The beauty of site optimisation

On my way to work the other morning, I noticed that the stylish apothecary Space NK on Westbourne Grove was closed for refurbishment.

Not something likely to inconvenience me enormously, as its beauty products are aimed predominantly at the discerning ladies of Notting Hill.

It did, however, get me thinking about the cost of redesigning a retail outlet and inevitably, considering my line of work, how that compares to the online retailers I talk to day to day.

Although online stores never actually have to close to relaunch, historically they have faced exactly the same issues as the high street when they finally throw the doors open on the brand new site. Will my customers like it? Will I sell more products?

But not anymore - with the latest website optimisation techniques, it is quite possible to thoroughly test multiple variations of the design, feel and navigation of the new site prior to launch so that you know for a fact that the new design works better than the old.

It’s the equivalent of bringing in all of Space NK’s existing Notting Hill customers and designing the new store exactly to their specification.

Better than that, while you can only create one store design in bricks and mortar, the online store can serve up bespoke to the personal design and product preferences of thousands of individual customers.

Once you have a new look for your online store and are weighing up the layout options, experience shows us that the page you expect to work best is not necessarily the one that will perform best in testing.

In that sense the process of arriving at the optimal layout and content is quite counter-intuitive – it can’t be second guessed.

Happily, multi-variable testing has arrived to take the guess work out of it.

The position and design of the elements making up a web page – graphics, buttons, text and layout - can be tested in all possible combinations to arrive at the combination your customers will react to most favourably.

A recent example is the 1,560 permutations of one key landing page we tested for Gamestation.

The result was an uplift of 13.09% reaching the ‘Thank you’ page and a 13.29% increase in average order value.

That’s the equivalent of testing 1,560 combinations of beauty products on one display table in Space NK.

Of course, for the high street, that level of testing is not yet practical and there will always be an element of risk in a high street redesign.

Online however, companies are on to a sure thing if they test before they launch.

By Greg Kelton, managing director of Optimost .

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