October 7, 2004, 12:00 AM

Web pages that sell: Best practices from successful sites

The best web sites provide lots of data in easily digested ways, a panel of retailers told the Shop.org Summit in Anaheim, CA, this week. Among the best practices: simplicity, alternative views, product comparison, easy ways to contact the company.

The best web sites provide lots of data in easily digested ways, a panel of retailers told the Shop.org Summit in Anaheim, CA, this week. The panel, moderated by Jupiter analyst Eric Peterson, was made up of Rich Last, vice president of merchandising for J.C. Penney Co. Inc., Al Hurlebaus, director of e-commerce at CompUSA, and Julie Bornstein, vice president of merchandising and marketing for Nordstrom Direct.

Last reported five elements that make a web page effective:
• Simplicity: strong callouts, key selling features, price, all where it is easily found and quickly read.
• Zoom and alternative views: “Customers want a complete picture,” Last said. He recommends showing the tops and bottoms of shoes, for instance, or displaying a suitcase both closed and open so the shopper can see interior dimensions.
• Advice: Especially important in fashion selling.
• Informative content: Last said J.C. Penney talked to super sales personnel in stores to find out how they describe products to customers.
• Multi-channel synchronization: That creates trust when customers see the same offers, products and quality across channels, he said.

Hurlebaus said proven winners at CompUSA were:
• Product comparison: That resulted in higher conversion rates and a sale with a higher gross margin, ultimately created a 56% increase in sales of compared products which in turn created a 3% increase in overall sales.
• Placing newspaper inserts online: The majority of searched terms at CompUSA.com was for advertised items. Moving the insert to the home page resulted in a 250% increase in online sales of advertised products.
• Store pick-up: Communicating delivery options on product pages increased completion rates by 32%, store pick-ups by 44% and sales by 65%.

Bornstein reported that Nordstrom’s winners include:
• Larger view: It’s the No. 1 most visited page on the web site.
• Fitting tips: Adding fitting tips increased products added to the shopping cart by 5-10% and conversion rates on related items went up fourfold.
• Live chat: Making the live chat option available on every page increased live chat contacts by 70%, which resulted in more closed sales. An audience member asked why increased contacts to the call center was a benefit. Because they resulted in sales, Borstein answered.

In a later session, Bill Bass, vice president and general manager of Sears Customer Direct and senior vice president of Lands’ End, added perspective with Lands’ End experience. When Lands’ End put the 800 number on web pages, calls shot up. Call center managers complained that the number was increasing their expenses. Further analysis showed that 80% of calls resulted in sales from customers who for one reason or another did not want to order online.

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