June 18, 2009, 12:00 AM

Small moves can add up quickly for smaller retailers, emitations.com says

Emitations.com saw a sales bump after deploying a “Customers also bought” function on its web site. It was a no-cost move because the web-only knock-off jewelry retailer already had the software tool, but just hadn’t turned it on, CEO Au-Co Mai says.


Knock-off jewelry retailer Emitations.com saw sales increase when it deployed a “Customers also bought” function on its product pages. It was a no-cost move because the web-only retailer already had the software, CEO Au-Co Mai told attendees at this week’s Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Boston. It just hadn’t turned the software on, she added.

Emitations.com is in its “third or fourth redesign” since its 1999 startup, Mai said, and in developing the latest iteration the company was able to identify some small but important changes that would affect shoppers’ experience. Other changes to product pages included adding photo zoom technology and the services of a jewelry model, who comes in once a week, to help present products in a realistic setting, Mai said.

The company relies on customer calls to drive web site improvements, including identifying problems finding certain products. Emitations also recently surveyed site users on a video shopping feature, but results were just starting to come in, Mai said.

Other small changes that have helped enhance the site include moving the “Top rated” information to a more prominent part of the home page. “Top rated products had the most views,” Mai told attendees. “People were already seeking them out, we just made it easier to find them.” And adding a floating cart-which follows the shopper from page to page-made it easy to add products and keep a running tally to encourage them to reach the threshold where the entire order ships for free, she said.

From such small steps come potentially big results, said Adele Sage, an analyst with Forrester Research who joined Mai in the IRCE session. Using tools already in place sounds simple, but sometimes means digging into software, and she urged all small retailers to use web analytics tools and web site satisfaction surveys. The surveys, however, should be very brief and focused on a specific problem or service, Sage added.

Sage offered five things that small retailers can do to improve their web site and in some cases cut costs.

  • Eliminate unused content to improve the user experience and save money because there’s less to maintain, and use web analytics to identify stagnant product or administrative information.
  • Optimize web site copy, titles and labels to improve natural search results by patterning keywords after customers’ language.
  • Put key content and functionality on the home page to reduce steps for users. “It’s a highly political page in terms of everyone in the company wanting some part of it,” Sage says, “but you should add only what shoppers need.”
  • Prevent keyword searches that yield “no results” to help users find products. Terms can be found through web analytics, on competitors’ web sites or by researching alternative products.
  • Streamline the end of the purchase process by removing unnecessary information fields and steps that can mar the flow. “Don’t require registration to make a purchase,” she cautioned. “We found that 23% of shoppers abandon the cart when required to register to complete a purchase.”

In general, smaller retailers should use their imagination when it comes to low-key site improvements. “You have to experiment to find what’s best for your users,” Sage said.



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