Bazaarvoice debuts Ask and Answer

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User-generated services firm Bazaarvoice, whose clients include Dell, Macy's, Overstock.com and Petco, has extended its platform with a new service called Ask and Answer.

Ask and Answer lets consumers engage in a dialogue about products by posting questions and answers about items on a retailer's product page. Questions like "Does this camera work well in low light?" and "Is this a good toy for a 3-year-old?" can be posted by curious shoppers and then answered by customers who have experience using the product.

"It's like a forum but it differs from forums because it is conveniently in the purchase path," said Sam Decker, vice president of marketing and products at Bazaarvoice, Austin, TX.

The Ask and Answer service is integrated on a retailer's site and hosted by Bazaarvoice. The platform can work with Bazaarvoice's ratings-and-reviews service and integrate with e-mail, Web analytics and existing discussion forum software.

For security, Bazaarvoice uses human-review and best-practice policies together to ensure accuracy and relevancy of answers. Questions and answers are screened for profanity, racial slurs, and other inappropriate content. Bazaarvoice also has community managers available to help retailers create strategies based on consumer-generated content. Ask and Answer also aims to optimize search rankings for landing pages.

"We have seen an increase in search optimization ratings since people often enter a question about a product into a search engine," said Brett Hurt, founder/CEO of Bazaarvoice.

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