February 14, 2002, 12:00 AM

The Coach.com redesign: shoppers spend less time, more money

When Coach.com simplified navigation and dropped the Flash graphics, conversion rates increased 25%, the number of units per order 8%, sales 65% and page visits 45%. Meanwhile, time at the site dropped 12%, Coach.com told the eTail conference.


In the early days of web retailing, the goal seemed to be to get shoppers to spend more time at retail web sites in the hope that they will find more merchandise to view and more reasons to buy. But in the practical era of retail web shopping, web sites are all about simplicity, speed and convenience as the path to bigger sales. That was the goal Coach Inc. pursued when it spent five months last year redesigning its 3-year-old Coach.com.

Coach Internet Marketing Manager Larry Promisel told attendees at the eTail 2002 Conference this week in San Jose that the redesign was required because too many visitors to the site could not find the merchandise they had visited the site to order. “Even people in our customer service department at times could not help callers find products they were looking for at the site,” Promisel explained. “If the customer service department can’t find something on the site, you know consumers are having problems.”

The chain set a redesign strategy to improve the shopping experience on the site, formed creative teams to recommend improvements, interviewed focus groups, analyzed traffic logs, studied other sites-and then followed its plan from May to October of last year redesigning nearly every aspect of the site.

Some changes included:

Navigation on the site was simplified with the addition of more specific and targeted page names that more clearly communicated what a shopper would find on that menu. For example, the navigation bar broke out men’s bags from women’s bags, and drop-down menus were added to major categories, further breaking them down to product sub groups. The navigation bar-though it now contained more titles and more specific categories-was reduced by about a third and moved from the left to the top of the home page, rather than taking up about a third of the page as before. That freed up much more space to display featured merchandise designed to entice the shopper into the store. The navigation bar remained consistent throughout the site, where before it sometimes changed from page to page.

Flash graphics were removed from the site as well, when testing showed that the site achieved higher conversion rates and sales without the high-tech tool that some shoppers find distracting. Rather, said Promisel, the redesign sought to achieve a “clean, simple and elegant look.” More information was provided on all products on the site, and narrative paragraphs describing product features were replaced with a long string of bullets, each listing specific benefits and features of the product. All product images were enlarged, thanks to the reduced navigation bar, and swatches were used to display materials and colors. In addition, a feature was added on each product page that directed the shopper to the nearest Coach store where she could purchase the product on display if she preferred not to wait for home delivery.

Promisel told his audience that the results of these design changes were immediate and dramatic when the redesign was rolled out during a three-week period last October. Between November and December, he said, conversion rates at the site increased 25%, the number of units per order grew 8%, sales increased 65% and page visits grew 45%. Yet with all this increased shopping, the average visit at the Coach.com web store dropped 12%, providing perhaps the most compelling evidence that Coach achieved its goal of making the site simpler and more convenient to use.

Even as it redesigned its web site, Coach also greatly expanded its e-mail promotion of the store, expanding its effort to capture e-mail addresses from customers and sprinkling e-mail promotions with come-on tiles such as “Special,” “Hot,” “Exciting,” and “Introducing.” Promisel reported that 50% of recipients of its e-mails open them, and they spend about twice as much on the site as non-recipients. Still, fully 70% of e-mail recipients who purchase the product being promoted with the e-mail do so at the store, not at the site. And, Promisel noted, its store sales associate still report men coming into the store with printouts of web pages or e-mails showing the product they want to purchase. “Sometimes,” he said, “no matter what you do to improve the web site, it is not enough for some shoppers who still want to come to the store so they can touch and feel the merchandise.”

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