Online purchases are becoming more and more popular with busy consumers. A report published by ComScore last month shows that Americans spent close to $130 billion in online retail in the first nine months of this year, up from just less than $102 billion during the same period in 2011.
This move to online shopping is unlikely to reverse itself. Customers are looking for convenience and are increasingly opting to do their shopping from the comfort of their own homes or offices rather than walk into busy stores. Further, online shopping allows for a much greater selection and makes it easier to compare products from different retailers. Thus, retailers need to make sure they are delivering the best-ever online customer experience to ensure conversion and return customers.
Gourmet gift company Harry & David is well aware of the necessity to deliver the best possible experience to the customers who visit the company's website. "Our end goal is to make the shopping experience the best possible," says Scott Huddleston, Harry & David's senior vice president for sales and multichannel marketing. In their quest to deliver this optimal customer experience, the company's business leaders were regularly doing multivariate and A/B testing on its online property.
But as the 102-year-old company grew, old systems were no longer enough. Huddleston notes that Harry & David was experiencing several technical issues because of scaling, triggering a rethink of the technology that was being used. One of the challenges was long load times on test versions, leading to a less-than-ideal customer experience.
In order to address this problem, last year Harry & David implemented new testing systems by Maxymiser, allowing the company to be more agile in testing web page improvements before rolling them out to all customers. "We put a lot of effort in letting customers tell us how we're doing and what they want to see," Huddleston explains.
Testing different variables is allowing Harry & David to serve its customers with the best possible online experience. This strategy meant putting the current customer journey under the lens and pinpointing areas that could be improved. Most of Harry & David's customers go to the company's Website to buy a gift for a loved one. The company's leaders recognized that customers wanted to find their gifts quickly so they changed the homepage to include different categories, making it easier for customers to find what they needed. Different versions were tested to determine the best choice. "We tested the whole buying experience to see what customers really wanted," Huddleston notes, adding that it was "statistically significant" to present the information differently.
Another change was to the Website's search functionality. During the 2011 holiday season Harry & David tested different search box ideas, finding a winning design that led to a double-digit lift in conversion rates, leading to increases in average order values and revenue for the company.
Huddleston says delivering a great buying experience that differentiates Harry & David from its competition is critical. "It's the name of the game to drive traffic and make sure you convert as many customers as possible," he says.
Invest in online: With many customers starting their buying journeys online, organizations need to make a great first impression through their Website.
Test before rolling out: Not every change will be an improvement and companies need to test any alterations with a small percentage of customers before rolling them out to everyone.
Make interactions simple: Customers want their buying journeys to be as easy as possible so organizations need to make sure that they simplify interactions.