September 3, 2002, 12:00 AM

Do Sweat the small stuff

(Page 2 of 3)

Camping World Inc. is another merchant who’s found that it doesn’t take a major site overhaul to make a big difference in sales. Using WebCriteria Inc.’s change management tool, Site Analyst, the multi-channel RV accessories retailer improved conversion on its web site by 8.3%, gaining $19,200 in incremental sales in the first week of implementation.

Place shipping upfront

Using the tool to understand visitors’ behavior on the site, Camping World was able to focus specifically on which elements of the site were preventing visitors from completing purchases. Looking at its checkout process, the tool examined how many visitors progressed through each step and analyzed the differences between visitors who completed the purchases and those who abandoned carts. The analysis gave Camping World a clear picture of where visitors were having problems checking out and suggested several reasons why.

The analysis triggered three small changes in the checkout process to address those issues. It showed, for example, a 10% cart abandonment rate among shoppers who reached information on shipping methods, then the final step in the checkout process, so it started providing shipping method

options earlier in the process. Keeping the entire navigation process wrapped around the shopping cart was resulting in too many unintended exits from the shopping process, so Camping World reduced full-site navigation options for visitors already in the shopping cart, while leaving adequate means to return to other areas of the site. Finally, analysis showed that with larger orders, as customers’ shopping cart lists got longer, the Buy button needed to complete the purchase dropped lower on the page and was harder to find, so it raised the button higher.

Listening is not enough

The tool allowed Camping World to measure the impact of changes at each step. “Before WebCriteria, we did a good job of listening to customers and acting on their requests,” says Camping World vice president of Internet services David Scifres. “Our own metrics could alert us to the fact that site visitors were having trouble reaching their goals, but we had a hard time knowing what specific changes to make that would have the greatest impact on visitor success and the success of Camping World.”, Hewlett-Packard’s stand-alone e-commerce site prior to the combination with Compaq, bumped up conversions by 3.4% with an analytics-driven change on an even smaller scale-the relocation of a button from one side of a page to the other. When WebCriteria’s Site Analyst tool tracked shopper behavior during the checkout process, it found that many shoppers who wanted to increase the quantity of an item they’d placed in their cart simply changed the number. They didn’t notice the second step required to complete the change, an Update Cart button on the left side of the page. This created confusion when attempting to pay, because the additional items shoppers believed they’d ordered didn’t register.

Moving the button to appear on the right side next to the quantity of the item in the cart made it almost impossible to go to the next step without noticing the button and that reduced exits in attempts to update the cart by 26%. The tool also identified confusion over shipping charges, which used to be delivered at the end of the checkout process. That allowed to validate its hunch that communicating shipping information earlier on would improve conversions.

“Traffic analysis will tell you the most popular paths on the site, but you can’t make any conclusions from that,” says conversion programs manager Eileen Wong. “WebCriteria allows us to break down visitor activities beyond just the conversion rate and track visitor progress through to checkout.”

Minimizing the back-ups

Similarly, the site of eStyle Inc. increased sales by 25% when a re-design of the checkout process prompted a higher rate of successful checkouts, eStyle reports. Using clickstream technology from provider Coremetrics Inc., the company analyzed customer behavior during checkout. Among the changes that adopted were to identify at which stage of checkout the customer is every step of the way, clearly display the Continue Checkout button on every page so customers always know what to do next, repeat shipping information to minimize the number of times the customer uses the Back button, and present shipping charges earlier in the process.

It also integrated the gift-giving function into checkout so customers don’t have to follow a divergent path to give a gift. And it kept all information on one screen so customers don’t have to scroll down. As a result, the number of customers who complete the checkout process rose by a third to 62% from 47%.

“Our clients know that all successful marketing efforts are based on rich profiles of visitor and customer behavior,” says Scott Kauffman, president and CEO of Coremetrics. “They have moved well beyond basic metrics and site hits.”

Though retailers are reporting that analytics-driven fixes to the checkout process are delivering some of the most immediately measurable results, checkout isn’t the only place where analytics can isolate what needs tweaking.

Using the HitBox tool, an outsourced analytics application from provider WebSideStory Inc., Fox Racing Inc., a retailer of sports apparel for the motocross circuit, found a problem right on its home page. The 2-year-old site, the offshoot of a 30-year-old
offline business, has been transactional for e-commerce since May. Data gathered by HitBox showed that of the 2.8 million to 3.6 million visitors who accessed in 2001, 1.4 million left the site without going any deeper than the home page.

Too heavy

Though the tool didn’t give reasons for the drop-off, web manager Sandy Syrett knew her audience well enough to know why: the page was too heavy and took too long to load. “Our audience is the 14- to 24-year-old male accessing the Internet from a 56K modem at home,” she says. “They are not getting to our site from a broadband connection at work, and they were not waiting for it to load.” The data from HitBox confirmed her hunch and gave her facts she needed to successfully argue for the design of a lighter page. Six weeks into that change, she’s watching the fall-off trend reverse.

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