August 21, 2009, 12:00 AM

Simplified site design boosts conversions and traffic for a candle retailer

Many sites boost conversion rates by adding features, such as customer reviews, but is finding success by cutting features and simplifying site design, says Kevin Richards, CEO of, site owner.

Many sites boost conversion rates by adding features, such as customer reviews, but online candle retailer is finding success by cutting features and simplifying site design, says Kevin Richards, CEO of, site owner.

In the month following the redesign, the average conversion rate at ScentsandSprays increased to 5.5% from 2.5%, Richards says. During peak response hours following newsletter promotions, conversion rates have risen to as high as 12%. The retailer began phasing in site changes in mid-June and completed the redesign in mid-July.

Following the redesign, pages per visits also are up 17.22%, average time on site is up 21.1%, overall page views are up 52.36%, unique views are up 45.26%, and site traffic up 29.97%, all with only a 3.87% increase in new visits.

The success of the redesign is due to a close review of the site using Google Analytics and Yahoo Web Analytics to determine what products were selling and why, Richards says.

“Then, we made it easier for customers to find those products as well as for them to understand the breadth of offerings that we have,” Richards says.

On the home page, the retailer simplified navigation at the top of the page and eliminated left navigation listing of all the brands carried on the site. “The left navigation used to be all 50 candle lines strewn all the way down the left menu,” Richards says. “We’ve made that a lot easier.”

Now, the links to the top five candles are listed on the left side of the page and the best-selling brands on the right side of the page. The special offer is featured at the top of the home page, below the navigation bar.

“It’s very easy for the returning customers, but also if you’re just looking to browse around it’s much more friendly now,” he says.

The site now also features custom photos of the candles, not the standard shots provided by the manufacturer. And the retailer streamlined the color scheme for the site. “Now there are really about four colors on the entire site, except for the colors of the products,” Richards says. “It made it a lot easier for the customers to focus on what we wanted them to see.” carried the streamlining process to the item pages, eliminating such features as estimated delivery dates, customer reviews and other tools not used by its typical customer.

“We found that our demographic is one that wants to use the web site very quickly,” Richards says. “They are not electronic shoppers so they’re not comparing everything down to the last detail. They’re more like the Martha Stewart crowd in that they’re going to be affluent, usually career women, and they want to have nice accents to their homes. They want to get in and get out and be on their way.”

However, the retailer did add Yahoo’s automated cross-sell feature, which uses web site sales data to display products that have been purchased with each product. “For a site of our size, with more than 4,000 items, we couldn’t possibly go through and manually do all of that,” Richards says. also simplified and shortened the shopping cart and checkout process. As a customer adds products to the shopping cart, a feature notifies her how much more she needs to spend to qualify for free shipping. The retailer’s phone number and business hours also are listed on each checkout page.

At checkout, customers need to fill out only the shipping and billing information pages before submitting the order. “Previously, you had to submit your billing information and you’d then have to say, ‘Yes, I really, really do want to order,’ through a confirmation page,” Richards says. “We found that by removing that that’s a significant part of the increase in conversions.”

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