September 28, 2006, 12:00 AM

Extreme Makeover

(Page 2 of 2)

Spiegel made category heads for the top level categories simpler by breaking the link for “Fashion and Accessories” into two links: “Fashion” and “Shoes and Accessories,” says David Fry, CEO of Fry Inc., which redesigned the Spiegel site. It also eliminated links for “Gifts” and “Emarkets,” replacing them with links for swim and travel and home and decorating.

“This gives the customer better access to get deeper into the product mix with just one click,” Chivari says.

Selling a lifestyle
Spiegel also took steps to better display merchandising concepts on the home page. “We did a great job in the catalog creating merchandising concepts rather than just product categories,” Chivari says. “We try to sell a lifestyle, but that was not coming through on the web site.”

Chief among the site’s display problems was that product categories weren’t easily visible and required an additional click, he says. And the Idea Resource had no links to product categories. To solve the problem, Spiegel made each top-level category accessible in two ways.

By selecting “Shop by Collection,” shoppers could read advice on new fashion styles or trends in the workplace, then click through to view and purchase the product. By choosing “Shop by Category,” the shopper could view standard product category definitions, with a greater level of detail.

“If she wants to search for tops, she can do that,” Chivari says. “But we make it just as easy to find those same products in our collections.”

Product pages in the old design also made it difficult for customers to buy entire outfits, rather than having to purchase each item individually. “We’re not trying to be an item business, we’re trying to be an outfit business, Chivari says. “The site didn’t allow that.”

One-click outfits
Under the redesigned product pages, customers can buy an outfit or just one item with a single click. Alternative views, size charts and styling tips also were incorporated into the product pages. And Spiegel made it easier for customers to go from the Idea Resource area, where stylists offer advice, to the sale area where they can purchase the outfits featured, Chivari says.

Since implementing the changes, Spiegel has experienced a 19% decrease in home page departures, while page views and sessions increased 14%, Chivari says. On-site search sessions, especially single-word product categories, fell 15% and additions to the shopping cart from product pages increased 45%. Average order value rose 13%.

Spiegel took a different approach in the redesign of its clearance pages, creating a site within a site, with its own navigation tool. “The clearance customer behaves differently,” Chivari says.

Clearance customers visit the site often looking for deals. To make that process easier, Spiegel added a “Today’s Steals” section. Search tools also were added to enable the customer to narrow the search by size, price or category.

“One of the challenges with clearance is you have broken SKUs,” Chivari says. “You don’t have all the colors, you don’t have all the sizes. That makes shopping very difficult for someone who wants a particular color or size. We created a deal finder where she could sort by size and color as well as by product.”

The changes to the clearance section led to a drop of 15 percentage points in the departure rate from the category while increasing the average time spent in the category by 17%. “They came, they saw something they liked, and they stayed on the page,” Chivari says.

Spiegel also redesigned the catalog quick order section to give the customer the same product views she’d see if shopping elsewhere on the site, including product information and content. The goal was to get the customer to order items not just from the catalog but from other sections of the site-so-called mixed orders that tended to have a 50% higher average order value, Chivari says.

“This customer was coming in with a very specific goal in mind-to simply buy those five items and move on,” he says. “We wanted her to engage in the site, we wanted to sell her a few more things, make a better experience.”

Striking a chord
After the redesign, the average order value of mixed orders ran 50% higher than pure catalog orders, mixed orders increased 25%, units per order increased 26% and sales per session increased 11%, Chivari says.

The checkout process also underwent changes to make it similar to competitors’. Spiegel added quick links to information on shipping, security, returns policy and guarantee, as well as posting toll-free numbers conspicuously throughout. The new design also enables customers to store credit card information, so the checkout would be more expeditious on return visits, and it decreases the number of clicks to submit orders from four to two.

“We decided this wasn’t the place to be interesting or innovative,” Chivari says. “The customer is becoming more and more familiar with Internet shopping. You don’t really want to be too different here.”

It’s too early to tell whether Spiegel’s new image as idea resource for women’s apparel and decorating will succeed, says Patti Freeman Evans, retail analyst with Jupiter Research. She notes that it will take time for customers to accept Spiegel as an expert on fashion.

In addition, other online retailers already have staked out the same territory. “Spiegel is certainly making a good effort at it,” she says. “Whether or not it’s working, we don’t know yet.”

There are signs, however, that Spiegel’s repositioning and site redesign have struck a responsive chord with customers-conversion rates have increased 59% for new customers and 43% for old customers. In addition, overall company sales increased 26% in the fourth quarter of 2005 from 2004’s fourth quarter.

With the Spiegel.com redesign behind it, Spiegel is turning its attention to its Newport News brand. A NewportNews.com redesign is scheduled to launch in November.

linda@verticalwebmedia.com

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