September 2, 2011, 3:12 PM

Better hunting, e-commerce style

WildlifeWonders.com bags bigger sales with navigation that reflects consumer habits.

Lead Photo

The new WildlifeWonders.com site features a different way to navigate to products.

Navigating the old WildlifeWonders.com, which sells animal- and nature-themed sculpture, jewelry and furnishings, could resemble a circling hike through the brush without benefit of compass or map. But since the redesigned site launched about two weeks ago, more consumers are finding desired products with the efficiency of skilled hunters—an improvement that has helped to produce a 12.4% increase in average order values, says co-owner Dave Anderson.

For the redesigned site, Anderson wanted to create a more sophisticated look that would make customers more comfortable placing orders for costly merchandise.

Average order values had eroded in recent years for the speciality e-retailer. Part of the blame, Anderson says, comes from the site adding lower-priced products to draw shoppers during the recession. But Anderson says he and the other owners also thought consumers were spending less because they didn’t like the site’s appearance.

“We had more of a look of a mom-and-pop shop,” Anderson says. “It was attractive, but not sophisticated. The old site wouldn’t appeal to a person that would be willing to pay $2,500 for a sculpture.” Though Wildlife Wonders operates one retail gallery, 99.8% of its sales come from its online store, he adds.

After researching design firms and soliciting recommendations from vendors it already employed—including the e-retailer’s long-time Yahoo Stores consultant—WildlifeWonders.com hired Ventura Web Design to redesign the site. Ventura Web Design focuses on designing web stores for e-retailers like WildlifeWonders.com that operate on the Yahoo Stores platform.

WildlifeWonders.com and Ventura Web Design changed the site’s color palette, which was grounded in shades of teal and orange, to shades of gray. They tweaked the site’s logo design and added an image zoom tool to all product pages.

But Anderson says the largest overhaul involved site navigation. Using consumer data collected during the last five years, the e-retailer analyzed how consumers searched and shopped the site. The retailer found that when consumers came to the site, they typically were seeking products related to a particular animal, such as bears, deer or eagles—the store sells products featuring about 100 different animal species. But the site’s navigation was based on product category, meaning a consumer who wanted to shop for an elephant gift had to click on multiple categories—jewelry, art and furnishings, for example—and sort through all types of animals to find elephants. The e-retailer sells about 7,000 SKUs, so navigating its inventory could be challenging.   

The redesigned site solves the navigation issue by grouping products by species, rather than by product category. A horizontal top navigation features the best-selling animal species, and an “all species” option links customers to a page with products featuring all types of animals; consumers then click to shop their preferred animal. Consumers can also use a horizontal, alphabetized rotating tile featuring pictures of animals on the home page to get to products featuring their preferred animal.

Anderson says developing these concepts challenged him and the other site owners to put themselves in their customers’ shoes.”We had to thoroughly change the method of getting around our site and focused heavily on making it easier to find animal products,” he says. “It was different to be thinking about how the customer thinks rather than the way we think as sellers.”

The new grouping strategy could bring other benefits, too, Anderson says. “If you are thinking of going to buy a wolf earring, you might consider buying a wolf jewelry box,” he says.

The redesigned site launched Aug. 20, and Anderson says early results have surpassed expectations, even beyond the 12.4% increase in average order values. After one week, for instance, the conversion rate for WildlifeWonders.com increased 4%, and those added conversions have increased revenue 16% compared to site data collected from the final week of the previous design.

Visits to the site’s home page, however, have decreased about 25%. Anderson takes a positive view of that trend, though, because he says consumers who arrive at deeper pages of the site, say from search engines results, are finding that those pages feature more of what they’re looking for because of how WildlifeWonders.com groups products by species. 

The redesign process took less than 90 days to complete, Anderson says. He declined to reveal the exact cost of the redesign, but says it was less than $20,000. The early site and sale metrics indicate it was a good investment, he says. “The numbers are improving as we go along every day.”

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