Lifting Conversion Through Curation and Badging

It’s time to add “curation” and “badging” to the list of words and phrases that marketers have coined or converted in recent years. That list includes everything from evangelist to long tail, fat head, and socializing.

If you’re into conversion rate optimization you may want to start sprinkling curation and badging into your pitches because it’s definitely going to have a positive impact on conversion rates. Allow me to elaborate.

All That Stuff

In the context of digital content, curation seems to have started out as the idea that we should do something to preserve the growing mass of words, images, and video generated by social media and content sharing sites like Flickr and YouTube.

But what to do with all that stuff, like the massive stream of content emerging as tweets and Facebook status updates and comments, or the volumes of criticism being penned as customer reviews on places like or at online stores using services like Bazaarvoice?

Clearly some of this material is worth keeping. The rest? Not so much.

The Smithsonian and other major museums around the world face a similar problem: they have way more art and artifacts to show off than space to show them. The answer? Curation. Someone chooses which stuff is worthy to display and should be showcased.

But how do you do that with all this digital stuff? One approach is to use metrics and input from the source of the content itself. In terms of social media, that means tweets which are retweeted the most or tagged as favorites are deemed more worthy of attention. Reviews rated as most helpful are more deserving of attention.

This is where curation starts to rub up against conversion.

For example, pointing out helpful reviews serves a practical purpose for consumers. I recently shopped for a cordless electric kettle on and there were over 150 to choose from. One that caught my eye had 185 reviews. I only had time to read one review, so I read the one ranked “Most Helpful.” It got curated as that because 173 of 178 people said they found it helpful and so did I (I bought that kettle, and so far I’m very happy with it).

The Benefits of Badging

Online marketers are now using curation to increase conversion rates at online stores and other digital emporiums like travel sites.

Consider Freshpair, where a shopper looking for sleepwear has been shown a fairly typical grid of product shots, enhanced by curation. One item is highlighted as Oprah’s Pick. We are told another item is a Limited Edition.

We can think of these messages calling attention to specific items within a group as badges, a visual shorthand, like getting a gold star, literally so in the case of the Limited Edition camisole.

You can also see curation at work at Sheplers, a site that carries a dizzying array of Western boots. While some shoppers who go to know exactly what they want, others are at risk of getting lost in the digital aisles. After all, there are 10 categories of Work Boots and 60 choices in the “Pull-on” sub-category alone.

So when a shopper gets to a page with 60 choices, it helps to know which items are new, which are best sellers, and so on. Fortunately, technology makes that easy.

In the case of Sheplers, they don’t have to create new product shots every time the curation changes. They simply program the web pages to automatically overlay the badges on the product images based on simple business rules. For example, if the product SKU is in a list called “new” then the “new” badge is floated over the product image whenever it’s displayed.

The bestseller badge is a little smarter. Like any good retailer, Sheplers is running analytics all the time. The company knows which items sell best and feeds those SKUs to a list that triggers the badge display.

Sheplers has seen sales increase since they began badging products like this, but they’re understandably reluctant to reveal by just how much. And although they’ve been around for over 100 years, you can bet they are testing and monitoring all their online marketing strategies in real time to make sure they are maximizing conversion rates.