LendingTreeChoosing a mortgage can be difficult, so LendingTree empowers consumers to make informed decisions and take control of their financial destinies – it’s the cornerstone of their popular “You to the Rescue” campaign.  The site offers free tools and personalized advice to give consumers  confidence in their choices. Ratings & Reviews is an integral part of this strategy.

LendingTree recently measured the success of Ratings & Reviews, tracking visitor behavior for their primary site performance metric – completion rate of new loan requests. They found that site visitors who first read customer reviews went on to fill out loan requests 83% more often than those who did not read lender reviews. You can read the full case study here.

Tom O’Neill, Director of Site Innovation at LendingTree, sat down to chat about the results and the company’s vision of social commerce in 2010.

What’s the thinking behind the redesigned LendingTree site, featuring “You to the Rescue”?

We redesigned our website to make it more accessible to consumers as they move through the various stages of the loan process. Those phases could include people who are just starting to research their options, people who are seeking advice on specific topics (how to save for a down payment, for example), and people who are ready to start the loan process. Ratings & Reviews is an essential part of the new LendingTree site, because in its very nature it adds a community aspect to the site. It allows borrowers to hear from consumers like them and get advice before making a purchase decision.

How did you measure the ROI of Ratings & Reviews?

We wanted to understand the impact of Ratings & Reviews on the main event that we measure success by on the website. For LendingTree, that event is completing a new loan request form. We integrated Bazaarvoice with our web analytics tool and tracked visitors’ behavior over three months. We segmented visitors who read reviews versus those who did not, and looked at the completion rate  of the loan request form. We compared the numbers, and discovered that people who read reviews are 83% more likely to complete a new loan request form than those who don’t read reviews!

The results are quite significant to LendingTree, as we saw a direct impact on our primary success metric from launching Ratings & Reviews. The results have told us that investing in social commerce is worthwhile. We have lots of initiatives lined up for 2010 to build out the community elements on our site and on partner sites, using several Bazaarvoice offerings.

How did you implement social commerce and how has it impacted the business?

The biggest thing we did was get buy-in upfront from our lenders for the program. We wanted to make Ratings & Reviews as easy for them to use as it is for consumers, so we put together a handbook on UGC for them. The handbook included everything from operational tasks to marketing advice. It explained how reviews work, who to email at LendingTree with questions, customer service best practices, and how to make sure you’re proactively asking customers to review your services.

Our lenders frequently share stories about the success they’ve seen from embracing the program and making it part of their business processes. We continually communicate those success stories to our network of Lenders, as well as internally at LendingTree.

The entire organization has visibility to the program! One new practice we’ve initiated is a weekly cross-functional status update on our UGC. Every Friday a member of our Customer ExcellenceGroup sends an email with the weekly performance stats, and two new reviews – one that’s very positive, and one that shows an opportunity for improvement. This email reaches our Marketing, Product and Management teams, so Ratings & Reviews is always top of mind across the organization.

Where do you see LendingTree taking social commerce in a year?

We really want to knock it out of the park with community on our site this year! Our goal is to foster conversations between consumers and loan officers or other experts who can help them meet their financial needs. We’re launching Ask & Answer and Social Alerts to facilitate those conversations. In the end it comes down to a belief that knowledge is power. LendingTree wants to provide consumers with the information they need to make the right decision for their specific situation, removing barriers to purchase along the way, and Bazaarvoice is a key part of that strategy.

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