July 17, 2007
Case Study

How Adding Two Buttons Can Make Your Newsletter Much More Profitable - Test Results

SUMMARY: 43% of consumers use the internal search function immediately upon arriving at a retail site. That's why internal search tweaks are among the most important -- and profitable -- tactics you can test. So, it stands to reason that a search button in your email is just as important to test, too.

See how one retailer retooled their newsletter's search button and added a shopping cart button. Now, 30.8% of the newsletter-generated revenue comes from consumers who click on these new buttons.

“Ideally, you want your email subscribers clicking to find something specific,” says Dave Weich, Director Content & Marketing, Powell’s Books. “Better yet, you would like to see them adding items to their shopping carts.”

Weich and his team wanted to reformat their PowellsBooks.news newsletter and see if they could achieve both of those outcomes by incorporating a search and add-to-cart features, but they were concerned that the email might become too much of a hard sell.

Outside of the occasional splashes of national publicity, nothing drives traffic to Powells.com like the newsletter program -- it’s their #1 generator. They were also concerned that not many retailers used shopping cart buttons in their email.

Weich’s team had tested a search feature in their newsletter last year that let users input a book title or author into the email and be taken to the queries results page at Powell’s site. But, overall, they weren’t satisfied with its usage. Even worse, some email systems wouldn’t show the search box in the email properly -- it either appeared blank or as a red X. Here's how they revamped the buttons:

-> Button #1. Search button

For the newsletter, Weich wanted to borrow from the advanced search button already on their homepage. He was happy with the button’s performance, which sat at the top of the homepage’s left-hand navigation.

To maintain brand consistency, they kept the email button’s look and size the same as the one on the homepage:
o Gold color
o Sans serif typeface with the word “SEARCH” in all caps
o Magnifying glass icon
o Size: 100 by 22 pixels

Next, they placed the button in the email at the top and on the right-hand side. “The button was meant to jump out and be in your face in the newsletter,” Weich says. “We wanted it front and center in order to see if it would have an impact.”

Weich and his team then incorporated subtle, call-to-action copy specifically for the email. The text, “Search millions of books at Powells.com,” which was used in some previous offline promotional materials, was added to the header, so that it visually led into the button in a left-to-right fashion. “We felt like it was important to remind our audience in a quiet kind of way that we have millions of books that can be searched. And we wanted the copy to influence our audience to use the button.”

Users who clicked on the search button in the email were taken to the site’s advanced search page, where they could search for books by:
o Keyword
o Author
o Publisher
o Title
o Section

-> Button #2. Shopping cart button

Once finished with the search button, Weich and his team tackled the shopping cart button. Again, because one already existed on the Web site, they had a starting point.

Here, they tweaked the button size so it was the same width as the book covers in the email. They also kept the button’s design and look consistent with the button on the site:
o San serif typeface with the words “ADD TO” in red type
o Shopping cart icon

Then, they added the button to every product pitched (about a dozen per email) in the content-heavy newsletter. The button appeared beneath the product image and the correlating two-sentence summary so it was adjacent to the sale price.

“The logic behind the add-to button pertained to the question, ‘Why would you stop them from purchasing?’ One of the hardest things to do is get people to add product to the cart,” Weich says.
The search button revamp has worked perfectly, Weich says. All of their issues with the old button are gone. On average, 26.4% of the newsletter-generated revenue now comes from consumers who click on the search button in the email -- meaning about a quarter of the email recipients who complete a purchase start the process by clicking the search button.

With more than 150 clickable items in the newsletter (including book titles, cover images and other links), the search button itself gets 9.2% of the total clicks coming from the newsletter.

The shopping cart button is a success, too -- it is yielding 4.4% of their newsletter-generated revenue. And the quick-buy buttons hasn’t had the turnoff effect that Weich feared, as their unsubscribe meter hasn’t moved since they added the button.

Out of the 150+ links in the newsletter, the shopping cart button is one of the top 10 performers, he says. “I have to admit that, because some bigger players have the resources, we figure they must do a ton of testing on this idea and a lot of other ones. And since they do not use the button in the email, internally we wondered if we should. But it’s been working at a level we are satisfied with, so we will continue with it.”

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from Powell’s Books:

ExactTarget - handles Powell’s email delivery:

Omniture Inc. - their Web analytics provider:

Powell’s Books:

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