July 31, 2007, 12:00 AM

Site redesigns shine a light on better shopping experiences

For retailers Littman Bros., which sells lighting products, and L’Oreal USA Inc., a beauty products merchant, redesigns of their retail web sites have led to a smoother shopping experience and increased sales.

Sometimes you just have to put on a completely new face to make the right impression on your target audience. For retailers Littman Bros., which sells lighting products, and L’Oréal USA Inc., a beauty products merchant, redesigns of their retail web sites have led to a smoother shopping experience and increased sales.

For Littman Bros., the new LittmanBros.com offers more products, better navigation and improved analytics, and has nearly doubled visitor-to-sales conversion rates since its debut in June, owner Benson Littman says.

The retailer, which also operates a single store in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg, Ill., launched the redesigned site last month on the idev e-commerce platform from AmericanEagle.com. The new platform replaces a platform developed in-house that could not support growth, Littman says.

“When we were on the in-house system, we couldn’t grow the site,” he says. “We couldn’t do reports on customer activity or easily load new products.”

But by adding products and improving navigation, analytics and marketing, Littman Bros. has experienced a sharp rise in the percentage of visitors that complete a purchase, Littman says. “We practically doubled our conversion rates in the first four weeks, and we’re just getting our feet wet,” he adds.

Eyeing 100,000 products

The idev platform, hosted by Park Ridge, Ill.-based AmericanEagle.com, supports Littman’s plan to add tens of thousands of products, he says. “We’re already at 15,000 on the new platform, up from about 5,000, and we expect to add about 100,000 products over the next two years.”

The idev platform also has improved site navigation by allowing visitors to shop by lighting type, then by variants such as color, brand/collection, style and price. Product pages also offer more comprehensive product descriptions and larger, more numerous images. The idev platform uses Ajax web site development technology, which enables images and content to appear instantly without having to wait for entire pages to load.

Littman Bros. is also improving marketing efforts by providing better analytics data on visitor clickstream and buying behavior to LocalLaunch Inc., the retailer’s Chicago-based marketing partner that handles search and other forms of marketing, Littman says.

Although Littman Bros. is a privately held company and does not release sales figures, Littman says he expects the improved web site to equal the annual sales of the company’s 10,000-square-foot store within a year, then double that amount over each of the next two years.

The new beauty of L’Oréal

As L’Oréal has learned, it takes more than a pretty face to win over shoppers. So the retailer’s newly redesigned Lancome-USA.com is easier to shop, and the change is paying off in happier customers, vice president of e-commerce and customer relationships Sarah Williams says.

The redesign, built on Microsoft Corp.’s .Net platform with features that virtually ­eliminate the need for shoppers and visitors to use the back button to locate earlier product pages, has reduced shopping cart abandonment from 50% to about 40%, she says.

The conversion rate on internal product pages is also improving and the average order has risen by 10%. Prior to the redesign, Lancome-USA.com was subject to frequent downtime, which caused delays in processing orders. “If the site went down we had to manually complete the transaction by finishing up the order and then sending the customer a final confirmation,” Williams says. “This has not been a problem since the redesign.”

The new design enables visitors to build a personalized skin care and makeup profile based on each user’s skin tone or type and their hair and eye color. A new feature on Lancome-USA.com enables customers to type in the name of a discontinued cosmetic or fragrance, select the proper shade or scent, and view new products that are similar. “Our No. 1 complaint to our call center reps came from shoppers who couldn’t find a discontinued item,” Williams says. “The redesign has helped us cut down on the number of complaints by 50%.”

L’Oréal USA, which expects Lancome-USA.com to generate about 15% higher web sales in 2007, also has reduced the number of steps to finding and purchasing an item. “We worked hard to produce superior navigation,” she says.

paul@verticalwebmedia.com

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