February 28, 2007, 12:00 AM

Designs on Success

(Page 3 of 3)

Ajax, short for asynchronous JavaScript and XML, is site development technology that enables programmers to build interactive applications that exchange small packets of data with servers in a way that does not require a web page to be reloaded every time a shopper takes some action. Among other things, Ajax enabled the retailer to offer a shopping bag that displays and functions over all pages, if a customer desires, without the need to refresh pages. “Shoppers can use the Ajax-enabled bag to keep thumbnail images of products in their carts onscreen to see how those products look with other apparel they may purchase on other pages,” Perry adds.

Undergear, which also added virtual catalogs for shoppers who want their online experience to be more like a catalog experience, already has reaped rewards. Since launching the renovated site two months ago, conversion has increased one percentage point and cart abandonment has decreased 8%, Baskin reports.

Pure commerce, however, was not the only subject Undergear tackled. While crafting the redesign, retailer staff decided adding content to the e-commerce site would not only enhance the look and feel but also help create a tighter bond with customers. “We’re a lifestyle brand, not just underwear and swimwear,” says Robert Grey, director of merchandising, men’s apparel, at Hanover Direct. “So we directly connected lifestyle to new design and features on the site.”

The result: Undergear.com designed a lifestyle section, Living UG Style. The content focuses on the lives of the retailer’s key demographic and includes three distinct areas: Fashion Insider, with information and insights from fashion experts on the latest trends; Urban Hot, with reviews and guides for major U.S. cities; and A Model Life, with profiles of some of Undergear’s myriad male models. “We felt we really could define the brand via content. It’s very much a part of the new face of Undergear,” Baskin says. “It’s a way our customer can ‘own’ part of the site by sharing their opinions with others in the community.”

What do they want?

Undergear also wanted customers to share their opinions about the previous incarnation of the e-commerce site prior to the redesign to ensure customer satisfaction with the then yet-to-be-created new version. In addition to having a site design vision, keeping minimalism in mind and staying on top of web design technology developments, eliciting consumers’ views is an action highly recommended by industry experts.

E-retailers must understand customer feedback is critical, says Lawrence of F. Curtis Barry & Co. “Did a design change deliver the outcome you expected?” he asks. “Find out through tools like pop-up surveys at the end or in the middle of shopping sessions. Display a click-on that says we’ve just redesigned the site and please let us know what you think. And offer an incentive for feedback, like a discount on the shopper’s next order.”

Taking the proactive approach, Undergear surveyed via e-mail Internet customers who had made purchases in the last 60 days. “The surveys provided us with information on demographics, customer experience and customer satisfaction,” Baskin says. “We needed to evolve, we needed to make the site much more modern to fit the way we view our customers. This was an immediate need that laid the groundwork for the redesign. We took into account what the customers wanted and how they enjoy shopping and combined that with our business goals to increase conversion and average order value and reduce cart abandonment.”

The previous version of the site was very neutral in its appearance and did not have functionality that enhanced the shopper experience, Baskin adds. “The new site, like the fashion, is more stylish and edgy,” she says. “Our customers typically are body-conscious and take pride in their appearance-we wanted the site design to reflect this. So we went darker and grittier, not neutral like before.”

The underlying design philosophy at Undergear might serve as a motto for any retailers redesigning a site. Says Baskin: “We wanted the site to have a personality, so when you hit the home page you know what it’s all about.”

bill@verticalwebmedia.com

Click Here for the Internet Retailer Guide to Providers of Site Design

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