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Friday, Jun. 27, 2008 at 1:24 pm

9 Ecommerce Innovations Worth Testing On Your Own Site

By Robert Gorell
June 27th, 2008

Shoeline Return-o-Meter

Ever wonder how often other people return an item you want to buy online?

Honestly, it never occurred to me before, but now that I’ve seen Shoeline.com‘s Return-O-Meter™, I wish other online retailers would borrow the idea (especially since I’ve learned it’s actually lowered returns and raised Shoeline’s conversion rate).

If you own or are in charge of a marketing budget for an e-commerce shop, you should take a close look at the latest webinar from the good people at Elastic Path Software.

In “9 Ecommerce Innovations: What’s Now & What’s Next,” Elastic Path co-founder Jason Billingsley showcases the latest e-tail trends in these hot categories:

  • Video
  • Customer Service
  • Real World Guided Selling
  • Multi-store Retail
  • Navigation
  • Merchandising
  • Social Shopping
  • Loyalty

(If you need to bookmark the webinar for now, check out Linda’s recap at Get Elastic.)

OK. Now that you’re about to have a bunch of new ideas for cool features to add to your site, let’s not get carried away just yet. What works for Amazon, NetShops, Shoeline, Zappos, Martin + Osa, Borders.com, Endless.com, American Eagle, Shopatron.com, Backcountry.com, Knicker Picker, Vitamin Global, WineLibrary.com, and Shoeline . . . [deep breath] . . . may not work for you — which is exactly why strategy must come before tactics. Always.

How will you know if these innovations will add value to your visitors’ online shopping experience? Well, if the change you want isn’t too expensive to implement — and if it’s not overly disruptive to your current business model — try it out by running a split test.*

. .

*Split testing is the only way to know whether your site’s new features are A) worth keeping, or B) setting off the Return-O-Meter™. Don’t know where to begin? Join us on Wednesday, July 9th for the first installment of “Always Be Testing,” our free monthly webinar series, co produced by FutureNow and the Google Website Optimizer team.

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Comments (13)

  1. Return-O-Meter™ is a great idea, but as you point out, may not be for everyone. The shoe business suffers from a very high return rate, and though Return-O-Meter is positioned as being a “transparent” idea for consumers, you can’t underestimate the operational savings in returns processing, an area often overlooked when “calculating ROI”. Do you calculate the ROI of commerce campaigns net of returns?

    Hope so.

    For me, just to see someone paying attention to return stats is a leap forward. For many businesses, the right thing to do might be to simply reduce or eliminate high return offerings, so that all merchandise is rated “Low”.

    Then you can just skip the meter ;)

    As you point out, this decision depends on the Marketing Strategy. Like this idea a lot for shoes, though.

  2. A funny thing I noticed about the site – there is no search box.

  3. @ Jim
    I like your think Jim. Most measurement of success happens on the front end, then the data gets thrown over the wall. “Look at how much ROI we got on this campiagn. Yay us!”

    Things that don’t get factored into analytics reports (often) are fraud, returns, and multi-touch attribution (saw banner ad, clicked PPC, checked CSE, then bought via affiliate link – ouch).

    What I love about the return-o-meter is its ability to deal with FUDDs. Fears, uncertainties, doubts, and deal breakers.

    It raises the confidence of a shopper making a decision and anytime you can do that, there will be a positive outcome.

    The reason I wouldn’t eliminate a product with high returns is often the return issue can be solved quickly and easily with altered product descriptions, images, or data.

    If I know an absolutely amazing hoodie shrinks one size in the wash – well, I just buy the next size up. Done. No return. Happy customer.

  4. Hi, Brianm CC

    I spotted the search box upper left :)

    I do doubt if Return-O-Meter™ can really boost conversion rate and the sales.

  5. A Year In Web Analytics – 10 Things I Have Learned…

    Tomorrow is the first day in a new year for Microsoft. Our financial year runs from July to June and…

  6. This “return-o-meter” is brilliant on so many levels. Imagine someone doing comparitive shopping. They see the same pair of shoes they want on Shoeline but now see the meter with a high rate of return. Shoeline has not only gained their trust but can now convert them to buying another pair of shoes. If the returns are high and it can be traced back to an internal problem like a bad description (as opposed to defective merchandise), then the problem can be quickly addressed. Most companies have operational reviews where KPIs (key performance indicators) are reviewed. You can imagine that this meter has high visibility. I could go on and on, but wow, this is good stuff.

  7. Robert: What is the level of confidentially here. So this is not for publication. My site is under construction and I cannot take a chance on P.O. the designer. My question is, I can find out almost nothing except Whois about http://www.theonpractice.com. Do you have any suggestions. It makes me nervious. Thanks. R.

  8. The biggest foo-paa(sp?) I see on sites across the web who are attempting to garner trust is hit counters. Fact is, no respectable site uses hit counters any more. For startups, it’s pointless and actually shows your customer that you are new instead of showing them your experienced. For experienced sites, there are far more useful “meters” to show such as the return-o-meter, etc.

  9. very informative. Thanks

  10. Thank you for good technique.

  11. Nice tip!

    It’s very useful for me.

  12. Wonderful tip I try with my own site

  13. Thanks for this great article.

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