March 31, 2006, 12:00 AM

Popping merchandising myths, popcorn e-retailer boosts conversion rates

Learning that it pays to challenge “rules” of merchandising, online retailer Dale and Thomas Popcorn has boosted conversion rates with a page optimization tool that shows the impact of large numbers of display page variations, the retailer says.

Paul Demery

Managing Editor, B2B E-commerce

Learning that it pays to challenge “rules” of merchandising, online retailer Dale and Thomas Popcorn has boosted conversion rates with a page optimization tool that shows the impact of large numbers of display page variations, senior vice president of e-commerce and marketing Paul Goodman says.

Testing many variations of its home page during last year’s holiday shopping season, using an optimization tool from Optimost, Dale and Thomas found a single variation that produced a visitor-to-purchaser conversion rate 15% higher than what Goodman and his team had figured was their best page display, he says. The Optimost system, he says, takes the guesswork out of page displays and helps marketing and merchandising experts see beyond the biases they may have toward particular merchandising techniques.

“When we started rolling into the holidays with more marketing, we knew there would be more traffic,” Goodman says. “But you can’t just let your home page and other traffic-generating pages lie there and hope you guessed right with page displays.”

Unlike other page A/B testing techniques that compare two versions of a web page display to determine the impact on sales, Optimost is designed to test on each page several variables, each matched against a separate set of values, creating potentially thousands or even millions of page variations, says Mark Wachen, CEO of Optimost. The system is also designed to narrow down the large number of variations to the most appropriate group of 10 or 20 that can then be analyzed, he adds.

The ability of web technology to quickly produce the results of such tests, says Goodman, has helped Dale & Thomas to test far more variables than it would have otherwise, including some that he initially didn’t even want to test.

When a design person on his staff suggested that a page show popcorn spilling out of a chef’s hat, for example, Goodman objected. “I was dead set against it and said it was a waste of a display,” he says. “But I was wrong. We tested in many ways with and without the hat, and every display with the chef hat worked.”

In another surprise, Goodman says, he learned that a common rule among web merchandisers-not to use the color red on a transaction button-was not necessarily true. “Most web usability experts say red gets people’s attention, but that you never use red on a click-here-to-order button, because red means stop,” he says. “Well guess what, in our tests red beat green, which is supposed to mean go.”

 

 

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