I recently had the chance to sit down with Graeme Grant, COO of Allurent. Allurent delivers innovative Rich Internet Application (RIA) capabilities that drive impressive business results for online retailers like Borders. As Allurent recently partnered with Omniture, I wanted to find out more about Allurent’s signature shopping experiences – and how they integrate with Omniture to provide a comprehensive view of RIA user behavior. This post is the first in a two-part series.

CP: Graeme, why is Allurent’s technology so important to online retailers today?

GG: Allurent is about making a better online shopping experience. We are focused on the shopping path — making it more effective and helping retailers sell more products and achieve their business goals. We focus on the presentation layer that makes a user feel the online shopping experience was a better one. It’s similar to actually visiting a brick and mortar storefront and absorbing the ambiance, the atmosphere, the layout, the flow of merchandise and the overall experience of the brand.
To do this, we build Rich Internet Applications, which are small programs that live within a Webpage and give users much greater control and capability. In RIAs, the click-page refresh is dynamically occurring; you can move things around, drag, drop and spin. As a user, you can do interactive things with the content. Actions create more actions, not more refreshes.

CP: Describe the impact of RIAs on the online experience of the customer and how measurement plays a part in this.

GG: RIAs have a huge impact. For example, we created the Magic Shelf, for Borders, our joint customer – and it drove a 62 percent increase in conversion. Also, we’ve found, using Omniture technology, that the use of Quick Look panes, which allow consumers to view a product without having to travel to a separate HTML information page, can drive average order value 10 to 30 percent higher. We’ve seen a single page rich checkout increase conversion 20 to 25 percent.

CP: So it’s not just an improvement of the experience by making a better looking online store, it’s a more meaningful engagement that is driving measurable business results.

GG: Yes, that’s really key. When we think about the overall business of eCommerce and where it’s going, I think we’ve hit an inflection point. To date, the growth in eCommerce has been new people going online and saying, “I know this brand, I’ll go to their site.” Just being available on the Internet has fueled a tremendous amount of growth. But now, the vast majority of U.S. adults have shopped online at least once, so that newness is no longer there. It now becomes a discussion about the consumer. If I, as a consumer, am going to spend my money online, what percentage will I spend, and which online retailer will I choose? Now growth is about gaining a share of wallet. That’s a very different way to grow. To earn a share of wallet gain, a company must answer why, of all the umpteen choices consumers have, should they choose you.

If you look at how much traffic is being generated by search and paid search, there is a risk that people don’t have a reason why they select one site over another. Traffic comes because a consumer searched for a product or service and that particular company had the lowest price. In that process flow, the retailer becomes a drop shipper. They had it and they sold it. And because there’s no value add, it’s very tough to compete. Wal-Mart will do well, Costco will do well, but very few others will be able to compete on that cost basis.

That’s where the shopping experience comes in. Originally, Amazon defined what ecommerce was and everyone said, “I’ll do that.” Most sites are effectively the same setup with different color schemes, different fonts and different products. And that’s good because it’s familiar, but it’s bad because there is really no difference. If there’s no difference between buying from Saks versus Bloomingdales versus Lord and Taylor versus Macy’s, consumers will just say, “Why don’t I just buy the lowest price?” No point of differentiation means death for many retailers.
There is an opportunity to create a difference via the online shopping experience the same way the décor and feeling of a store can create a difference in a brick and mortar environment. The online shopping experience gives you a way, other than price, to create that difference.

CP: But doesn’t everyone just go for price online?

GG: Turns out they don’t. We’ve done surveys using Foresee Results that show that consumers have higher satisfaction, higher propensity to return and are more likely to recommend the site to others when you deliver a better shopping experience through RIAs. That starts to tap into a longer term, more sustainable way to compete versus just being the cheapest. You’re going to see more and more retailers realize that strategically, they need to find their own way to compete. Otherwise they are a drop shipper going against Wal-Mart and Amazon and they will lose.

CP: It’s really about being able to differentiate a consumer’s online experience based on service and your technology provides a higher level and greater quality experience once someone is on that site.

GG: Exactly. You look at industry conversion numbers, meaning the number of visitors who place an order, and those rates are around 2 or 3 percent — so 97 percent of people come to a site and leave. So if you can move that 3 percent even a little bit, the impact falls directly on your bottom line. Moving 3 percent to 3.3 percent is a 10 percent increase in revenue. What if you could move it from 3 percent to 4 percent? It seems pretty viable. That’s a 30 percent increase in revenue.

CP: Marketers are still making huge investments for optimizing and in their efforts to get people to the site, even in these economic times. How does your technology allow them to make the best use of the investment of visitors that actually make it to the site?

GG: We’re focused on the conversion and, once a customer is at the site, how to win them back for another visit. It’s very expensive in the long term to be funding your site through paid search. You’ve got to find a reason for people to shop and purchase on your site and then come back.

Your industry information guide
Your industry information guide

The idea sounds really interesting. But does it also take care of the consumer interest. I have had bad experiences with online shopping where I did not get what I expected. Moreover, the payments are also something to be taken care of...