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.

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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...