February 24, 2011, 10:39 AM

One size does not fit all

Redesigned product detail pages raise conversions by emphasizing what Footsmart.com’s customers want most.

Lead Photo

Footsmart.com doesn’t sell four-inch spike heels or the latest toe-pinching fashions. The shoe e-retailer’s customers favor fashion combined with comfort, and the site’s core demographic fall in the 45-65 age range. When the e-retailer decided to update its product pages last year, this meant taking a careful look at what web site design styles and functionalities were most effective at selling to this age group, says Sarah Payne, senior manager of user experience and analytics for Footsmart.com.

“We had a stale product detail page that we hadn’t updated in five years,” she says. “Our competitors were using features and had functionality we didn’t have on our site, like multi-view images and zoom.” However, rather than update product pages to match competitors’ feature by feature, Payne says Footsmart.com decided to get a better grasp of its target audience’s priorities when it came to shopping on the web. “Our objective was to do qualitative and quantitative research so we could provide users the best experience going forward.”

Footsmart conducted tests with a dozen adults in the audience segment, and found that some of the bells and whistles popular with competitors didn’t much matter to them. “Things like zooming weren’t as important,” Payne said. “A lot of younger users would be interested, but for older consumers there’s not so much value in it.”

The research, which Payne described during her presentation at the Internet Retailer Web Design & Usability Conference last week, included usability testing and eye tracking so Footsmart could understand where and what consumers looked for on product pages. Payne says Footsmart also used its web analytics data to see which actions consumers commonly took that triggered error messages to appear. She says repeated error messages for the same problem meant that the page design wasn’t clearly communicating which actions consumers should take.

Armed with the research findings, Footsmart made some simple changes, which it then tested with another group of consumers before making them live on the site. The e-retailer’s consumers often spent time reading product ratings and reviews, so the site moved consumer ratings of products from the bottom of product detail pages to just under the product name. Footsmart also updated the language of another consumer review area that features slider bars where consumers can rate the fit and comfort of a style. The research showed that consumers thought that it was Footsmart providing these ratings, not consumers who had actually used the product. 

The e-retailer also made the color blocks consumers click to select the product color they want larger and added more white space between the blocks, which Payne says improved navigation for older shoppers. During its research, Footsmart also found that customers in its target audience preferred copious amounts of product information, so whereas other shoe e-retailers were focusing on emphasizing product photos, Footsmart chose to double the space allotted to product descriptions. “With an older demographic, they read that information and they’re patient,” Payne says.

Footsmart.com’s redesigned product pages went live in October. Since then, the site has seen a 19% lift in conversion, which Payne says was better than she expected. “It was huge,” she says. “We were not expecting such a large lift from small changes.”

Payne said Footsmart.com’s parent company, Benchmark Brands, No. 183 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide, is on track to have $100 million in online sales this year. 

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