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Oct 13, 2003
Case Study

Streamed TV Commercial Helps Site Sales Conversions Rise Above 30%

SUMMARY: If you enjoy before-and-after site Web design screenshots, you'll love this Case Study. Hear how an as-seen-on-TV product tested ideas in email and Web to get more online sales.

Includes useful tips on where and when to mention your cross-sale and up-sale offers to Web customers. (Hint: not until after they've entered payment information in your cart for their initial purchase.)

Although IdeaVillage, distributors of the Finishing Touch hair remover, included both a URL and an 800-number on TV commercials, only one percent of orders came through the Web.

Sales from the 800 number were "outstanding," while sales on the site "were like a trickle," says Jordan Pine, VP Marketing, IdeaVillage.

The site used a "mall concept," Pine says. "It had a couple of products on the page, you had to click through to ours, and then there were lists and lists of other products."

Pine knew he was losing conversions due to the distraction factor -- consumers were excited enough by the infomercial to seek out the product online but then when they saw the wealth of other products also offered, instead of buying more, consumers bought less.

Pine needed a site that converted more traffic to sales, but he didn't want to give all cross-sale/up-sale possibilities. How could a site do both jobs effectively?


First Pine's team reviewed what worked offline. A consumer saw the TV commercial, called the 800-number, was asked by an operator for their payment and shipping information, and then only after that, the consumer was prompted by the operator with a "special offer" to upsell them to additional units or add-ons.

Why not design a site to work the same way?

In fact, Pine's team decided to make ordering the product (rather than extended information about the product) the focus of the home page. The headline talked about ordering, and an order form was placed at the bottom of the home page so visitors could take action without clicking anywhere else.

Every other page on the site also included that order form. Wherever you went, you'd be able to order immediately.

The first part of the form asked for shipping address, email and phone number. (Phone was never required.) Then visitors clicked "continue" to a separate page to give billing address (if different) and payment info.

In addition to the order form, the main elements of the home page were:

o A 90-second TV commercial playing in a box without requiring any downloads, buffering wait-time, or clicks to start it going (see link below for tech info.)
o A classic red "as seen on TV" icon
o VeriSign's "Secure Site" icon
o A prominent 800-number
o Product photo
o Link additional product info
o Link to privacy policy and a note that consumer's email address is requested for the purposes of order confirmation.

Pine's team tested three different main lay-outs for this home page and a variety of tweaks, from February-July of 2003, to determine what would get the highest conversion rate. (Link to samples below.) Tests included:

o Moving the streamed TV commercial box from the left to the right side.

o Dividing the page's content into vertical columns with thin columns at left and right and one main column in the middle, versus presenting the page as one-single column.

o Larger and smaller graphics of the price, and the product shot

o A headline above the order form reading: "Enter the shipping address for this order" which implies the consumer has already made a buying decision, versus "Order Right Here, Right Now. It's Secure."

o Adding navigation across the top of the home page to secondary pages such as "Testimonials"

There's an old direct response maxim that the more options you add to an order form, the fewer orders you get. If you force consumers to think or work hard, they'll abandon a site instead of ordering.

So, Pine's team decided against even mentioning other offers on the home page. Just as with the 800-number, consumers were only up-sold after they'd handed over all the shipping and payment information necessary for the initial order. In this case, when consumers clicked to submit their order, then they would see offers such as:

o Expedited shipping
o An upgrade to a "deluxe" kit
o A second kit at a specially reduced price "for a relative"
o A "special carrying case"

If the consumer agreed, the extra item was added to their order automatically (they didn't have to re-enter the cart.)

As Pine's team learned what worked best to convert incoming traffic into buyers, they also tested the same creative elements in outgoing emails to rented lists.

Yes, that includes putting a streamed TV commercial and the first part of the order form in the body of the email itself, plus an 800-number for recipients to call if they didn't feel secure about ordering online. (Link to samples below of the two most successful creative tests.)

Renting and mailing very large lists of consumer names can be iffy because there are a lot of, misrepresented "permission" lists out there, and ISPs tend to not look kindly on mailers who send a great deal of identical mail their way constantly. Pine's team kept these risks low by only using permission lists, and:

a. Seeding their own names on lists:

Prior to renting a list, Pine's team seeded their own names on it to determine if the owner was sending any inappropriate offers to it.

b. Monitoring consumer complaints closely:

Every broadcast emailer generates complaints, it's the nature of email these days. However, too many complaints means there's something wrong with the list. Pine's team set a baseline of 100 complaints per 1,000,000 names sent. If a rented list hit 101+, the team never mailed that list again.

c. Varying creative:

Along with testing which creative worked best for each list (Pine always ran a test of five best-performing creatives to each new list), the team frequently changed HTML code and graphics in the creative so ISPs who stop multiple mass broadcasts on principal would still let them through.


The Finishing Touch Trimmer site now has a 30%+ visitor conversion rate, and although the product is priced at $14.95 plus about six bucks shipping, upsales are working so well that the average order size is $30.

"The 'livemercial' alone is captivating with its instant-on video that requires no loading, no buffering, no waiting. And while we have our audience captivated, we close the sale right there with a secure order form," explains Pine.

More results:

- Each media that drives traffic to the site converts differently: TV converts the best, followed by traffic from search engines, then online ads on general portals such as Yahoo, and then last of all, email.

However, the cost of email is low enough that it's still profitable. Pine's team currently drops roughly half a billion emails per month, with a 1/10th of a percent order rate.

- Despite varying conversion rates, each media produces almost identical average order sizes. This is an unusual result we've not heard from other marketers.

- Placing the streamed TV commercial on the left always won over placing it on the right side of the screen for both home page and email tests.

- Just as other marketers have found, larger product photos and customer testimonials helped conversion rates considerably.

- The order form headline "Order Right Here, Right Now. It's Secure" won out over the less pushy, "Enter the shipping address for this order."

- Page layouts without vertical columns performed better.

Pine notes that prior to the new site, Web sales were perhaps 1% of total sales. Now the Web and email accounts for 10-15% of total product sales.

He believes the portion of these sales driven by TV are incremental rather than orders that might have otherwise come in through the call center. "A person who buys on the Web is unlikely to be a person who calls. We're capturing a new audience."

Useful links related to this article:

Samples of the Finishing Touch Web site and email creative:

Livemercial, the technology behind the streamed TV commercial in email and online:

IdeaVillage (the Company Pine works for):
See Also:

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