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Monday, May. 19, 2008 at 10:08 am

When Should You Start Making More Money? (Not Ready?)

By Bryan Eisenberg
May 19th, 2008

What happens when you AssUmeEvery time you design a new landing page, add a new product to your website, add keywords to your campaign, rewrite a pay-per-click (PPC) ad, craft an email campaign, or redesign your website, you are making assumptions about how your visitors will react.

Such was the case when I sat next to Jeff Smith, Director, Interactive Marketing & eBusiness for the Hudson Bay Company at the CMA Geek dinner (courtesy of my friend Mitch Joel) in Toronto last week.

Jeff was telling me all about his efforts to relaunch his company’s websites this past weekend. Of course, my conversation went to customer experience, analytics, optimization and testing. For numerous reasons, Jeff didn’t really have any analytics for the old site, so he was figuring it would make sense to launch the new site — with its vastly improved customer experience — and wait six months to collect data before even considering any testing. His approach is not all too uncommon.

Let me make this clear: Jeff and his team are top notch. These are just the realities of online retail; it’s difficult, and sometime more so in a company that has such a long retail tradition as HBC.

Jeff and his team made assumptions about new technologies, features and layout for every page of their website. Some of these assumptions were explicit (launching customer reviews with Bazaarvoice would improve the experience and conversion rates) and some implicit (we’ll talk about that below). Some I am sure would be validated right after launch. Others would require testing.

Right there on the table I had Jeff draw the product page layout they had developed. (Well, it was on a piece of paper on top of the table cloth, but you get the point.) Jeff and his team had made the decision that product images would be on the right side of the page. One of the other retailers at the table said theirs was on the left side. So I asked Jeff, “How do you know it won’t cost you a million dollars during the next six months by having your product image on the right-hand side?”

While it might be easier for readability to have it on the right-hand side of the page, the majority of retailers have the product image to the left of the copy. I could see the agita stirring right there (and it wasn’t the Italian food we just ate). “You made an assumption that your product page would work better this way during the design process,” I said, “and you know what happens when you assume. Why not take it to the court of last resorts, the folks who vote with their dollars — your website visitors — and test it?”

I know how smart Jeff is, but do his bosses appreciate everything he brought to the table? He doesn’t have analytics showing lots of benchmark data, but testing would let him prove the assumptions and, most importantly, continuously improve the website. He could then show his organization the value provided by testing his assumptions, learn from both the successes and failures, and focus on improving the experience by adopting a culture of “Always Be Testing.”

I only gave Jeff one or two simple test ideas because I didn’t have the sites in front of me, but they are now live. You can check them out and feel free to offer suggestions in the comments below for things you think Jeff should test or things you’d would like to test if you could:

TheBay.com
1. department page
2. product information page

Zellers.com
1. department page
2. product information page

HomeOutfitters.com
1. department page
2. product information page

When would you like to prove how smart you are and make more money with your website?

Add Your Comments

Comments (19)

  1. The Bay Home:
    1) I would test moving the search bar to the top of the page so that all the content could move up slightly.
    2) Adding in a short piece of copy near the logo on the top left that gave a description of what the company is, at this point I do not know.
    3) The fold – test adding in copy or a image that will draw methodical and humanistic types down the page.

    The Bay Product Page:
    1) I would test moving the “in stock” to the product description section.
    2) Test using the word cart instead of bag!!!

    Zellers Home:
    1) Adding in a piece of copy explaining what the company is.
    Note- I like how the featured products draws the visitor down the page.

    Home Outfitters Home:
    1) test the search location, see if it works better on the right or top.

    Home Outfitters Product Page:
    1) Test moving “add to bag” call to action above the fold. Also adding one below the fold.

    This is kind of fun :)

  2. What ecommerce platform are these sites built with?

  3. [Department Page] – it is interesting he has ‘assumed’ that people shop by brand more than category since it is at the top of the left nav. Even though the categories are on the bottom left and the main area they did not stick out to me and the first place I looked was the top left area where the brand list is. I very rarely shop by brand, and even if I do I first find what I want then prefer to shop by brand. i.e. I want a ‘pot’ then once I get to the ‘pots’ page I would look to separate by brand at that point if I even care about brand. Most big electronic retailers do this on their website. It is also good to note retailers are almost always setup this way as well. You don’t have a section in the store for each brand, you have categories or product sections in the store with all brands in that section. i.e. all blenders are in one area with different brands.

  4. It’s a bit shocking to me that there is no mention ‘checkout’ anywhere but the ‘shopping bag’ page. The very first thing I would test is adding a ‘checkout’ option any time a product has been added to the ‘shopping bag’. The easiest way to do that within the existing framework of the site would be to simply add a second button to the pop-up displayed when an item is added to the customer’s bag.

