Rockler Woodworking increases the number of customer reviews on its site after introducing software to allow photo postings from any device.

Rockler Woodworking and Hardware’s customers quickly put their craftiness to work with the retailer’s new mobile photo-sharing tool, sharing images to the point that, within a week, customer reviews with photos accounted for 15% of reviews.

The photo tool also drove up the customer review response rate to 3.9% from 2.5%, says Scott Ekman, vice president of marketing for Rockler Cos. Inc. “As soon as we added a photo button to our review-invitation emails, customers started using it to add photos of the furniture, cabinets and other woodworking projects they were building using our products,” Ekman says. “Our customers love giving advice and they trust fellow customers to be honest and give good feedback.”

Rockler’s online sales of woodworking tools, hardware and equipment account for about half of its yearly revenue of more than $100 million. The rest of the company’s sales come from 31 stores nationwide.

In early March, Rockler installed Visual Reviews from TurnTo Networks Inc., a vendor of ratings, reviews and Q&A technology.

Rockler was already a TurnTo customerfor text-based Q&A and customer reviews, Ekman says. To enable Visual Reviews, Rockler updated to the latest version of TurnTo’s Javascript widget. The process took less than an hour, but as a beta customer, Rockler worked with TurnTo for several weeks to tweak the service before launch, he says.

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Ekman declined to disclose the monthly subscription it pays TurnTo for Visual Reviews.

TurnTo sends customers an email after each purchase, asking them to rate the item on a five-star system. Desktop and laptop users see in their email a prompt to rate and write a review first, followed by the photo prompt. Smartphone users see a “take a photo” button first at the top of their email, along with prompts to access the phone’s camera or share a photo that’s already on their phone.

“Within the first week, customers submitted reviews with nearly 100 photos and now, after two-and-a-half months, we have nearly 1,000 photos submitted with reviews,” he says.

Reviews from smartphones more than tripled since the Visual Reviews launch, to 33% from about 10% prior to the launch, Ekman says, though it’s  too early to tell if reviews with photos have boosted sales.

Rockler posts reviews on its product-review section based on their ratings as helpful. But the company plans to start a customer gallery of photos that will appear higher up on the website, Ekman says.

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Visual Reviews also allows customers to post videos, but few have done so, Ekman says. Rockler plans to add videos to its Q&A section, where Ekman says he expects customers to ask or answer more complex questions.

Though Rockler customers post photos to Facebook, Instagram and other social media, those photos don’t link directly to products on the Rockler website, and Rockler doesn’t have the personnel to sift through images on social media and ask customers for permission to use them on the Rockler website, Ekman says.

“We want our customers to come to our website first, and we want to build a community among our customers sharing their advice and expertise with each other,” he says. That’s already happening: One customer answered another’s question in the Q&A section about a power tool’s noise level and offered to call the inquiring customer and hold his cellphone up to the power tool to demonstrate its noise level.

 

 

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