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How knowing the customer has paid off for Sally

The team behind the upgraded website of professional hair and beauty products retailer Sally Express went to great lengths to optimise merchandising on its new site. The company carried out in-depth research into how its customers – mostly professionals in the hair and beauty trades – used the site and wanted to shop, before implementing changes to improve navigation, search function and checkout.

Though the use of telephone interviews, analytics, testing and studies using eye-tracking technology, Crazy Egg, the team led by Richard Surridge, head of ecommerce and customer services, UK and ROI, gained an in-depth picture of customer habits that is now at the centre of all that they do.

“It is using that kind of customer insight, not being shy to game customers’ ideas, and making sure that we’re not overly confident that we know what we’re doing,” says Surridge. “You can have all the best experience in the world but customers do some strange things every now and then.”

Eye tracking revealed that customers were ignoring promotional banners on the site and heading instead for sub-category navigation, leading the team to redesign the page. The team also used Google Analytics, Optimizely and Treejack to test ideas about what customers wanted to see. One area improved as a result was around the failed search page. Previously, when a search turned up ‘no results’ customers were presented with a list of offers or the top 20 selling products on the site.

“If someone did that in a shop and said, ‘I’m after this particular product,’ and the sales assistant said, ‘We don’t stock that but how about this completely random product?’ it wouldn’t work,” says Surridge. “I think sometimes in ecommerce we don’t necessarily think about how customers would behave in a store.” The team designed a new page encouraging shoppers to alter their search to look by brand or category or to completely rethink their search, leading to a 45% increase in revenue coming out of that page. With customers tending to be time-pressed professionals sourcing products quickly and easily, other improvements concentrated around providing clearly visible ratings, reviews and product information, relevant auto-suggest and useful filtering – all areas which research by InternetRetailing found the site stood out for. Checkout pages were also simplified, with distractions removed and the process reduced from two pages to one.

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