February 16, 2010, 12:00 AM

Lee Jeans finds pockets of web problems with consumers’ help

The jeans maker made strides in conversions after addressing shopper complaints in a redesign. But new research shows there’s room for improvement, e-commerce business manager Lori Graham told the Internet Retailer Web Design & Usability 2010 Conference.

Lee Jeans has made big strides in improving conversion since redesigning its web site to address consumer complaints that emerged in usability tests. But a recent usability study shows there’s still room for improvement, e-commerce business manager Lori Graham told the Internet Retailer Web Design & Usability 2010 Conference audience today in Orlando, FL.

The first round of tests in 2007 by web consulting firm Usability Sciences revealed that only 32% of the mostly female shoppers who came to the Lee Jeans site intended to buy, with 38% researching. What was worse, of those who wanted to buy only 20% succeeded and 71% felt they had failed. 35% of the failures were due to products being out of stock and another 28% from the product not being available at Lee.com.

Those failures left many visitors unimpressed with the site. Surveys showed that while 59% were first-time visitors to Lee.com, 28% said they were unlikely to return and 29% said they were unlikely to recommend the site to friends, Graham told the conference.

Lee took immediate action to address the most glaring issues. It added more products to the site so that consumers could find on Lee.com any item available in stores, which was not the case before. A shop by SKU function was added to help consumers who were trying to shop by the product number they found on a label in a pair of jeans they owned. And the site added additional product images so consumers had more information about the products available.

Those changes generated immediate results. In 2008, revenue from Lee.com increased 98% while traffic went up by only 20%, showing that the conversion rate was going up, Graham said.

But more gains seemed within reach. The company concluded that it could generate an additional $21.6 million in revenue if it could reduce the shopper failure rate, and that sales potential helped persuade management to approve a complete redesign of the web site, Graham says.

The new site went live in April 2009, and performed better on key metrics. For instance, 68% of consumers said they were successful when searching for a product on the site in 2009 versus only 16% in 2007. Purchase success went from 20% to 41%, and purchase failure dropped from 71% to 48%.

“It was great to see we were moving in the right direction, but with 48% still failing we know we still have a problem,” Graham said.

Lee engaged Usability Sciences to conduct another round of tests early this year to understand what barriers consumers still encounter at Lee.com. Graham said the tests showed consumers found the Compare Products feature confusing, could not understand certain terms in product descriptions and wanted to be able to filter products by more than one attribute at a time. Graham said Lee plans to improve the compare functionality and address these other concerns.

The tests also showed consumers were confused by size information, such as what small, medium, large and petite mean in regard to the jeans they’re viewing on the site. Also fit terms, such as such as natural, classic and curvy, left many consumers baffled. Graham said Lee may address those concerns by adding a page that provides images of jeans of different sizes and fits. Lee.com has a Fit Finder feature on the site, but Graham said only 3% of visitors use it.

Graham said each round of usability testing cost about $40,000.

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