Testing and tuning your website to turn clicks into sales

Tuesday, June 30, 2009 | 3:28 PM

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Schuh is at the leading edge of the UK fashion footwear industry and is widely recognised as one of the most innovative independent footwear retailers, not only on the high street but also online. Schuhstore.co.uk has a unique audience of over 400k users per month*. Schuh’s approach to its online store is to constantly test and tune so that any changes to its site are based on customer preference, rather than the hunches of its web designers.

Schuh Web Developer, Patrick Timmons, uses Google Analytics to identify areas of the site to test, "Working through our Analytics numbers allows us to pick out under-performing areas of the site. We can then design and build tests to optimise these pages".

Schuh's ecommerce team noticed their site had a high exit rate on the 'Mens Shoes' category page and decided to run a A/B test, running various new layouts of the page and testing these against the original.

Timmons was pleased with the insights offered by Google Analytics, “The great thing about testing is it allows me to make the right decisions in making site changes. I wasn't sure whether our customers would prefer viewing our products on the current 3X3 grid, a 4X3 grid, or even a 3X2 grid. Also, what image size do customers like?”

Another element of the page the company was keen to test was the use of models on category pages. Model shoots require significant investment and it is therefore important to understand their impact on conversion. Timmons used Google's free testing platform Website Optimiser to run a test and prove with hard data whether models were needed or not.

Schuh began to see results in a week, and it became clear one of the variations in particular was having a significant impact on conversion. The winning variation was variation 3, which displayed fewer but larger images on the page and did not carry the image of the model. The impact of the new layout was a 10% increase in the number of customers adding a product to their shopping basket, and a 6% increase in the number of customers that converted into a sale.

Schuh's team were very pleased with the results of the test, which underlined how integral testing and tuning is to their whole online strategy. “We are planning a complete redesign of our site and will base it on the results of the tests,” explained Timmons. Building a site based on the results of scientific tests essentially puts the design in the hands of your customer. The site can be completely optimised to the way your customers want it to look and feel.

If your site is based on design and aesthetics and not your customers, you could be missing out on valuable sales. Ensure you have an analytics package installed correctly to give you insight to the activity on your site. Use the data to identify areas of the site that need improving. Build bold tests that push boundaries and then run the tests through a testing platform. Implement the winning results from tests and ensure you continue to test as online customer behaviour will continue to change and evolve.

* Source: Nielsen Netratings Decemeber 2008

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