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Etailer Taps Data with Appealing Results

The Back Story: Several years ago online decision-making at gourmet gift basket company Harry & David was predicated on instinct more than analytics. And while Jeff Allen, the brand’s VP of e-commerce and online marketing, had what he called a “strong feeling” about what he and his team should do on Harry & David’s website, he didn’t have the kind of data he needed to back up his plans.

“We had a website that was formed altogether based on the opinions of people within the company,” says Allen. “That can work because people generally do have pretty good intuition about what the consumer shopping experience should be—but then that’s exactly what it is, intuition.”

To move beyond hunches and start gleaning deeper customer insights, Harry & David decided to put multivariate testing and personalization platform Maxymiser into its online analytics basket to, as Allen puts it, “move to a more simple Web experience where, instead of trying to share multiple messages with customers, we’re directing information to them based on what our data is telling us.”

It’s a move Mark Simpson, Maxymiser’s founder and president, says is becoming almost compulsory in the e-commerce space.

“The days where you have people sitting around a room guessing on content based on their gut feelings are numbered, as are the days when you would, say, relaunch a website by crossing your fingers, flipping the switch, and hoping the site performs better than it did before,” Simpson says.

The Strategy: The ultimate goal, as ever, is to be as relevant as possible.

“If you don’t show your customers the right thing at the right time in the right way, then there’s another website around the corner that does,” Simpson says. “And that makes it very easy for a consumer to move off your site and go to one that’s more suitable to their needs.”

To up relevancy and keep customers engaging on-site, Harry & David began testing with a vengeance, especially on its homepage.

“If I showed you a screenshot of what our homepage looked like two years ago and what it looks like now, it’s dramatically different,” Allen says. “We had a lot of marketing messaging on the homepage before; what we tried to do was funnel it down.”

First off, Harry & David tested variations on its main navigation and experimented with highlighting certain key product categories to make them more visible. Currently, the website boasts a large rotating product image front and center on the homepage. To its left are linked tabs calling attention to relevant subcategories, such as “Summer Entertaining,” “Top Rated Gifts,” and “Father’s Day Gifts.” Below it are four bestselling products, complete with appealing image, price, and starred customer reviews.

“The hypothesis was, we have plenty of navigation above the fold to guide the customer,” Allen says. “So let’s show customers some of our bestselling products to allow them to get at with one click something they’re probably really going to want to buy.”

Harry & David uses Maxymiser’s MaxRECOMMEND tool to source bestselling, top-rated products and feature them on the homepage and then tested and measured how that layout impacted average order value versus simply listing product categories. Allen ran the first test during the December holiday season, a peak revenue time for Harry & David, and the results speak for themselves—a double-digit increase in average order value.

“We’re using real data about our customers to show products that the majority of our customers have been proven to gravitate towards,” Allen says.

The Results: Harry & David’s data-driven approach has born fruit for the brand. Not only has there been an increase in conversion rates—up 3.6% among people who visited the site and saw the winning variant in the homepage test—but there’s been a marked uptick in revenue generation. The average dollar amount spent per customer went up 12% among visitors who saw the winning test versus the control.

The Takeaway: Data is what makes results like those possible, says Maxymiser’s Simpson.

“You have to be very lucky to be successful if you base the performance of your website on luck rather than knowledge,” he says. “Also, nowadays, data, and the way it’s reported back, is becoming more and more consumable for marketers.”

Maxymiser, for example, provides clients with easy-to-use automated reports detailing which pages and what content is performing best to keep marketers in the analytics loop.

Because with data comes proof—and with proof comes confidence.

“We use data—either customer feedback or Web analytics—to identify areas like needs and concerns, and then we identify a testing strategy that addresses those needs,” Allen says. “Data also makes conversations internally easier, because instead of having a bunch of opinions in the room, you have data—and data always wins.”

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