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Sep 06, 2005
Case Study

How Patagonia Raised Catalog-to-Web Shopper Conversions 15%

SUMMARY: Shoppers adore Patagonia's print catalog because it's gorgeous (in fact some people collect them). But many of the catalog's biggest fans prefer to purchase online. Patagonia site traffic rises an average of 42% after a catalog mailing. How do you improve print catalog results? Focus on your website. Discover four specific steps Patagonia's Web team took to convert more print-to-online shoppers, including a usability lab.
What can you do when your customers love your traditional marketing efforts so much, you can't improve profits by cutting print mailings?

Patagonia is known for its spectacular catalogs. In fact, says eMedia Marketing Manager Chris Todd, diehard fans collect them, and even call the company for back issues as far back as the '80s to add to their collections.

Much as they love the catalogs, many in this demographic of educated, wealthier-than-average, outdoorsy consumers prefer to purchase online. Todd explains, each new catalog "motivates them, gives them aspirations." Whenever a catalog dropped, traffic on the site increased by 42%.

But plenty of anecdotal evidence from Patagonia's call center suggested that these print-to-Web shoppers weren't happy with the online order process. Quite a few customers calling in to place orders mentioned they had a catalog in hand and had originally gone online to order.

(Note: this print-to-Web-to-phone data is a useful metric for any multichannel retailer to be tracking.)

Todd worried about this trend for two reasons:

o Call center orders cost more money to process than online orders.

o Some unhappy shoppers might go elsewhere online rather than picking up the phone.

How could the Web team make incoming catalog shoppers so happy they converted more readily online?

The team used a four-step process to attack the problem.

-> Step #1. Usability study as initial research

The team had a strong feeling customers commonly shopped online with catalogs in hand, but they wanted to be certain that their belief was true. So they did a catalog usability study.

"We set it up in a lab with a one-way mirror and selected customers who were familiar with Patagonia but didn't know they were doing a study for Patagonia," Todd explains.

When the subjects arrived, they were given a Patagonia catalog, then sat down with a moderator and were presented with a number of tasks -- such as finding a waterproof jacket and finding shipping and returns information -- and then asked a series of questions to discover how they navigated the print catalog, their reactions to the layout and how they shop.

"That was fascinating, because we got a sense of the way the Web and catalog really worked together," Todd says. "The user behavior was quite typical: folks receive a catalog and place an order online."

-> Step #2. Design new catalog Quick Shop feature for online

To continue the catalog's brand-impact, Todd's team designed a new catalog Quick Shop Web page with a large, riveting photo on the left. (Currently the photo shows a climber ascending a sheer rock face, but the photo changes every six months or so. See link to sample screenshot below.)

Unlike other retailers' sites, which generally only allow shoppers to enter one Quick Shop item at a time, this page offered six fields for entry -- three over three.

Todd's team chose six boxes because that's the high end of average order size. People often order several items in any one style, so there may be many SKUs per order, but generally they don't order more than six styles online.

Next, the team designed a matching Quick Shop Results landing page that featured only the items the shopper entered. The team tested two layouts for this -- horizontal-style and vertical-style. (Link to screenshots of both test layouts below.)

Key: This landing page included all shopping functionality, including sizing, color and quantity selection, so shoppers didn't have to go anywhere else on the Patagonia site to finish their shopping. No one was forced to go to a different product page for each product.

This landing page used three best practices in conversion design.

Best Practice A. Product images in every available color

When a user clicks on a product to enlarge it, they can then choose to see it in every color available. For example, 14 different views are available for a typical pair of boxer shorts.

"We figured most people who have a catalog in hand have a pretty good sense of color, but we made it available on the catalog Quick Shop anyway, because sometimes the catalog color looks different from the Web. We decided to give them another data point."

Best Practice B. Fabric zoom, tool

A zoom feature also allows users to "get in the fabric's face," Todd explains. That's a key feature for outdoors enthusiasts who want to know exactly how a fabric works to protect them from the elements.

Best Practice C. Sizing and fit info for each selection

There's also a size chart and fit information link for each item. "That's one feature that isn't always apparent in the catalog," says Todd. "Sizing info is there in the catalog but it's more informative online, with a fit tip that describes how [the product] fits."

Once the size and color have been chosen, Quick Shop takes users directly to the shopping cart.

-> Step #3. Another usability study

Next, the team invested in another usability study, this time with a functioning prototype, to gain insights into which test designs would be more useable for typical shoppers. While the conversion data would be available from Patagonia's analytics reports, the "why" insights could only come from a usability study.

"We had users add several products to their quick shop order and select various options," explains Todd.

-> Step #4. Cross-promote in catalog

"In the catalog, we do talk about the Quick Shop feature, but not as loudly as we could," Todd says. The inside front cover was redesigned to include the catalog Quick Shop feature.

Otherwise, every page of the catalog has the URL of the general shopping site but doesn't include info on the Quick Shop. As with all of their promotions, "We don't do a hard sell, no blinking lights," Todd explains. "It's more subtle."


Site conversions increased by 15% and, not incidentally, catalog-to-Web shoppers saved an average of five minutes when placing an order. (This proves for ecommerce sites, the data on how long it takes to place an order may be directly related to your conversion rate.)

The usability studies also showed a vertical landing page where products were in an up-and-down list, rather than side-by-side, "was overwhelmingly more popular for ease of use as well as visual appeal. What's more, the participants found that they could comparison shop easier than anywhere else on our site (an unexpected result)," says Todd.

Next, the online team plans an overhaul of the entire site. One area for focus: whether the site needs to maintain its electronic version of the print catalog. "It doesn't see a lot of traffic. Less than 2% of the total population uses it."

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from Patagonia's Quick Shop tests:


Note: Patagonia is a member of, a forum for retailing online executives to share information, lessons-learned, new perspectives, insights and intelligence. More info at

See Also:

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