March 1, 2011, 12:00 AM

Designs of the Times

(Page 2 of 2)

In redesigning its site last year, Home Depot kept in mind that 45% of consumers who walk into one of the chain's 2,200 stores have first visited its web site, Lawton said. To guarantee that the customer sees the same price online and in store, checks the location the online shopper is coming from and shows him the price in stores in that area. "We make sure that the price we are showing on the site is what they'll see in store," he said. The retailer has 200 pricing regions, he added.

And to make sure store personnel will direct customers to the expanded assortment on if the store doesn't have an item, Lawton says the retailer includes deliveries to the ZIP code surrounding a store in calculating store employee bonuses.

While the new is chock full of information—videos, forums, customer reviews, access to manuals—some retailers have found there can be too much good content on a site. For instance, Randy Kremer, president of Rugs Direct, said his site suffered by trying to implement every good idea it saw on other sites.

"We implemented all the best practices. Every single one," Kremer told attendees. "From recommendations to promotions, we filled every bit of white space. But what we ended up doing was confusing the customer." Simplifying the site, and particularly reducing the checkout flow from six pages to one, boosted conversion by 50%, he said.

Less is more
Minimalism is especially important when designing for mobile commerce, explained Stephen Leitch, director of e-commerce at musical instruments retailer Music Factory Direct, which launched its mobile site last year with the help of technology provider Vortx.

In designing for mobile, the e-retailer left out the videos and graphically rich artist pages from its web site, but included wish lists and a click-to-call feature that gives the retailer's agents a chance to close sales. "Don't try to do everything," Leitch said. "Ask yourself what's important for mobile."

When planning any redesign project, a retailer should define its most important goal, and pursue that objective, advised Timothy Peterson, vice president of marketing for nutritional supplement e-retailer NutraOrigin, and Betsy Emery, CEO of Tellus, the web design firm working with NutraOrigin on its site design. In the case of NutraOrigin, Peterson said, the initial goal was to make the site easier to use, especially for consumers who want to sign up for recurring orders of supplements and vitamins. One year into the first phase of the site's ongoing renovation, Peterson said conversion and traffic are up 10 times from late 2009 levels.

Emery encouraged retailers to map out everything they want to accomplish, so that they don't have to throw out phase one elements later on, but to focus on one goal at a time. That will keep projections conservative and make it more likely that each phase will be a success, making it easier to win approval for further work.

Modest successes are better than ambitious failures, especially at a time when retailers must keep their web designs moving forward to meet the ever-higher expectations of today's online shopper, and to keep up with the competition.

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