The Benefits of Tinkering over Reinvention
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The Benefits of Tinkering over Reinvention

By Andy Mulcahy, Strategy and Insight Director, IMRG

Andy Mulcahy, Strategy and Insight Director, IMRG

We have all had occasions where we’ve felt that a lack of cutting-edge technology is holding us back. ‘If only this system could talk to this one’; ‘if we put an AI solution in there, it would improve our efficiency exponentially’ etc. Getting in those big-spend, tech-driven evolutions can significantly enhance performance (when they actually deliver on their potential, that is).

The problem, of course, with cutting-edge technology is often the price tag. At times such as these – where trading conditions are incredibly tough; in May 2019 we recorded the lowest online sales growth in almost 20 years of tracking – it can be even harder to justify the required expenditure.

These major projects are necessary to businesses staying relevant and able to compete, but sometimes the business case seems hard to prove. We find that there are actually plenty of minor changes that can make a difference for a retail business – things that are easy to change and monitor to see if they exert any positive impact on performance.

IMRG tracks hundreds of metrics on hundreds of retail websites. As we have the underlying data, it means we are able to carry out studies looking at certain pages (the checkout, for example) and identify whether there are any common elements between those with high performing checkouts and those with low.

Just by making small changes, the results can be extraordinary. We know of one retailer who saw a 10% uplift in conversion just by changing the colour of their buy button to green. The wording on the buy button is also worth experimenting with – generally speaking, we found ‘place order and pay’ converted at a higher rate than ‘pay now’.

What’s interesting about this is that these retailers did not make any changes to the actual item being sold; it was the exact same thing, but they managed to increase conversion through subtle alterations to individual elements on their checkout pages.

Sometimes the results we see from these studies are logical, predictable even; but this is certainly not always the case. How products are tagged up proved interesting in that respect. We looked at how strict retailers should be with their search results, and there was a tendency for those who were less rigid (as in if the search query was ‘men’s black leather boots’, there may have been some brown leather boots or black suede boots included too) to get higher numbers of site visitors onto product pages.

This does make some sense; if the retailer only has a few items that directly match a search query, the visit may be brought to a premature end as it seems the site doesn’t stock what they are after. By including additional items, that are not strictly what they had searched for, there is a greater range to continue browsing through. Hindsight is a wonderful thing of course, but unless you hypothesise and test in this way that clarity can prove elusive.

So while we all would like to revolutionise various areas of the customer experience by bringing in expensive technology, it can be surprising just how much impact you can have on conversion by testing with the smaller things – a bit of tagging here, changing the colour of something there.

When times are tough in retail, it might make all the difference.

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