February 1, 2012, 12:00 AM

Testing 1, 2, 3

(Page 2 of 2)

The winning gift box display continues to run today for all site visitors. The display shows an image of the partially uncovered gift box, revealing the chocolate pieces inside. Directly beneath the main image are three smaller images revealing alternate arrangements of the chocolates; each of the smaller images can be moused over to make them appear as the main image. The three smaller images are hosted by Monetate, which provides technology that Godiva uses to test multiple merchandising displays with various segments of site visitors. Godiva uses the Monetate TestLab, part of Monetate's Agility Suite of web testing software.

And testing is not just a matter of finding the right merchandise display to convert the most customers, Nathan says. The tests also help to determine, for instance, how much Godiva should invest in product images to get the best return on investment. "The ROI of our photo budget has increased as well," by showing which type of images, and how many of them, produce the best conversion rates, Nathan says.

Simpler is better

Another e-retailer found through testing that simplifying its site navigation would lead to more sales. After noticing too many visitors leaving without placing an order on Headsets.com the e-retailer ran a test and found shoppers would respond better to a simpler navigation bar with fewer choices to click.

Running a test through UserTesting.com of how site visitors responded to two navigation bars—one busy with several click options, the other simple with only four options—Headsets found that the simpler one resulted in a 10% higher visitor-to-purchase conversion rate, says Matt Burnaford, vice president of marketing.

The retailer also learned that many of its customers, even ones who had purchased from Headsets before, didn't know enough about the many types of headsets to steer their way through site search and navigation.

The previous navigation bar offered shoppers five buttons to click to select among several types of headsets, including Wireless Office Headsets, Corded Office Headsets and Best Sellers. The nav bar also offered several other links, including Headset Wizard, Benefits of Headsets and Staff Recommendations.

But the retailer learned that many customers responded better to a nav bar that let them simply choose the type of device they planned to use a headset on, rather than having to first to choose among headset categories like wireless, corded or best sellers.

After Headsets ran the test through UserTesting.com, its new winning nav bar now appears with only four link buttons: Office Headsets, Home Headsets, PC Headsets and Cell Headsets. The only other information in the navigation display is the retailer's 800 number, its hours of customer service, and a shopping cart icon with the number of carted items.

"The other navigation clearly wasn't working, but the leaner, simpler look produced the increase in conversion rates," Burnaford says.

One-hour service

Running the test was a simple matter of filling out a form on UserTesting.com to get test results within about one hour, he adds. To run a test, a retailer gives UserTesting.com the URL of the page to be tested, describes a task for site visitors (such as "Buy a headset"), and indicates the type of consumer by demographics (including gender, age and income group) from UserTesting.com's available panel of consumer testers from throughout the U.S.

The participating testers then video-record themselves using the client retailer's site; once the test is complete, the retailer receives a copy of each tester's video so the merchant can view and listen to the recorded session. Retailers also receive a written summary from testers on any problems they encountered in using the site, and retailers can follow up to ask testers questions after each test. UserTesting charges $39 per tester.

Burnaford didn't say how many testers Headsets used in the navigation test, but notes that Headsets will use anywhere from one to 10 testers for any one test. A spokesman for UserTesting.com says clients are free to choose any number of testers, but that most clients tend to run tests with either about five testers or 10-12 testers.

Keep the customer smiling

In some cases, retailers run tests with tiny in-house staffs. SmileyCookie.com, a gourmet cookie and gifts retailer that launched on the Magento e-commerce platform in 2010, has been generating triple-digit sales increases each year since then, says Adam Golomb, the retailer's director of e-commerce. A potential problem it faces is from traffic spikes driven by online marketing programs, primarily through the LivingSocial local deals network, Golomb says.

With just a two-person e-commerce team, the retailer constantly monitors its site performance to ensure that customers driven to its site by marketing can have a good shopping experience, traffic spikes and all, he adds. The site offers a feature for designing one's own batch of cookies, including shape, color of icing, and an illustration that can be created with icing, such as a smiley face.

Any one of these steps could lead to a glitch with the underlying software that leaves the consumer waiting for the site to respond, Golomb says. Working with technology from Yottaa Inc., the retailer gets reports that show, for instance, the site bounce rates associated with the load times for each interactive feature within a specified time period. "We look at every technology integration on our site and identify if a certain integration is slowing down the site, then we review software code to identify any issues," he says.

SmileyCookie uses Yottaa to monitor site performance as experienced from multiple web and mobile browsers. Boston-based Yottaa, which was launched in 2009, provides "cloud" or Internet-based monitoring services, which it currently offers for no charge, CEO Coach Wei says. It also provides web site optimization services that can cost from about $129 to several hundred dollars per month, based on the number of page views, Wei says.

With all the options retailers have for testing how well their sites provide a good online shopping experience, it should be easier than ever for them to keep their customers smiling and coming back.

paul@verticalwebmedia.com

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