Last week we had the pleasure of sitting in on our client Sur La Table’s session at IRCE Focus: Digital Design. The main takeaway for many was the retail industry should not think of their eCommerce site as a cash register, but instead should be designing the website as the hub of the brand.
During the session Kevin Ertell, SVP Digital at Sur la Table, explained that while in-store sales still make up the majority of purchases, digital is having a growing influence on retail sales as a whole, with Forrester predicting 74% of all sales to be web-influenced by 2017. In the case of Sur La Table, in-store sales are substantially greater than online sales but daily traffic to SurLaTable.com surpasses the daily visitors to all their physical stores combined. In fact, more people experience the Sur La Table Brand via the website than in the store.
So what are all the visitors to SurLaTable.com doing if not purchasing? Sur La Table’s research has shown that the majority of online shoppers are there to research future purchases or browse Sur La Table’s products. This insight has led Kevin’s team to shift eCommerce goals to focus efforts on more than just online sales. The website should also be a great marketing vehicle, merchandising vehicle, customer research tool, community builder and even an in-store sales driver.
Some new features Kevin highlighted that support these goals are: a “Mix and Match” tool that will let consumers change features of a table setting and design it right on the screen; a new Q&A technology; an expanded recipe database; and the new partnership with Edgecase to improve the discovery experience by allowing shoppers to use their own language when browsing the 9,000 products on their site.
Designing the site to reflect the way shoppers actually think about their products vs. using inside industry language has been a primary focus area for Sur La Table. To help shoppers more easily find products, Sur La Table completely redesigned their top level navigation to align with what people actually do with the products (cooking, baking etc.) rather than the previous taxonomy of industry terms.
Sur La Table has connected with Edgecase to bring this same humanized merchandising all the way down to category navigation by allowing shoppers to discover products based on their unique preferences. For example, you will be able to shop by coffee makers on SurLaTable.com by attributes more aligned with the product details you care about like cup quantity, features, or brew time.
Additionally, the insights gained around how shoppers ultimately think about products will be used to fuel ongoing optimization of the site and how Sur La Table merchandises the items in their stores. For example, in one of the more successful tests last year Sur La Table increased the size of the price on the website which resulted in a huge increase in conversion online. As a result they started applying that learning to the in-store signage and saw the same impact there as well.
We are excited to be partnering with such a forward-thinking brand to bring about a new, more holistic way of thinking about discovery both online and in-store. Share your thoughts on the retail website as a brand “hub” in the comments section!