By: Web Trends


- Geoff Smith President of e-Commerce, Personal Creations

BUSINESS CHALLENGE

Between 1999 and 2002, traffic to the PersonalCreations.com web site increased steadily, reaching the point where technical problems were hindering web site performance. The web order processing system couldn't scale to handle the increased web traffic. Personal Creations required a more robust and scalable e-commerce solution.

In addition, to take advantage of the increased traffic, Personal Creations required a web site that would better meet its business objectives by encouraging more visitors to click through the site and more shoppers to complete the purchases they start. Since content and navigation are both critical factors in improving conversion rates, Personal Creations needed analysis that would show how visitors were responding to the current site so they could make changes that would have a positive effect on their online sales.

BUSINESS OVERVIEW

Founded in 1989, Personal Creations is the top provider of personalized gifts in the U.S. From apparel to home d�cor to wedding gifts and favors, Personal Creations offers thousands of unique items that can be personalized with names, pictures, quotes and more. Not only can you personalize everything on the site, but many of these items are exclusive to the site and unavailable anywhere else.

In 1996 Personal Creations supplemented its offline catalog presence with a rudimentary web site that attracted mostly web-savvy shoppers of its catalog. In 1999 Personal Creations purchased an integrated catalog order processing system which included a web component, prompting the creation of a more extensive e-commerce web site that would simplify order processing and increase on- and offline sales. Since then, the web site has grown into a critical business channel, accounting for more than 45% of Personal Creation's overall revenue.

WEBTRENDS SOLUTION

Personal Creations turned to WebTrends Insight Network partner, Fry Inc., to design a new site that would meet its technical and business requirements. Fry designs, develops, builds and hosts web-based applications, providing business solutions for clients that drive results. Personal Creations selected the Fry Flagship framework, a quick-to-market e-commerce solution that incorporates best practices and includes an extensive feature set, customized to convey a company's brand. Recognizing that in-depth insight into visitor behavior is critical to web site effectiveness, Fry relies on analysis from WebTrends Reporting Service to guide web site design decisions and delivers ongoing, browser-based web visitor analysis directly to clients.


To guide decisions for the redesign, Fry used insight provided by WebTrends to create a Customer Experience Report, detailing how visitors were interacting with the old Personal Creations web site. As Geoff Smith, president of e-commerce and new business development for Personal Creations, shares, "The Customer Experience Report showed us that there were a lot of things we were doing well�but also a lot of opportunities for improvement. Specifically, in terms of navigation and conversion, there were areas where visitors weren't doing what we had expected and weren't using the site and the navigation the way we thought. WebTrends navigation analysis showed that instead of using the top navigation system, visitors were using the product categories on the left to browse products. In addition, visitors browsing product thumbnail listings were abandoning the site after only two pages of thumbnails�when many categories had several more pages."

By analyzing how visitors were navigating through the old site, Personal Creations and Fry were able to design a new site that would better meet visitors' needs and more easily lead them to the information and products they were looking for. Smith explains, "We designed the new site based on what we learned from the WebTrends analysis of our old site. Then, we used WebTrends analysis after the redesign to measure the effectiveness of our changes."

RESULTS

Recognizing that the homepage is usually the first page visitors see, Personal Creations and Fry took this opportunity to make a positive first impression. The Customer Experience Report revealed that visitors weren't clicking on the featured products of the old site, so the new homepage showcases a broader image of the Personal Creations brand and gives customers ideas for how to use products (such as "Cherish Your Memories" and "Start a Family Tradition") instead of promoting specific products. In addition, WebTrends analysis revealed that visitors weren't responding to the length of the old homepage-content below the fold wasn't generating visitor interest. So the new homepage was designed to fit in the screen without scrolling. Smith shares, "Customers were not arriving at the homepage looking to buy a product and then leave. Instead, web visitor behavior analysis showed that in our case the homepage had to highlight our company messages: personalization, and the uniqueness and breadth of our product lines. The new design encourages visitors to click through the site. The changes we made worked: The redesigned site achieved a 33% decrease in single-page visits."

Since the revamped site launched in October 2002, Personal Creations has also seen a dramatic improvement in the effectiveness of its product browsing. On the old site, there was a large percentage of visitors dropping off after the first two pages of product thumbnails. To address this, Personal Creations and Fry devised a way to make product browsing easier for visitors. The new site includes a breadcrumb trail of where a visitor has been, page numbering so visitors can easily jump between the pages of product thumbnails, and "top picks" pages so visitors can see the most popular products for any given product category or occasion. These changes have had a significant impact on the number of visitors who successfully find what they are looking for: "Designing our new navigation to address the browsing behavior WebTrends analysis revealed has resulted in more visitors finding what they are looking for on the site. Conversion rates of visitors to customers have increased 25% since the new site launched," Smith shares.

Personal Creations and Fry also took a close look at the shopping cart. While the analysis of the old site revealed that the shopping cart conversion rate was already above industry averages, there was still an opportunity to improve it. To streamline the process, the payment and review pages were combined into one step and the shipping information page was moved ahead of the billing information. "Since these changes, which were made based on WebTrends Scenario Analysis of our checkout process, more visitors are completing the purchases they start: checkout abandonment rates have decreased 10%," says Smith.

Personal Creations set up a system for cross-selling products on the new site, basing cross-sell recommendations on product affinity tables created with WebTrends analysis of customer purchasing behavior. Due in part to the successful addition of cross-sells to the purchasing process, average order size on the Personal Creations site has increased 10% since the redesign.

Because of increased freight charges and business operating costs, Personal Creations was considering adding a personalization fee for orders-but first wanted to see how its customers would react. To test the effect of the change, a one-dollar personalization fee was added to the review page of the shopping cart process. Then Smith compared the results for the 15 days before the fee was added to the 15 days after the fee was added. Smith shares the results: "With WebTrends, we were able to make a change and then analyze the results in real-time, proving with hard numbers that the addition of the fee didn't have a negative impact on our conversion rate. In fact, we saw a slight increase."

The combined effect of these changes, including the improved homepage, navigation and checkout, has been a 31% increase in online sales since the relaunch of the web site. Smith sums it up: "You could say I'm addicted to WebTrends. I watch it every 10 minutes, keeping an eye on traffic and sales with the Overview Dashboard, then drilling into reports like Transactions by Product to see what's selling every day or over a period of time. WebTrends analysis was critical to successfully designing a new site that would meet our business objectives; and now it's critical to everyday decision-making since the redesign. WebTrends drives all of my merchandising decisions- from what to promote on the site to how to rank products to what to feature in affiliate newsletters. I rely on WebTrends 100% for all of my product sales."

ABOUT WEBTRENDS

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