April 15, 2014, 11:25 AM

E-retailer SwimOutlet.com floats a new site design

SwimOutlet.com keeps popular features—such as videos and live chat on mobile—while adding new elements and larger images.

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Online-only swimwear retailer SwimOutlet.com redesigned its e-commerce site for the first time since the company launched in 2002. The new site makes a splash with larger, high-resolution images and easier navigation, says Alexander Sienkiewicz, the company’s chief marketing officer.

Previously, the biggest graphic on the site’s home page took up a little more than two-thirds of the page’s width. Now, Sienkiewicz says, the site features responsive banner images, which adjust to fill the entire width of the shopper’s screen—excluding those of mobile phones—regardless of screen size. A consumer using a mobile phone is directed to the retailer’s mobile site.

The new site also features those responsive banner images on the product category landing pages. “Customers respond better to the larger graphics,” he says.

Tests proved that. Sienkiewicz says the company did extensive A/B testing by sending a portion of returning and new customers to the test site as well as the previous site to compare the results. The testing focused on conversion rates and revenue for returning customers, and conversion rates, order value and bounce rate for new costumers. Sienkiewicz won’t release testing data, but says the larger images had a positive effect on those metrics.

Sienkiewicz stressed the importance of testing a site redesign before launch. “During that test time, we slowly made improvements,” he says. He remembers reading about the botched launch of Finish Line Inc.’s site in Q3 2012. After a few days, the previous site was restored, and Finish Line’s CEO later said the company lost $3 million in sales in Q3 2012 because of the web site problems. Sienkiewicz forwarded that article to his team and said “We really, really need to be careful with this migration.” The testing helped the company feel confident in the new design before pushing it live.

SwimOutlet.com also tested payment options at checkout. After testing Google Wallet, PayPal and Amazon Payments, the company decided to include Google Wallet and PayPal, passing over Amazon based on those test results. “We think Google Wallet’s market share will increase as an alternate payment method, especially now that Android devices are dominating the mobile space,” Sienkiewicz says.

But the site revamp went deeper than payment changes and larger images. The redesign, which took over a year from conception to implementation, included restructuring the entire category taxonomy for all of SwimOutlet.com’s products. For consumers, that means a new way to search for and filter products. For example, consumers can now filter swimsuits based on material and back style—something consumers explicitly asked for.

Another behind-the-screen improvement was accelerating site load speed. Based on Google’s site speed analyzer, Sienkiewicz says the speed has improved. “Before we were hanging around a 70 score; now we’re 84,” he says. That puts SwimOutlet.com in line with Amazon.com Inc. (85) and Zappos.com (84). The score—out of 100—is based on load times for content visible in the browser window as well as the entire page.

One thing SwimOutlet.com did not change was offering a separate mobile site, which it launched in 2011. Sienkiewicz says the company made the decision to offer a desktop version and a mobile version rather than using responsive design, a current trend in web design that adjusts the size and layout of a page based on the user’s device. He says a separate mobile site can be customized to meet the needs of mobile shoppers. Plus, responsive design can sometimes negatively affect site speed, he says.

A popular feature of the m-commerce site–which earned the retailer a nod on Internet Retailer’s Hot 100 e-retailers list in 2012—was the ability to connect with a customer service representative for a live chat. That feature remains.

SwimOutlet.com is No. 484 in Internet Retailer’s 2013 Top 500 Guide and had Internet Retailer-estimated online sales of $21 million in 2012.

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