August 12, 2010, 11:59 AM

How TheHut.com finds its merchandising sweet spot

Kicking "Add to Basket" off its category pages boosted the merchant's conversion rates 64%.

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Taking advantage of its relatively slow selling season to test merchandising displays before its back-to-school and fourth quarter holiday shopping seasons, U.K. mass merchant TheHut.com discovered that moving its “Add to Basket” button off of its category pages boosted conversions 64%.

TheHut.com is a retail site operated by The Hut Group that sells products ranging from DVDs and books to apparel, toys and sporting goods. It recently spent a month working with Maxymiser, a provider of hosted multivariate web content testing technology, to determine how to best display merchandising information to engage and convert online shoppers during the forthcoming peak shopping seasons.

"The fast approaching peak trading period is critical for any online retailer,” says Caroline Austen, trading manager for TheHut.com. “The increase in conversion this test has created will mean substantial incremental revenue and competitive advantage for the company during this key time, providing a firm foundation for continued strong growth into 2011.”

TheHut used the Maxymiser system to test the site design and merchandising layout on the category pages of entertainment products such as DVDs and CDs. To its surprise, it discovered that removing the Add to Basket button from underneath every product listing on a category page made the primary contribution to the 64% rise in conversion rates

“We were surprised to the see the effect this had,” says Alex Law, TheHut.com’s account manager at Maxymiser. “You’d think that when people are buying DVDs they don’t need to read about a product and would want to go straight a shopping cart, but this proved that people want to view the product and learn more about it first. Maybe we were too aggressive in showing the Add to Basket too soon.”

The test also found several other changes that helped drive up conversion rates, most notably a red circle placed at the top of every product image indicating the discount from the regular retail price. In addition, not having the Add to Basket icon at the bottom of each product listing left more room to show more products on a page without having to scroll down as far.

“We can now prove what works and what doesn't,” says Ross Boardman, creative director for The Hut Group. “Now instead of ‘I don't want to make that change,’ I can say, ‘You will categorically have a negative impact on conversion/revenue if you do that.’”

 The Hut Group is now better able to avoid making the wrong changes to its web site that could cause a drop in revenue and visitors, he adds.

Maxymiser, which operates co-headquarters in London and New York, provides its multivariate testing technology in a software-as-a-service environment. To use it, TheHut.com’s I.T. department installed a single line of JavaScript software code across its site to connect with Maxymiser web servers—a process that took about two days, Law says.

She adds that the retailer will continue to conduct tests through its peak shopping seasons.

“We are going to be bringing someone in full-time to run our multivariate testing program, so this working relationship with Maxymiser will only get stronger,” Boardman says.

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