The Social Side of Retail

I have two favorite stores, both of which are online, that I visit daily: Amazon and Newegg. Both provide excellent product information that includes customer reviews, photos of products, and related product suggestions. I recently discovered that both have customer forums that facilitate more free-form discussions about their products. This is another case of leveraging the internet community to help people make better buying decisions. Its also cost-effective to let customers help other customers rather than tie up support lines.

Amazon's Amapedia is really a community-based wiki with detailed product reviews. From their website:

Amapedia introduces a new way of organizing product information that we call “collaborative structured tagging”. Articles about products are tagged with terms that describe what the product is (“This Is A”) as well as their most important features (“Facts”). We believe that this way of organizing information will make it easy for you to write about the products that you like most. This structured information will also allow other community members to easily discover, filter, and compare related products and product features. Check out Real-time Strategy Games to get a sense of what collaborative structured tagging is about.

eggxpert.JPGSo far I haven't been too impressed with the site, but they are on the right track if they can generate more content. A better site is Newegg's Eggxpert, which has forums, chats, blogs, and newsletters. They are also on Twitter, though I don't find that very useful. When building a PC, its often good to get people's opinions on compatibility, so this resource hits the mark. From their website:

EggXpert.com is an extensive and easy-to-use online tech community designed specifically for PC & consumer electronics enthusiasts. Via our online forums, blogs and regular interactive events, community members can take part in tech discussion, political debate and network with other EggXpert members. Join our growing community today, and make EggXpert.com your place to meet with tech fans from around the world!

Another good site I found is BestBuy's Community. They have message boards, polls, podcasts, blogs, and twitters from executives. Reading some of the posts, it really feels like they are taking care of their customers. I noticed there were several comments bashing Best Buy, but they were untouched. That's they way it has to be -- keep the posting even if they cast the retailer in a bad light.

While researching computer cases on Newegg's site, I saw a customer comment that complained some parts were missing from the product he purchased. Immediately following was a response from the manufacturer (not Newegg) apologizing for the issue and asking them to call the help desk to arrange for a free shipment of parts. That's the right way to respond to customer complaint.

Any other community sites from retailers out there?

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David Dorf, Sr Director Technology Strategy for Oracle Retail, shares news and ideas about the retail industry with a focus on innovation and emerging technologies.


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