February 14, 2011, 12:38 PM

How one retailer learned the value of keeping things simple

Rugs Direct slims down its site and boosts conversions.

Lead Photo

Randy Kremer speaking today at IRWD 2011.

An e-retail site can suffer from having too much of good thing, including of ideas that are all good on their own. That’s the lesson Randy Kremer, president of e-retailer Rugs Direct, learned when he took a hard look at his site to try to figure out why customers weren’t converting as often as he’d like.

Kremer, who spoke today at the Internet Retailer Web Design and Usability Conference 2011 in a session entitled “A Navigation Plan of Action,” was eager to implement all the tools available to help him learn about his customers and coax them to convert. But he soon learned that more isn’t always necessarily better in the web design world.

“We implemented all the best practices on our web site,” Kremer told attendees. “Every single one. From recommendations to promotions, we filled every bit of white space. But what we ended up doing was confusing the customer.”

For example, Rug Direct’s checkout was six pages long. When a customer was ready to check out she was asked to subscribe to the retailer’s newsletter, to create an account if she was a new shopper and to double check her order.

“The process was too long,” Kremer said. “Life would get in the way. The kids would cry or the boss would come in.” Why any such event would occur, Kremer said, the shopper would abandon the purchase.

And so Rugs Direct looked to slim things down, not an easy process for a retailer that carries 70,000 varieties of rugs. Five managers enlisted the help of web analytics as well as of consultancy the E-tailing Group and web design and marketing consulting firm Tellus. Each Rugs Direct manager had his own portal or dashboard as well as the freedom to tweak marketing messages and design to achieve the best results.

Looking at pure analytics was especially important, Kremer said, because the five Rugs Direct managers were all men, and Rugs Direct’s typical shopper is female.

“We focused on getting consumers the information they wanted quickly and then enhancing the shopping cart,” Kremer says.  Rugs Direct added key ways to navigate, such as shop by department and shop by color, and added more white space.

“We took out all the clutter we put in front of them previously,” Kremer said. “It made for a better web site and more continuity in search results.”

Perhaps most importantly, Rugs Direct slimmed the checkout process from six pages to one. “Now you submit your order and you are done,” Kremer said.

And the numbers show shoppers like the clean, slimmed-down site better. Conversions are up 50% and time on the site dropped from 24 minutes to around 12.

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