Case study: Customer experience optimisation boosts conversions for NotOnTheHighStreet

06/10/2014

Notonthehighstreet.com hired Maxymiser to boost its visibility on the web by going beyond SEO to optimise the entire customer experience when interacting with the brand online. This case looks at how the gift retail site managed to boost conversions by up to 8.7% through a data-led approach to marketing.

Streets ahead

The relentless growth of internet shopping has naturally forced high street retailers to reinvent their business models to combat online competition. The net result is that many established brands have augmented their operations to maximise digital channels and secured online custom through the sheer weight of their high street name. But what if your brand is not on the High Street? For innovative, online-only retailers – without the benefit of bricks-and-mortar heritage – attracting new business and maintaining customer loyalty largely boils down to just one thing: the ability to deliver a superlative customer experience. In an era where the modern High Street has shrunk to the size of a Google search box – and simultaneously expanded to global proportions – achieving cut-through across a crowded online marketplace is now about much more than SEO; it’s about CXO – Customer Experience Optimisation. And those that get it right are streets ahead of the competition.

Creative and curated

Notonthehighstreet.com is the UK's leading curated online marketplace. The site is an online department store of over 100,000 original lifestyle products, many of which are bespoke or made to order. The brand provides a route to market for more than 4,000 of the UK’s most creative small businesses and designer-makers who may otherwise have struggled to compete with High Street giants. Founded in 2006 with year one turnover of £134,000, Notonthehighstreet.com is now one of the UK’s fastest-growing technology companies with revenues in excess of £43 million.

The ethos of the company is the same today as it was in 2006: ‘to hunt out the most original items from the best creative small businesses, and bring them together in one place – making it easy for people to browse and buy’. Sustaining the brand promise naturally requires significant expertise in innovative product curation. But, in a competitive online environment where consumers’ ecommerce expectations are rapidly increasing, it also requires a total focus on optimising the customer experience.

A data-led organisation

In 2012, Notonthehighstreet began a long-term partnership with Maxymiser, the global leader in unified customer experience optimisation, to develop a focused CXO strategy to optimise its online assets and increase conversion rates. “Our objective was to become a data-driven organisation – and we knew that optimisation would play a key part,” says Ollie Scheers, Optimisation Manager, Notonthehighstreet.com. “The rationale was simple: if we wanted to make changes to the site, or we had business questions that needed answering, we could use Maxymiser to help answer those questions with real-world data. Over time, we’ve discovered that Maxymiser is more than a technology – it’s become part of our culture.”

The fundamentals of the CXO programme are outlined in a structured roadmap with clear goals – but the optimisation culture within the business has been such that the plan is able to flex in response to evolving market dynamics. “Our strategic objectives are fixed; the key metric is revenue growth. We’re a growing business and we need to sustain that growth and move forward,” says Ollie. “CXO helps us deliver conversion benefits, but it’s not just about conversion – it’s about improving the customer experience, helping to reduce calls to our contact centres or improving customer engagement across the My Account space.”

Initial campaigns very quickly confirmed proof of concept. For example, an early examination of how surfacing a variety of messages might impact visitor behaviour led to a series of changes to the funnel that drove a 5.4 per cent increase in conversion.

A subsequent personalisation campaign that focused on product category listings and a variety of CTAs led to an impressive 8.7 per cent conversion uplift in a specific customer segment. “The key to any optimisation strategy is the level of segmentation you can get from your data,” says Ollie. “We’ve conducted campaigns where there hasn’t been a particularly big conversion increase at the basic level, but when you start to segment down to specific customer groups, the conversion impacts suddenly become really significant. Maxymiser has proved exceptional at drilling down to that granular data and driving major results.”

Turning up the volume

In 2014, Notonthehighstreet increased its investment in optimisation and expanded its team to support increased CXO activity. “Optimisation and Personalisation campaigns give us robust insights into what works for our customers, and what doesn’t. We can then feed those insights back to our UX department and help inform any new products that we release,” says Ollie. “This year, we’re really ramping up the volume of our campaigns – but we’re not optimising things for the sake of it. Every campaign has a hypothesis and sets out to answer a key business question, and feeds back into the major strategic objective of revenue growth.”

A good example of this is a recent campaign to support the brand’s roll-out into new markets. “The business is currently looking to expand into Europe and we need to ensure that our site aligns with local language requirements. We therefore wanted to understand the impact of changes in layout to the ‘add to basket’ and ‘save for later’ CTAs – a key requirement for the new German site where CTA copy will naturally be longer due to the translation. The campaign led to a layout change that increased conversion by more than 5 per cent. Without Maxymiser, we may not have been able to get that direct benefit, and would certainly not have been totally confident that any changes we made would work.

“One of the many strengths of Maxymiser is that the integrity of its data gives you real confidence in any changes you make. This, in turn, has helped us get buy-in across the organisation and drive more campaigns through the pipeline. Everyone believes in the results that are coming out of Maxymiser, and it’s making a material difference to the business.”

The steady evolution of the optimisation pipeline will not only see an increase in activity through 2014/15, it will also chart a transition towards mobile and personalisation. “The majority of campaigns to date have focused on the desktop site but, as with all e-commerce operations, we’re seeing a shift towards mobile and tablet usage. It’s a huge area of opportunity – and one that requires a focused effort to optimise the customer experience.

“Likewise, personalisation is becoming increasingly important – not least in our marketplace, where customers have unique needs. We need to drive relevancy; with such a diverse range of products, we need to make sure we get the right products in front of the right people. Campaigns that we have run to date back up our need for personalisation – so that’s what we’re focusing on right now.”

Beyond technology

Notonthehighstreet’s partnership with Maxymiser provides a ringing endorsement for CXO and multivariate. But Ollie Scheers believes there’s much more to it than technology. Maxymiser allows us to manage our own simple campaigns using Visual Campaign Builder, but their managed service option means that alongside that we can run more complex campaigns to answer our most important business questions. These campaigns span multiple devices and are helping us with our push into personalisation. And underpinning all of this, their methodology has a real commitment to Quality Assurance and data integrity. This is really important but it’s certainly not common across all optimisation platforms.”

And ROI? “One of the campaigns we ran this year delivered a big result and actually secured ROI in just one campaign. But I have no doubt that, had this not been the case, we would still have returned ROI very quickly. Maxymiser continues to prove invaluable to us and they are a key supplier that are helping to make a real difference across the business.”

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