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Oct 6, 2008 | 4 minute read

Product Recalls: Addressing Consumer Safety Fears On-Site

written by Linda Bustos

Last week I posted How to Find a Reputation Manager which was inspired by reading Andy Beal's handbook to online reputation management, Radically Transparent.

Keeping with the theme of creating a positive online reputation, I want to illustrate how retailers can address common consumer FUDDs (fears, uncertainties, doubts and deal-breakers) both on-site (today's post) and through online PR (tomorrow's post).

Example: Addressing Consumer Safety

An example of a FUDD heading into the holiday season is concern about product safety and recalls in the toy category. Last year, toys such as Polly Pocket play sets, Batman action figures, and Barbie dolls were pulled off shelves and from online catalogs due to dangers posed by lead paint and tiny magnets that children may swallow. Consumers became more cautious of country-of-origin, and turned to the Internet to research product safety and look for safer alternatives, even if they were more expensive. (More recently, food and household products from China arouse the same fear).

It's important that customers who are conscious of product safety trust shopping on your site. To build that trust, you must have content that addresses the issue/s customers care about, make that information easy to find on your site and even use it to attract new customers to your site through search engines.

Tip 1: Have Content Online That Addresses the FUDD

I checked out several toy retailers, from dedicated-to-toys (Toys R Us, KB Toys) to department stores (Walmart, Target) and smaller toy stores (All-Aboard Toys, ToyWiz). The majority did have product recall information available, either prominently in the home page or toy category page design, or tucked away in footer menus (you really have to dig for it).

Kudos to Toys R Us for putting a link to consumer safety information front-and-center on its home page. This call-to-action links to a friendly safety section that explains Toys R Us' policy on recalls and returns, its safety standards and a feed of latest recalls from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

This is well done, yet I am still left with a couple questions:

1. Why does Toys R Us wait 120 days after the recall? How do I know if products I am browsing today have been recalled?

2. If I have purchased a product subject to recall, will I be notified by Toys R Us? If so, how and how soon? Will Toys R Us pay for return shipping?

Tip 2: Provide Option for Ongoing Communication

Toys R Us also lets customers subscribe to email alerts on product recalls. It would also be nice to have an RSS option, but this is still a great service:

An alternative would be to offer this content in blog format and allow customers to subscribe via email or RSS. It may be possible to pull feeds directly from Consumer Product Safety Commission press releases and provide a feed from your site, or use these releases to craft your own unique content.

Amazon suggests you sign up for recall notices from the government, but misses the opportunity to make it an Amazon-branded customer service tool.

Tip 3: SEO Your Content

Consumers are undoubtedly looking online for answers regarding product recalls. A little bit of keyword research on "toy recall" with the Google Keyword Tool shows decent average monthly searches for related terms, which you can create content for and optimize for search engines:

Some keywords may be specific enough to warrant their own pages - like "Mattel toy recalls." You may even want to bid on Adwords for these terms, as they are informative searches that introduce the information seeker to your brand (don't forget to use the right landing page!) If you offer a service such as email or RSS updates as a call-to-engagement on your landing page, it's a great opportunity to establish trust and customer loyalty through long-term communication.

Tip 4: Optimize for Site Search

Make sure your SEO'd information pages are also accessible through internal site search for usability (as you should for all non-product information). Your navigation may not be intuitive enough for everyone - especially customers who just always use the search box.

What about product pages?

Customers may search for a product without being aware it has been recalled. What an opportunity to provide good customer service by displaying a landing page that either explains the recall and offers alternative products and a link to subscribe to all recall notifications! Or, show the original product page, with clear messaging the product is not available for sale (and a link to more information) and suitable alternative, safe products you do carry?

Instead, a search for "razor dirt quad" recently recalled by Target or Toys R Us yields "no results found" on both sites:

Recommended alternatives would be ideal here, but Toys R Us doesn't even link to Customer Service contact information.

Tip 5: Optimize the Product Page

My recommendation would be to keep the product page, even after recall (could bring search engine traffic to you) but clearly show that the product is not available for sale, and why. Don't allow a customer to add the product to cart, and dp ask for a sign-up to your RSS or email notifications on product recalls, or when a safe model comes back in-stock. If possible, suggest alternative products that the customer can buy from you.

This concludes the "on-site" portion of this article, tune in tomorrow for off-site PR tips.