January 30, 2004, 12:00 AM

Patagonia finds HTML beats rich media for e-catalog

Before it launched an electronic catalog, Patagonia tested two versions, one based on HTML, the other, rich media. HTML proved more popular with customers and produced a higher sales conversion rate, Patagonia says.

Before it launched an electronic version of its product catalog, sports apparel and gear retailer Patagonia Inc. tested two versions, one based on HTML, the other, rich media. HTML proved far more popular with customers and produced a higher sales conversion rate, Chris Todd, manager of Internet marketing, tells Internet Retailer.

“The HTML version worked out better and had higher accolades, and it showed a 30% higher sales conversion rate,” Todd says. In addition, customers who viewed the HTML version of the e-catalog placed an average order size about $20 larger than customers who didn’t view it, he adds. Patagonia tested the different versions with the Netflame site monitoring service from Fireclick Inc.

The rich media version, which mimicked a paper catalog with turning pages, proved more difficult to download and read, Todd says. “The images were not as clear and customers said they couldn’t read the prices as well as in the HTML version,” he says. “We offered a tool that made images bigger, but it still wasn’t adequate.”

By contrast, he adds, customers indicated through online feedback forms that the HTML version was easier to use and read.

The e-catalog will help Patagonia’s web site continue as its fastest-growing channel, Todd adds. The web now accounts for 13% of Patagonia’s sales, compared to 8% for its paper catalog, 33% for its physical stores, and 40% for its wholesale business with other retailers.

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