Testing can be tricky, and a single test may not produce a clear answer, so it’s crucial to test extensively to find what customers want, Zoro says.

Kyle Hilbrenner, director, e-commerce and searchandising, Zoro Inc.

Zoro.com, a unit of W.W. Grainger Inc. that sells business and industrial supplies to tradesmen and other small businesses, takes a careful approach to learning what online customers want and personalizing web content to their interests, Kyle Hilbrenner, director of e-commerce and searchandising, said at a recent seminar hosted by B2BecNews.


It all gets back to making buying simple for customers.
Kyle Hilbrenner, director of e-commerce and searchandising

Zoro.com consistently compiles and analyzes data on what customers are purchasing, recommends products based on that and other market data, tests how customers respond to those recommendations, then tweaks its recommendations and continues testing. “It all gets back to making buying simple for customers,” Hilbrenner said at the Oct. 26 B2BecWorld Executive Seminar in New York. B2BecWorld seminars are put on by Vertical Web Media, the publisher of B2BecNews and Internet Retailer.

Zoro has said that its personalization strategy has boosted conversion rates 1% to 2% and online sales by 8% in the past year.


But testing can be a tricky, ongoing learning process, he added. Zoro’s personalization engine has a built-in testing tool to test one strategy against another, what’s known as A/B testing. But with 1.8 million products, it’s a challenge to come up with the most relevant handful of recommended products to compare. And sometimes it may be better to recommend a category rather than an individual product.

And while testing for the relevant content to show customers, Zoro may then also have to determine which type of results best serve to meet its goals. Any effort to personalize content may lead to mixed results—for example, it may increase the amount of engagement with customers as indicated by click activity, but also result in a decrease in conversion rate. That could indicate that customers sought more information about featured products but declined to buy for one reason or another.

“Whatever we’re testing, in about half the tests at the end of the day we may not know which direction to go in.” The key thing, he added, is to keep testing to learn more about customer interests.

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