Spring is the season of renewal, and retailers should revisit their key pages and beyond. Lauren Freedman, senior consumer insights analyst at Digital Commerce 360, looks at some of the top 50 retailers to see what was new.

Although KPIs had a good year in 2020, according to the results of Digital Commerce 360’s annual Performance and Conversion survey, it may be challenging to meet and exceed those numbers in 2021. The average conversion rates for sites still hover in the 2-3% range. To me, this shouts a need for continued vigilance and constant monitoring of the user experience, so I wanted to dive a little deeper into what retailers had to say. 37% of retailers graded themselves an 8-10 for their current experience, yet 92% have the lofty goal of reaching those levels in 2021. They acknowledge there’s work to be done.

These retailers anticipate that 2021 investments in the customer experience will be up relative to 2020. And the only other area where they are anticipating a greater investment is digital marketing at 76%.

It is exciting to see that they are investing across many ecommerce areas, with customer experience reportedly up from an investment point of view. Retailers are keenly aware of the power of an elevated customer experience to drive conversion rates. In fact, 64% believe it plays a critical role when it comes to optimizing conversion rates.

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Getting tactical, retailers reflected on what has proven important when it comes to improving online conversion rates. Upgrades to key pages ranked No. 1 for 59% of retailer survey respondents, with web design rates close behind at 56%. Efficiency elements included both site search at 50% and a reduced number of steps in the checkout at 43%. Content-wise, better product information and sizing guides were very important to 47% while more sophisticated product imagery came in at 43%. It is for each of these aspects that I have scoured the web for ways retailers are putting them into practice to optimize the customer experience.

Spring is the season of renewal, and I encourage all retailers to revisit their key pages and beyond. I decided to do just that and look at some of the top 50 retailers to see what was new for me.

I have always been a big fan of “shop with confidence” messaging. In the crowded categories that Newegg occupies, its customers and prospects will surely appreciate knowing its assortment size, the number of brands, “legal” reviews and to see the volume it’s able to accommodate from a delivery standpoint. Homepage positioning ensures it gets the attention it deserves.

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Embracing industry reality 

According to Neilsen, The U.S. sustainability market is projected to reach $150 billion in sales by 2021.[1] One cannot help but admire the increasing number of companies who are taking this issue seriously. American Eagle highlights its sustainably sourced cotton and takes it one step further by making a $1 donation from every AE for Surfrider tee purchase to the Surfrider Foundation.

 

Exclusive offers and loyalty programs encourage fans to stand up and spend

We all know that shoppers are alert and always on the hunt for promotions. Fanatics targets its fan base with a deal-driven mentality. The graphic treatment is reminiscent of sports betting advertising that seems to dominate the airwaves these days. 36% of online shoppers in our Post-Holiday survey of 1,137 online shoppers chose a retailer over of the holidays due to their appealing promotions while 20% were enticed by retailer exclusives.

Imagery is a Selling Point

As our Digital Commerce 2021 Performance and Conversion survey of 103 retailers revealed, 43% of retailers know that more sophisticated imagery drives conversion. HP takes this beautiful monitor and uses large callouts to highlight the most compelling elements. Its “Arresting Design” headline and subsequent description complement its beautiful imagery. The look and feel are well executed and take what could be a mundane category and elevates the user experience.

A 1-Stop Product Page

The product page is a destination that contains all the information necessary, showcasing both the brand and the product to aid in decision-making. Crate&Barrel elevates that experience with beautiful photography and video to introduce the brand and show the product in use. It also integrates both shipping and curbside pickup options along with rewards kickback information to round it out. Our research shows that 35% of such videos have been very important to driving online conversion.[2]

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Differentiation tools, such as “Project tool,” help shoppers build projects out on Build.com. These capabilities are incredibly helpful and the ability to maintain for multiple rooms is convenient. As shoppers peruse the site for ideas, one can add to a project or a cart. The tools are excellent for a quick review to remember selections as well as to stay within budget.

Profilers are playing a more important role. Subscription models like Stitch Fix have put in place such quizzes to help customize the shopping experience and tailor the selection. The quiz is multi-dimensional and looks at everything from current styling effort to stores you shop, gender, budget, body issues to what you are looking for from Stitch Fix. The quiz rolls you through a series of styles that drive the algorithm and shoppers can surely begin to anticipate what comes next.

Personalize the experience

As personalities play a heightened role in an influencer world, retailers are partnering to tell their story in a refreshing way. J.Crew long adopted this approach in the catalog world and has showcased four such individuals in its “New Stories” online. Each segment features influencers outfitted in a particular look to show off some of the retailer’s spring collection. The diversity of individuals helps shoppers imagine themselves in these clothes while J.Crew elevates its brand strategy.

For a brand like Bass Pro, the opportunity to feel the experience is certain to resonate with outdoor enthusiasts. This type of marketing tool inspires shoppers and should result in products that are required to support such activities. Videos were important to 35% of online shoppers surveyed but Bass Pro takes it to another level with Bass Pro TV.

Speed is a key driver for consumers

Over the years, search has become more sophisticated, yet it remains instrumental in guiding shoppers to the right products. Beyond product parameters, shoppers can now look specifically at products that are in-stock at one’s designated store. By both sharing available models and allowing shoppers to limit results of unavailable products, the result makes for a more efficient shopping experience. All these kinds of options help facilitate the edit in a more customer-centric way.

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Wayfair also elevates its search using visual imagery. This allows shoppers to quickly scan the search parameters, making it easier and more enjoyable to hunt for the right products. Its two-day shipping options help those in a hurry make the right choice.

A one-stop shopping cart makes it more convenient for shoppers to seek all logistical choices, charges, and fees on one page rather than having to revert to product or delivery pages to address any concerns. Such efficiencies as seen on Target is likely a factor in the way shoppers prefer checkout as 43% say that a limited number of steps to checkout improves the likelihood to convert.

Leverage your guarantee to deliver risk-free shipping

Digital Commerce 360/Bizrate Insights 2021 Conversion survey of 1,047 online shoppers indicates that 63% of those surveyed report that free return shipping would be most likely to lead to an order placed online. This was second only to fast shipping at 68% so it is easy to see why this Footlocker FIT Guarantee should be so attractive to shoppers. As sizing for shoes is always challenging, it is marketing this risk-free option to address this concern and boldly feature it on the site.

Promote omnichannel capabilities

Omnichannel activities are embraced by online shoppers from checking availability to picking up in store or curbside. Our Digital Commerce 360/Bizrate Insights 2021 Omnichannel survey of 1,052 online shoppers reveals that 58% of survey respondents checked online for nearby store availability while 43% subsequently took advantage of store pickup and 35% curbside or drive-up. A choice in logistics matters more than ever to shoppers so highlighting omnichannel prowess—as seen on PetSmart—lets customers know the retailer means business with free one-hour pickup.

Paying attention to the user experience is always in fashion. Retailers should map out proposed improvements each year and measure the impact throughout the year, tweaking based on learning. A combination of creativity and efficiency is sure to be embraced by shoppers where optimized shopping experiences deliver increased conversion results.

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