Service Helps Retailers Maximize Site Value

 
 
By Dennis Callaghan  |  Posted 2005-05-16 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A new hosted Web site testing and optimization service aims to help online retailers get more value from their sites.

A new hosted Web site testing and optimization service aims to help online retailers get more value from their sites by converting visitors into customers, preventing shopping cart abandonment and getting customers to buy more products.

The service from Offermatica, of San Francisco, allows marketers to test and change site elements such as forms, pricing and merchandising to maximize customer response.

The testing is done by inserting JavaScript into the site code, creating what the company calls an "mbox." This script links the site to the Offermatica server, which can generate and publish test content based on statistical rules.

The service can then test what Offermatica officials said is an unlimited number of page variations by testing only a few combinations of site elements. Statistical analysis allows the service to identify what combination of elements will generate the best Web page, officials said.

One feature of Offermaticas hosted testing and optimization service that resonates with customers is its support for multivariate testing, or testing combinations of elements simultaneously to determine the best-possible page, rather than just testing one page against another as traditional A/B testing does.

"What weve found in testing our site is that its hard to get a solution that is both easy to work with and allows you to do multiple permutations of the same test," said Linsly Donnelly, chief operating officer of IdeaForest.com, which manages the Web site for an Offermatica customer, Jo-Ann Stores Inc., in Hudson, Ohio.

"There are a lot of companies that offer A/B testing, but Offermaticas the only one that does A to G or even A to Z. In e-commerce theres a ton of information available, but you cant be successful if you cant test iterations and how customers react to ... changes."

IdeaForest is using Offermatica to test products and categories, shopping cart closure rates, and sitewide offers. So far, the testing has delivered some surprises. In an effort to increase sales of sewing machines, IdeaForest tested different tactics, such as using different font colors and product pictures and different promotions such as free shipping, percent-off discounts and discounts for buying two machines.

The surprise winner was the buy-two-and-save deal.

"If you were telling me we should test [a promotion to] buy two sewing machines and save, I would have said, Who needs two sewing machines?" said Donnelly in El Segundo, Calif. "But that ended up being the best offer. Our customers are community-based. They were calling each other up to buy two and save."

Since deploying Offermaticas hosted service, the Joann.com site, which gets 2 million to 3 million unique site visitors per month, has enjoyed an increase in conversion rates of 30 percent, which has translated into a 10 to 15 percent increase in overall sales.

"For us, thats huge," said Donnelly.

Donnelly said IdeaForest was able to get the service up and running in just three days, compared with four months for licensed software the company has tried in the past that promised similar benefits.

Offermaticas service is priced at $125,000 per year for unlimited testing or a pay-as-you-go model of 10 cents per tested visitor.

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