March 9, 2007, 12:00 AM

How Bath & Body Works learns the intent of online shoppers

After Bath & Body Works learned how much online customers like to shop for products by fragrance, like “cucumber melon” or “cherry blossom,” it moved the “Shop by Fragrance” button to the top center of its home page to give customers what they want.

After Bath & Body Works learned how much online customers like to shop for products by fragrance, like “cucumber melon” or “cherry blossom,” it placed a “Shop by Fragrance” button at the top center of its home page to give customers what they want, says Shannon Glass, director of Internet operations.

It’s not that Bath & Body Works didn’t realize that customers liked to shop by fragrance, which, after all, is a key characteristic of many of its products. It had always offered a shop-by-fragrance option, but the option was difficult to find, Glass says.

After conducting “customer intent” studies that revealed why consumers shop its site and how well the site meets their needs, it realized that a more noticeable shop-by-fragrance navigation option along with other new features could increase customer satisfaction levels. “We learned why people are coming to our site and if we’re doing what we should be doing to get them to keep coming to our site and into our stores,” Glass tells

Bath & Body Works, a unit of Limited Brands Inc., which is No. 43 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, conducted the customer intent studies with the WebEffective shopping-analysis application from Keynote Systems Inc. The tool has enabled the retailer to learn what customers want in terms of navigation, product content and product development, Glass says. Although it`s too soon to report the impact on conversion rates and sales, Bath & Body Works is pleased with the way system is working, Glass adds.

The WebEffective application presents shoppers at with a pop-up window that asks the primary reason they are on the site (to find a store location, for instance, or to shop for towels) and invites them to fill out a brief questionnaire of multiple-choice and free-form questions.

The application then records a shopper’s subsequent clickstream, followed by a second pop-up window that requests information on how well the site met the shopper’s needs. Keynote then produces a report that combines the clickstream data with the two pop-up surveys to let the retailer view how its site is meeting customer expectations. Keynote also provides the retailer with direct access to the raw data to produce custom reports.

In its first WebEffective survey conducted recently, Bath & Body Works compiled about 400 surveys over five days, Glass says. “You could ask the same questions to a focus group of 12 people in a room, but WebEffective provides real-time data based on what customers are thinking while they’re shopping,” she adds.

Among other things, it has learned that many customers wanted to shop for products like body gels in particular fragrances that the retailer had discontinued. “So we introduced a classics collection of these products that we make available only online,” Glass says.

The retailer plans to continue running surveys focusing on areas such as site navigation and product selection. As it conducts follow-up surveys on the same topic, it will be able to compare results with past survey data to determine if it has improved on meeting customer expectations, Glass says.

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