Customer Reviews Are a Great Experience Online. Why Not Apply Them Offline, Too?


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Given these lousy economic times, most marketers are eager to make more out of what they already have. And one thing that web marketers have plenty of are clicks and visitor interactions.

How could we make more out of those for the business? (other than the obvious answer, i.e. raising online conversion rates, yada yada)

My colleague Jay Henderson kindly pointed me to an interesting idea at Cabela’s, the outdoors outfitter. Cabela’s are a multichannel retailers with stores, catalog, call center, and of course a web site.


Back in April, an announcement appeared in press that Cabela’s will be testing a fascinating idea of making more out user generated content online. Remember, companies such as PowerReviews and Bazaarvoice that engage web site visitors in creating product reviews, i.e. ratings and sometimes even tags? A while back on this blog we were discussing whether those reviews lift sales or not.

Well, Cabela’s announced they will test a way to make more out of those reviews. Namely, according to an article in DM News, Cabela’s was going to start displaying some of those reviews within their retail stores:

“Working with its social media partner, Bazaarvoice, the outdoors products mer­chant has begun testing signs that feature quotes from customer reviews in some stores, building on its earlier success apply­ing user-generated content to its catalogs, e-mails and in-store kiosks.”

I myself don’t live near a Cabela’s store nor have I ever received their catalog or emails. But according to the article they started displaying user generated product ratings in emails and catalogs before trying them out in stores.

A few queries on Google failed to dig up any news whether Cabela’s actually carried through with the experiment nor whether it was deemed successful. Have you been to a Cabela’s store and saw any of this with your own eyes?

By the way, how would you measure whether such an experiment was successful or not?

The natural way would be to try the experiment in selected stores and compare the items’ performance vs. control group stores.

You’d want to correct for various tricky things though:

  • Make sure the trend for the broad product category (say, the retail isle) is the same. If Golfing stuff is down in Calgary vs. constant in Miami, then these stores won’t make for a good test vs. control in regards to a golfing item.
  • Before you declare success that reviews succeeded in lifting sales in the test stores, be sure that there isn’t cannibalization:
    • Did buyers simply swap one golf club set vs. another or did the average number of items per basket go up?
    • Did buyers’ average spend increase because they read positive reviews about a more expensive set of clubs?
    • If buyers’ spent more on Golf clubs due to a review, did that cannibalize spending on, say, fishing gear? After all, there is only so much discretionary pocket money to go around.
  • Hey, and did those customers become more loyal?
  • And did they become better whisperers, as in: “You gotta check out that Cabela’s store. They aren’t cheap but I love shopping there.”

Tricky, tricky.


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