  5. Bay product page – I agree with Pearce’s comment about testing ‘cart’ instead of ‘bag’. The add to bag button confused me until I realized it was referring to a shopping bag. To me a shopping bag is something I use to carry my purchases home in after checkout. I use a cart or basket while shopping. Page design wise there’s a lot of unused whitespace both above and below the fold.

  6. Definitely test the home page images on The Bay. Needs a much clearer call to action.

    Also, try enabling the ‘add to bag’ button and having a javascript that lets you know you need to pick a color, etc., instead of leaving the button mysteriously unclickable.

    Finally, I’d love to see higher-contrast text and how that performs against the gray text.

  7. Hi Bryan,

    Some excellent suggestions already, so I’ll just add a couple:

    homepage – slow down the transition of the 3 main images – they (probably!) bounce from one to the next too quickly for anyone over 35

    As Eric already said – very strange not to see ‘category’ under the SHOP area

    once in that shop area – make the images clickable!!!!
    I’m stunned that such a smart team would overlook this
    well – that was my first impression – then I realise I wasn’t smart enough
    I hadn’t clicked on the dead centre of the imagee – so didn’t realise that the orange ‘quick view’ was clickable… so ok, click that… & wait for a flash pop up window
    I can see how that’s useful – but then another click to close the window down – instead I’d allow the user to click away from the pop up to return to the main page by clicking anywhere on the main page underneath…
    either way it’s still 3 clicks to see more info…
    I would definitely test just clicking on the image to go through to the product page itself (which would be consistent with the ‘related products’ area)

    better yet make the whole area around the image/descrip/price/more clickable… not just the small text itself (the view details is very small)

    on the product page – I agree with Ian – higher contrast text
    & probably a larger font
    more product images would be nice
    & removing the existing quantity when I click in the quantity field

    checkout page:
    test removing some of the unnecessary nav – or at least make the checkout button stand out more… because everything is yellow/orange it doesn’t jump out & I’d imagine it could well be below the fold for many (it’s also quite small & could be fiddly for some)

    not sure I’d have the diagram of my credit card statement on the billing page… makes it look as if my order will get rejected if I get a character in the wrong place – adds to the worry, which I would think would reduce conversions
    I doubt they even check the address with the credit card company – so why does it have to be *exactly* right?
    AND wouldn’t it make sense to ask for this info on the actual payment page itself??

    & maybe it’s just me being all the way down here in Melbourne, Oz… but changing between pages (esp. getting to the checkout, sorry shopping bag page)

    phew! by the way – lots of nice touches in there… I’m just being picky :)

  8. On the department page of thebay, I would remove the middle menu (with Accessories, Bakeware, Cookware etc.) and put it under the listing. People know that they want Bakeware, why should you give them a choice choosing something else?

  9. These are some great tips and I look forward to hearing from Jeff about the results of any of these tests. Please keep them coming, I love seeing the insights given by our readers.

  10. Home Outfitters product page:

    I would test a redesign of the page as a whole that would highlight a cross section of related items, such as 1-2 higher margin items, in the viewer’s field of vision, rather than being small photo afterthoughts below the fold. Typically this would be a higher-margin product next to the lower one, plus an even higher ticket item, such as a set of several pans.

    I would test this to see if average order size rose. Behavior on this might be different at holiday time, as people are thinking in the $100 range for a gift and they are seeing a product page with a $35 item.

    Also, is there a clear incentive for spending over $100 (be this shipping, points, or a discount) visible?

    Finally I would globally test whether the non-standard Add to Bag is worth using (do conversion rates to the next stage go up if you revert to Add to Cart, or is it immaterial).

    Andrew

  11. I agree with Mike:

    “homepage – slow down the transition of the 3 main images – they (probably!) bounce from one to the next too quickly for anyone over 35″

  12. IBM Websphere Commerce
    Endeca (search and guided navigation)

    Overall the experience is a vast improvement when compared to the older Hbc.com platform… congrats to Jeff and team on the launch!

  13. Interesting post but on what ecommerce platform are these sites built with?

  14. Isn’t Yahoo Merchant Solutions the best ecommerce platform? Great info btw.

  15. It’s all about making more money, would be interesting to know what platforms they operate with. Good info too.

  16. The Sites Are very nice made,
    Only I think homeoutfitters is al little bit too Slumpy, and I whould have moved the Lower Menu thing too the top thats a little bit more Overseenable.

    Kind Regards

    Btw, Good information / Explenation

  17. These ecommerce sites were closed down Feb 2009. What remains are brochure sites. Not the ones the article is addressing.

  18. Money making is getting harder by the day but with posts like these, one will also be able to learn how to upgrade one’s money making knowledge.
    Thanks for the post.
    start making

  19. Definitely test the home page images on The Bay. Needs a much clearer call to action.

    Also, try enabling the ‘add to bag’ button and having a javascript that lets you know you need to pick a color, etc., instead of leaving the button mysteriously unclickable.

    Finally, I’d love to see higher-contrast text and how that performs against the gray text.

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Bryan Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark and Always Be Testing. You can friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

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