December 2, 2009, 12:00 AM

Ice.com sees product videos in a new light

To improve its product page design, Ice.com has begun to phase out static images and introduce product description videos for each piece of merchandise. The move has helped Ice.com to reduce its monthly product return rate from 12% to under 9%.

Having analyzed dozens of customer reviews on its own site and from price-comparison and shopper-satisfaction sites such as BizRate.com, online jeweler Ice.com is now using the feedback to rethink its approach to product videos.

Ice.com was using a mix of static images and some video to showcase its inventory of more than 3,000 rings, earrings, bracelets, pendants, necklaces and watches. But in numerous customer reviews, shoppers complained that most product images were small and didn’t show enough detail. In follow-up calls and e-mails with shoppers who had abandoned a shopping cart or returned merchandise, Ice.com call center reps also learned that static images didn’t let customers see all of the color and clarity details on higher-end jewelry such as $2,500 diamond engagement rings.

“How we were using the images on our merchandising pages didn’t do an effective job of showing the product details customers wanted before they made a buying decision,” says Ice.com chief motivation officer Pinny Gniwisch. “We fixed our design because we listened directly to customers and learned firsthand what they didn’t like.” Ice.com is No. 166 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide (a PDF version of the company’s financial and operating profile can be ordered by clicking on its name).

To improve its product page design, Ice.com has begun to phase out static images and introduce product description videos for each piece of merchandise. So far the company has swapped out static images for short videos on about 800 items and expects to update its entire online inventory within six months. The videos, which are created and edited by Ice.com in its own production studio, are 15-second film snippets that show a human model wearing the jewelry, close-up and rotating views of the merchandise, and a voiceover narrated by a professional actress that describes key product details such as the clarity and cut on various diamonds.

Ice.com also redesigned its product page template to make the video the key element at the top of each page. To generate more sales, the area next to the video now features an enhanced “buy this item now” button, additional product recommendations and customer ratings.

The e-retailer is making the changes as it tries to revitalize sales in a tough patch for jewelry retailers, online and off. In 2008 sales at Ice.com dropped year over year by about 17% to around $70 million. But by doing a better job of following up on customer feedback and redesigning certain key elements of its product pages, Ice.com now expects sales in 2009 to grow about 10% to around $77 million. Customers also like the new design. In preliminary A/B tests, the conversion rate on products purchased after viewing a video jumped 400%, says Gniwisch.

More detailed merchandising pages also have helped Ice.com to reduce its monthly product return rate from 12% to under 9%. “That’s a huge difference,” says Gniwisch. “Now that the product pages give shoppers better ways to research and see the details, we aren’t getting comments with returned items such as ‘this wasn’t as big as I thought it would be’ and ‘the clarity isn’t what I expected.’”

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