February 13, 2006
Blog Entry

Seven Inspirational Site Tweaks Newegg.com Used to Raise Online Sales to $1.3 Billion

SUMMARY: No summary available.
By Anne Holland, President

As Sherpa reported in a Case Study last week (link at the end of this Blog), Newegg.com increased revenues 30% last year to hit approx. $1.3 billion. A small part of the rev gains were from their "Bill Me Later" program, which is what we did the Case Study about.

However, Marketing Director Stuart Wallock and VP Howard Tong also told me their HUGE site revamp last April helped, too. "Our conversion rate did dip a little for a few months because customers needed to get adjusted again to the site. But eventually the new site ramped up to go beyond the previous site's conversion rate," Stuart told me.

The old site converted visitors to purchasers at 4%-5%. After the dip, the revamped site is now running at 5%-6%. With more than 450,000 daily unique visitors, that one point equals a massive revenue gain.

Naturally while I had Stuart and Howard on the phone, I was looking at the new site like crazy trying to guess the design elements that made the difference.

#1. Big typeface

"We took into consideration that people aren't using small monitors anymore, so the resolution size is much larger and they're stretching it across. We like to use big type so it's very easy to read. It does seem larger than life. There's gotta be a lot of information, but the information has to pop. That's why our pictures are pretty big and our typeface is pretty big," Stuart told me.

Side note: In my interview with Steve Krug (aka Web Design God) a few weeks ago, he noted allowing visitors to view your site in bigger typeface is quickly becoming a critical best practice.

#2. Wish lists

The site already had wish lists, but the functionality was revved up a notch. "The wish list is one of the most powerful things we have on the site," Stuart told me. Two keys:

o Anyone can email a friend (or relative) their list easily so, for example, kids can send lists to parents, or IT consultants can send them to clients.

o Shoppers can post their wish lists to get feedback and review from the rest of the user community. This peer input can help decision-making.

#3. Make consumer reviews very SEO-ed

Newegg.com is famous for customer reviews; in fact some customers brag about their reviews. Now the individual product pages are designed in such a way that this customer-generated content is among the first that search engine spiders notice. Content from the manufacturer is secondary.

This helps because customers are more likely to use terminology that other consumers search by. Also, a customer review page can be a more trustworthy landing page than marketing hype from the manufacturer.

#4. Dynamic width (not fixed)

Most sites these days used fixed width. (Example: Yahoo, where no matter what your screen resolution, the width of the content that appears is always the same. If you have more room on your screen, you'll see more white space on the sides but the same size Yahoo content in the middle.)

Deciding fixed-width's popularity must mean users prefer it, the team switched to fixed width. "That was the biggest mistake of the year," Howard told me. "We got a lot of violent backlash. Customers really liked the dynamic width of our Web site and that it would adjust to their screen or resolution."

"Should you try this, too?" I asked our own Web team. Turns out dynamic width design is a massive pain and very, very hard to do well without weird white space and holes showing up on screens. In fact, Howard said it took his Web team a solid month to redesign the dynamic width back in. So it's not a decision to make lightly.

#5. Adding more manufacturer content

The team redesigned the product pages in modules, which made it easier to stick in more content. One of the modules was a tabbed section "Item Intelligence" for extra manufacturer info. Part of the site's product managers' income is bonuses based on item revenues. So they have an incentive to push manufacturers to come up with content for this section, which can help conversions.

The content can include white papers, how-to guides, videos and 3D images.

#6. Four home pages

Yup -- incoming homepage traffic is split into four equal chunks with each seeing a home page featuring 12 different special items. Visitors can click on links to see the other home pages. Even though these links are tiny (and I would think hard to notice), they are among the top five clicked links on the page.

"We're widening our home page real estate by 75%," explained Howard. "People like to browse; it's window-shopping for geeks."

#7. Bigger, flashier cart button

"It used to be just a cart with a little arrow. It wasn't big enough. People's eyes weren't going there, so we made it big, bold and very exciting to look at," said Stuart. The team a/b tested several different cart icons before picking the winner, so go check it out.

What's next? The team told me they are experimenting with personalized email campaigns this year. I may have to go buy something at Newegg.com just so I can start collecting email samples.

In the meantime, here are two handy links for you.

Sherpa's recent Case Study on Newegg.com http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=3173 (Open access until 2/20)

My Steve Krug interview http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=3165 (Open access)

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