Late last week Yahoo! expanded Neighbors, modeled to some degree on Yahoo! Answers, nationwide. And this morning MerchantCircle launched “Answers.” It enables consumers to ask any question and allows MerchantCircle members (SMBs) to respond. There’s no advertising or other monetization associated with the feature (other than AdSense at the top of the page). However businesses and consumers must be registered to participate.
The program has been running in a limited beta mode for roughly eight weeks and here are the preliminary findings based on MerchantCircle’s survey of usage and consumer response:
- more than 12,000 consumers have asked questions
- nearly 15,000 merchants have answered questions
- 85% of questions are answered within 24 hours
- 75% say Answers is “useful” or “very useful”
- 78% say the response they received was “relevant” or “very relevant”
- 86% say the answer to their question was “valuable” or “very valuable”
- 79% say they are “likely” or “very likely” to use the Answers product again
Beyond the fact that this type of service is valuable as a general matter MerchantCircle sees it as a tool to “re-engage” merchants via its site. The community can vote for the best answer (as with other systems) and the merchants who participate can gain points to establish themselves as experts.
Consumers categorize their questions and can limit the geographic scope of the response to their area:
Finally the questions that consumers are asking and the related merchant answers will show up in search results, which is how MerchantCircle gets most of its traffic today. The site claims 20 minute monthly uniques.