BabyAge.com CEO Jack Kiefer knew his site was a good place to "conduct a transaction." But, he felt, it could be so much more.
A late 2010 redesign helped the baby gifts e-tailer connect better with its audience. “One of the challenges we had was that, in my view, our site didn’t reflect current customers,” Kiefer says.
Visually, before the revamp, parts of BabyAge had the feel of a clearance site. Its initial page featured between 12 and 16 items jumbled together, and the images—supplied by manufacturers—didn’t necessarily portray merchandise in the most enticing fashion.
Last July, the company profiled 50,000 of its customers to better understand its base and tailor its offerings to increase conversion rates and messaging. BabyAge found that while it was on target about some of its clients’ demographics—buyers are largely 25-35 year old mothers who live in urban or suburban areas—it underestimated their income level.
Based on its findings, Kiefer approached advertising content development firm King Fish Media with a mandate: Remake BabyAge’s site to reflect an upscale feel somewhere between that of Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn.
Beyond its pre-redesign visual issues, visitors were often hindered by its search function. The search bar was “kind of camouflaged in a big color band, and much smaller” than it is now, according to Kiefer.
Potential customers who were able to find the search bar ran into other difficulties. The search function was balky due to the number of items featured. Furthermore, it was maintained internally, which meant that if BabyAge wanted to direct misspelled entries to specific products, every potential misspelling had to be entered by hand.
BabyAge vaulted this hurdle by engaging a third-party vendor—Google Commerce Search—to manage its internal search functions. But that was only a small part redesign: Kiefer still wanted to change its overall look.
“The site was very busy, and focused on getting products [in front of viewers] before giving people a sense of comfort,” says Scott Berkley, King Fish Media’s creative services director. Buying baby products, Berkley elaborated, is an emotional experience as well as a transactional one. “That is something we wanted to tap into. We did that through the introduction of imagery which offers a sense of emotional connection. We wanted to create a playful and approachable navigation experience.”
In addition to the jumble of products the original design offered, the pastel color theme was not very strong, and didn’t lend itself to being associated with BabyAge, according to Berkley. And most of the logos featured were manufacturers’ logos, not BabyAge’s, which meant that the site wasn’t branding itself as a go-to location for child products.
“We wanted to change the conversation between [our] client and its customer from transactional to long-term relationship, where there are some feelings about the client,” says Gordon Plutsky, King Fish Media’s director of marketing and research. “From transaction to affinity and trust, as opposed to ‘where is the cheapest place for them to buy’.”
The redesign features distinct image wells, with clearly defined purposes such as a deal of the day, gift items or featured product categories such as car seats. The result is a site that directed eye traffic, rather than offering a frenetic experience.
At first, Kiefer viewed some of King Fish’s proposed templates with what might be kindly described as trepidation. “We saw all sorts of different color schemes that I thought were god-awful,” he says. “But what I like is not what our customers like.”
In fact, customers had the final say. BabyAge, which places a great deal of stock in allowing customer input, surveyed 500 customers regarding their preference for several different color palettes. The variation it ultimately chose was an overwhelming favorite among those surveyed.
The changes don’t stop there. While mobile transactions are not yet a large part of the site’s business, reducing the emphasis on manufacturer logos makes pages load faster, which will help with m-commerce. And when the site combined several offerings from its house brand, Today’s Mom, into a single well-appointed photograph, sales rates of the featured merchandise quadrupled.
Kiefer also appreciated a renewed emphasis on product reviews—both those already written and inducements for customers to write more.
“On the old site, if we had product reviews, they were at the bottom, and not front and center,” he says. “We know that any product that has three or more generally positive reviews results in an increase in conversions.”
Does the new site ape the feel of a Restoration Hardware or Pottery Barn? Not quite—and that’s by design, says Kiefer.
“We took elements…[but] I don’t think the marketplace will let us get away with billboard branding,” he says. “We are still a transactional Web site. We’re selling a concept, a lifestyle, while not losing focus on selling actual products.”
In that, the newly designed site has been successful. The redesign launched in October 2010, and in the run-up through the holiday season saw a 26% increase in its visitor-to-sale conversion rates.