial investment is paying off greatly in sales!

When investing in Ask & Answer, it is important to consider having a comprehensive plan to drive the best results and highest community and internal participation. The accomplishments Halfords has seen, both in terms of volume and sales, is due to their wide-ranging approach to make this successful. A strong branding campaign as well as the implementation of our best practices makes for a success story, as well as plans to integrate A&A into their new Post Purchase email, and to add Social Alerts and additional top-rated email marketing to promote the feature.

From a general volume perspective, Halford’s answer-to-question ratio is 85%, with 82% of their questions showing at least one answer.  This ranks them among the most successful Ask & Answer clients.  They have strong cross-departmental participation and the whole business is plugged in.  In aggregate, this places them between a level 3 and a level 4 on the Ask & Answer maturity scale.   Engaging manufacturers and more of the community to answer questions would put them solidly in level 4 status.

For details of your nearest Halfords store telephone 08457 626625 or visit www.halfords.com.

Stay tuned for more real world tips from clients who are getting the most out of Ask & Answer, including our blog post about “How to Build and Sustain and Healthy Q&A Community.”

For more information, request “Harnessing the Power of Community Q&A.” And stay tuned to our blog for examples of clients who are making the most of their online Q&A.

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