Why Your Optimization Work Should Transcend Your E-Commerce Website

Amy Wadsworth

Optimization helps e-commerce businesses boost conversion rates and generate more revenue from their customers’ spend. But to be most effective, optimization needs to transcend the website and help boost efficiency and profitability across the entire business.

Here are several examples of how we have done just this to help several of our e-commerce clients.

Challenging Industry Norms to Find a Better Way

A home interior products retailer that sells fitted window blinds across their range of websites, like their competitors, allowed customers to request a sample of blinds so they can see how they look and feel before making a purchase decision.

We asked the client why they allowed this, and the answer was that it is how their industry has always operated. But we wanted to challenge this industry norm, believing that you could increase sales of blinds without having to send out costly samples. So, we ran a test with multiple variations against the control.

For the first variation, we reduced the visual hierarchy for the samples, changing the ‘Order Free Sample’ call to action button to just a text link. For the second variation, we removed the free sample option completely. After running the test for 28 days, the second variation with the free sample option removed outperformed both the control and the first variation.

In other words, more sales, not less, were generated by removing the free sample option.

We then waited a further 28 days for the customers (from the control and the first variation) who had selected and received a sample to come back onto the website and purchase blinds.

Even after this, the second variation still outperformed both the control and first variation. Not only did the business generate more sales by removing the free sample option, but they saved a significant amount in material, packaging, postage and resource costs, which improved their profitability.

One of the beauties of this case study is that we were able to change an industry norm and prove that there’s a better and more cost-efficient way to sell these products.

Improving Customers’ Ability to Self-Serve

Between 30% and 60% of online purchases in the retail sector are returned. In performing research for an online retailer that offers a wide range of products to over 2 million active customers, we learned that consumers found it very difficult to return products they had decided they didn’t want. Therefore, many ended up contacting the call centre to learn how to make returns.

We worked with the call centre to analyse the volume and nature of calls they were receiving. We analysed customer data and ran user testing sessions observing customers attempting to return products and we interviewed customers to try and understand what their specific challenges were when returning products.

Based on these insights, we redesigned the customer My Account area to make returns easier. As a result, calls to the call centre for returns were reduced by 43%, which resulted in greater resource efficiency and cost savings.

Reducing Model and Photography Costs

Cropped View versus Full View

In the past, this fashion retailer based in the north of England, hired models from across the UK, but mainly from London, for their clothing photo shoots. Not only was the company paying high wages for some of the country’s top models, but they also had to pay for the models’ travel and lodging expenses.

We wondered if this expense was really necessary. To find out, we ran an experiment on the product listing pages in which for the variation, models’ faces were hidden, versus for the control, where models faces were shown.

The result was the variation showed an increase in product detail page views, adds to basket and an overall 6% increase in the user conversion rate. Based on this, the company started hiring local models, which saved them money and simplified the logistics of hiring models and shooting.

Using Regular Size Instead of “Big and Tall” Models

A men’s formal wear retailer was using specialised models to wear “big and tall” suits for photos on their website. These models were more expensive. However, the suits themselves looked the same as a regular suit — they were just bigger.

After doing some research, we determined that their customers didn’t identify as “big and tall”, so they stayed away from this section of the website. Instead, they just looked at suits on regular sized models and bought a larger size from these pages.

As a result, the company stopped hiring specialised models to wear “big and tall” suits and instead just presented these suits online using regular size models, saving model and site maintenance costs. The “big and tall” section of the website has also been removed.

Using Models of varying sizes

A Swedish fashion brand used mannequins for displaying and shooting clothing, but their research indicated that customers preferred to see clothing displayed on live models. The company tested live models and experienced a 10% increase in the conversion rate.

Additional research also indicated that customers preferred to see clothing on models of varying shapes and sizes, so they tested this, hiring additional models of varying sizes. However, this actually led to a drop in the user conversion rate. In other words, customers’ practices didn’t match what they said they wanted, so the company went back to using the original models .

This test saved the retailer from investing additional sums into an activity that was actually going to have a negative effect on their retail performance and growth.

Transcending Your Website

Is your optimization work transcending your website and helping boost efficiency and profitability across your entire business? If not, it might be time to start looking at ways on how it can. Optimization is a crucial growth practice that brings numerous benefits and advantages right across a business. If you focus just on your website, you are missing out on a lot of incremental efficiency and profitability gains.

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