Many college students want to look fit, and some turn to nutritional supplements to help them flatten their mid-sections or build their biceps. But because many of them are new to supplements, helping them find what they need and reassuring them that a product is right for them are top priorities for online retailer CampusProtein.com.
Founded in an Indiana University dorm in 2010, the e-retailer expanded with the help of $100,000 in seed funding it won in a 2013 competition. It now has more than 1,000 sales representatives selling its products on 300 college campuses, says CEO Russell Saks.
The CampusProtein.com e-commerce site plays a key role in the business: It not only takes all the orders placed by salespeople, but also sells to tens of thousands of consumers who visit the site each month looking for such products as vitamins, amino acids and energy drinks. CampusProtein averages 83,131 monthly visits and 34,299 monthly unique visitors, according to web traffic measurement firm SimilarWeb.
Many of those online shoppers are new to supplements and want reassurance that the products they’re considering will work for them, Saks says. E-commerce has more effectively provided that reassurance with the help of personalization technology from technology provider Nosto, he adds.
CampusProtein has connected Nosto with the software it uses from Yotpo to acquire photos and reviews from customers so that when a consumer views a product, the Nosto personalization area of the web page populates with photos of other customers who have purchased that item.
“One of the biggest strategies for us is social proof,” Saks says. “College students want to know what other people are taking.”
The Nosto technology also has enabled CampusProtein.com to add a tab at the top navigation tab called Top 25 that shows the leading products based on up-to-the-minute sales. “Refresh your screen and you could get a totally different Top 25, depending on which products are moving,” Saks says.
The e-retailer also uses the Nosto technology to populate two central panels of its homepage, one called “Trending Right Now” and the other “Fan Favorites.” Saks says customers who interact with sections of the site populated by the Nosto personalization system convert at a 74% higher rate than those who do not, and their average purchase is 10% higher.
The Nosto sections also take into account the signals the website visitor provides about what he’s interested in to customize content. Someone viewing a blog might see products related to that content. A consumer looking at a relatively low-priced item might see items at a similar price point, while discount items might be suppressed for someone looking at higher-priced products.
The Nosto technology relies primarily on the behavioral signals a shopper provides as he shops, rather than data stored in a retailer’s customer history systems, says Nosto CEO Jim Lofgren. That allows the system to be implemented quickly, as the retailer doesn’t have to take data formatted in one way in its customer relationship management system, for example, and restructure it for Nosto. Instead, Nosto uses the shopper’s behavior to understand what the shopper likely wants.
The Nosto system also employs machine-learning technology that enables it to get better and better at achieving the goals a retailer sets, such as increasing revenue or conversion rate. Saks says he can see the system providing improved results for CampusProtein.com, as the Nosto areas of the site are producing 18% more in revenue in 2018 compared with last year.
Plugs into major platforms
Lofgren says there are more than 2,000 online retailers around the world using the system developed by Nosto, which was founded in Finland in 2011 and brought its product to market in 2013. To facilitate implementation, Lofgren says, Nosto has built plug-ins for such major e-commerce platforms as Magento, Shopify and PrestaShop.
That made deploying Nosto easy for LeSportsac, the manufacturer of totes and other carrying bags that added Nosto this year after moving to the Shopify Plus e-commerce software in 2017, says Berly Isaak, senior director of global marketing and public relations for LeSportsac. She says the brand’s previous e-commerce technology would not have allowed it to connect to personalization software from an outside vendor like Nosto.
Now, the LeSportsac site can show returning shoppers items they previously viewed, as well as trending items and products customers often buy with the product the shopper is considering. “If a customer is looking at a particular tote and comes back 10 minutes later, the homepage will change its look at the bottom to show a different SKU,” she says. “The algorithm responds to the customer journey.”
Nosto allows LeSportsac to personalize emails with items a shopper has previously bought. It also improves search results. In the past if a shopper searched for an item that was out of stock, the website would show no results, but now it displays other related products.
Isaak says LeSportsac saw immediate results from the personalization system. In just the first few months of 2018, she says she could directly attribute 12% of online revenue to the Nosto technology.
Lofgren says smaller e-retailers typically pay Nosto an undisclosed percentage of revenue but that some larger clients negotiate fixed-rate pricing.
Look for Internet Retailer’s upcoming research: The 2018 State of E-Commerce Personalization Report