How Room & Board is Using Customer Reviews to Drive Sales
Room & Board is a Minneapolis-based retailer offering modern, American-made home furniture and accessories. Founded in 1980, the family-owned, privately held company has 14 stores and 900 employees. About 40 percent of Room & Board's transactions occur online. In this interview with Kimberly Ruthenbeck, director of web customer experience at Room & Board, we discuss how the furniture retailer is using customer ratings and reviews to improve the online shopping experience — and drive sales in the process.
Total Retail: When did you start using ratings and reviews as part of your marketing mix? Why did you make that decision?
Kimberly Ruthenbeck: As our online sales grew, we needed a way to differentiate ourselves from our competition, while also giving our customers the confidence they need to make a purchase — often without ever seeing an item in person. We understand that there’s nothing more powerful than word-of-mouth, which is why we partnered with PowerReviews in 2010 to implement ratings and reviews to help us increase traffic and conversion.
TR: I understand that you turned to ratings and reviews to figure out how one product had a 3.7 rating. Can you tell me about the product and what customers were saying about it?
KR: We noticed that we had an average star rating of 3.7 for one of our upholstery products. After digging into the reviews, we noticed that several shoppers had negative feedback specifically about the cushioning in the upholstery.
TR: Were you able to fix the problem based on that customer feedback?
KR: After noticing that several reviewers had negative feedback about the cushioning in the upholstery product, we shared this information with the merchant, who then changed the cushioning for the product. As a result, the average star rating for the item rose from 3.7 to 4.3.
TR: Do you have other examples of how Room & Board is using ratings and reviews?
KR: Ratings and reviews and Q&A give Room & Board feedback that we act on to improve our products and customers’ experiences.
For example, we use the data from reviews and Q&A to modify merchandise assortment. We recently analyzed review content for our rug collection and noticed that several customers identified high price as an issue. Armed with this input, we made the decision to change our rug assortment to include more options at lower price points. We also added more content to the website so consumers could understand more about the quality of our rugs.
Ratings and reviews and Q&A also allow us to identify gaps in our website content and enhance product descriptions accordingly. For example, Room & Board’s best-selling category is bedroom. However, we found that this category was generating the highest number of customer questions through our Q&A tool. We noticed similar themes in the questions that were being submitted in the bedroom category and saw this as an opportunity to add additional data points and images to the product pages in this category. As soon as we made these updates, we immediately noticed that the number of questions in this category decreased.
TR: How have ratings and reviews impacted conversion rate and other ROI metrics?
KR: We’ve found that having ratings and reviews and Q&A on our website have had a significant impact on conversion. In 2015, the conversion rate from consumers who either read reviews or Q&A on our site was 95 percent higher than the site average. In addition, reviews alone have influenced 30 percent of both online and offline sales for Room & Board. Combined with Q&A, that number jumps to 45 percent.
Ratings and reviews and Q&A are also impacting the experience of in-store shoppers. One thing we hear from our design associates time and again is that ratings and reviews result in deeper engagements with in-store customers. Shoppers who interact with ratings and reviews and Q&A come to the store with more questions and more confidence.
TR: Can you offer any best practices for our readers who may be using ratings and reviews?
KR: Continuously test, measure and optimize your ratings and reviews program. One of the biggest mistakes brands and retailers make with ratings and reviews is taking a “set it and forget it” approach. If you’re not regularly making strategic changes to your ratings and reviews program, you’re leaving opportunities on the table.
For example, the majority of our ratings and reviews are generated as a result of a post-purchase email, asking a customer to review a recently purchased product. We regularly analyze the performance of our post-purchase emails to identify areas for improvement that would help generate more reviews. We test different elements of those post-purchase emails, including timing, cadence and design. As a result of recent optimizations, we’ve increased our conversion rate of post-purchase emails sent to reviews written by 80 percent.
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