Leather jackets are the bread and butter for luxury menswear designer John Varvatos, a brand that touts its “rebel spirit and rock ‘n’ roll vibe.” Yet the best-selling items suffered from some of the lowest click levels on the company’s e-commerce site. It was a mystery.
But within a month and a half of launching a new mobile navigation design, John Varvatos increased page views of men’s jackets threefold, according to Marc Gallagher, vice president of digital and e-commerce. And a recent holiday sale saw a more than 50% year-over-year increase in overall mobile revenue and a substantial uptick in mobile conversion rate thanks to many of the changes.
“Leather, to me, was one of our big areas,” he told audience members in Chicago Tuesday during a 2018 Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition session on data analytics in fashion. “John Varvatos is known for its leather, and the fact that we had that buried so deeply (in site navigation) was kind of a shame. So, we weren’t really able to surface some of those leather categories that really bring a lot of resonance to the brand.”
The New York-based company’s namesake, John Varvatos, has Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein pedigrees but went solo in 2000 with his own collection. Now, the brand has 25 full-price stores and five retail outlets and sells through more than 40 retailers and in 23 countries. Yet Gallagher said the designer’s website is the brand’s “No. 1 door.”
“That means there’s a lot of visibility. There’s a lot of sales pressure, for sure,” he added. “We’re forever trying to strike that balance between content and commerce.”
JohnVarvatos.com launched in 2009, and Gallagher says the site was less about selling and more about showcasing runway looks in an editorial way. The company replatformed to Demandware in 2014 to be more commercially viable. While the website has performed well over the years with site growth and revenue remaining strong, Gallagher and his team were noticing that some key engagement metrics had waned in the last year. The bounce rate was rising, and the add-to-cart rate was declining—a signal that shoppers weren’t able to find what they wanted when they visited the site, he said. Even more alarming was that mobile conversion was “relatively nonexistent.”
“Given the prominence of mobile in today’s retail economy, we absolutely needed to change how we were looking at mobile and checkout,” said Gallagher, who previously worked at Benefit Cosmetics.
John Varvatos decided to turn to Fluid, an e-commerce design agency, for analytics and user experience guidance in its quest to optimize JohnVarvatos.com.
According to Rigel Cable, associate director of data analytics at Fluid, the firm approached the project with a mobile-first attitude. Fluid studied the behavior of site visitors to understand which navigation was most useful to them and how they were actually browsing. Cable found buried links in the drop-down menu weren’t seeing a lot of activity, so nested navigation emerged as a problem area. Users were dropping off before they got to the inventory of jackets because they had to tap through several layers to get there. The solution was to remove one layer of nesting across all mobile navigation so there are only two taps to get to a grid page, or a product inventory listing page, instead of three. This better showcases subcategories and streamlines the shopping flow, Cable said.
Fluid added leather as a new top-level navigation grouping for easier access when it previously had been more of a filter for a set of products that were sprinkled throughout different subcategory pages such as jackets and footwear.
“We wanted to surface that as its own navigable area, so we brought that forward,” Cable said.
T-shirts—another best-selling product for John Varvatos but previously nested inside knitwear—also suffered from a low-click volume. That, too, was reprioritized in the navigation and exposed in the second layer to drive traffic to the areas of the site that significantly impact the bottom line of the business.
Cable also identified conventional naming, or keyword, patterns when analyzing reports of site searches, and the results helped inform how subcategories were named and called out.
The tweaks, which went live in April, brought about some impressive page-view increases for JohnVarvatos.com, including a 300% uptick in the crucial and previously under-trafficked men’s jackets category. There were other measurable successes in viewership statistics, too:
- 45% page-view increase in men’s T-shirts
- 20% page-view increase in leather
- 50% page-view increase in new arrivals
- 40% page-view increase in the sale section
“These results were phenomenal to me,” Gallagher said. “I actually had to ask Rigel to double check these numbers because I kind of didn’t believe it… The fact that we were able to see such improvement in mobile within a month—that’s kind of unheard of, and I’ve been doing this a long time.”
Checkout—an area Cable says is the most impactful place for optimization, especially on mobile—also received a facelift from Fluid after a three- or four-month undertaking. The Baymard Institute, a research group that studies web usability, places benchmark numbers for total cart abandonment in the range of 65% to 70%, Cable says. John Varvatos was seeing a 77% drop-off on mobile and 72% on desktop. A user experience audit pinpointed a number of issues with checkout, including too many steps and fonts, as well as tapability issues with buttons being too small for mobile phone usage.
The agency moved John Varvatos from a multi-page checkout to a single-page, or accordion-style, design. Fluid also added readable instructions to the top of order pages so shoppers know to press a button to advance without scrolling all the way to the bottom. Form fields such as shipping and payment now have entry validation to avoid error messages and make the process smoother. And the buttons are enlarged to be easier for fingers on a touchscreen.
The layout switch and other enhancements improved cart abandonment—reducing mobile’s drop-off by 8 percentage points to 69% and trimming 4 percentage points off of desktop’s drop-off rate, bringing it down to 68%. This allowed the brand to quickly move into the targeted benchmark range.
Given the prominence of mobile in today’s retail economy, we absolutely needed to change how we were looking at mobile and checkout.
Gallagher pointed to a recent promotional period that illustrates the high value of recent changes made to the brand’s site. After a Memorial Day flash sale last month, the John Varvatos team did some historical comparisons. JohnVarvatos.com looked roughly the same as prior-year period with the same kind of menu structure outside of the new navigation, the same seasonal product availability and about the same level of discounting, Gallagher said.
But he cited an “amazing” 55% swell in mobile revenue and a 22% increase in mobile conversion rate when compared with the same sale in 2017. And for a brand that’s doing a large volume of sales through mobile, the improvements made a huge impact on John Varvatos’ bottom line, Gallagher said.
“What we’re trying to instill at John Varvatos is a rigor in analytics, to let the analytics and data inform our creative decisions,” he said. “My role is to… provide real-time information to our product merchandising teams as to what’s resonating with our customers. My job is to make technology as invisible as possible.”
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