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. 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 sec­ond in a two-part series.

CP: What are most valu­able met­rics for mea­sur­ing the value of RIAs?

GG: The best met­ric for ecom­merce is con­ver­sion, which is orders divided by vis­i­tors, but that’s too blunt. There is a three pronged equa­tion, which is the num­ber of items viewed per vis­i­tor, the add-to-bag rate and the check­out con­ver­sion rate. It’s valu­able to break it down because those are the three steps of the shop­ping process. You have dif­fer­ent goals and chal­lenges in each of those steps and the trick is map­ping the solu­tions, the tech­nol­ogy and the right RIA to each one.

Think about Bor­ders. When you go into a book­store, you linger. You draw your hand across the books, you pick up a cover and look at it a cou­ple times and pretty soon, you’ve found three books that you buy. That’s very hard to repli­cate through the online expe­ri­ence. But Bor­ders has found that peo­ple who use the Magic Shelf RIA devel­oped by Allurent look at 41 per­cent more books. When they do that, they tend to add more books to their bag, and when they add more, they tend to buy more. That’s a 62 per­cent increase in con­ver­sion dri­ven by look­ing at more books.

The sec­ond met­ric to con­sider is the add-to-bag rate. This involves get­ting the cus­tomer com­fort­able with the pur­chase they are about to make and mak­ing sure they feel like it’s the right purchase.

Then the cus­tomer has made the choice and wants to buy. In the check­out con­ver­sion area, they are say­ing, “I’d like to give you my money please, make it easy, don’t make me reg­is­ter, don’t make me sign up for a mil­lion newslet­ters.” Mak­ing this process sim­ple builds con­fi­dence that I have what I want and it’s a brand I trust and want to work with.

CP: The online shop­ping expe­ri­ence is often cold and sta­tic. Your tech­nol­ogy is help­ing to human­ize what is oth­er­wise a very dig­i­tal expe­ri­ence. It’s almost as if the tech­nol­ogy is serv­ing as per­sonal atten­dant and pro­vid­ing a uniquely tai­lored shop­ping expe­ri­ence for that indi­vid­ual visitor.

GG: The idea is to bring the brand essence and com­fort to the online expe­ri­ence. Some­times peo­ple mis­take that to be more lit­eral and they want to cre­ate their store online exactly the same as the brick and mor­tar build­ing. That’s too lit­eral; the focus should be on mak­ing sure the essence is there.

The vast major­ity of con­sumers reg­u­larly check online before shop­ping in stores, so the online store is becom­ing the dom­i­nant brand touch­point. It is the way con­sumers are first inter­act­ing and expe­ri­enc­ing your brand. If that online expe­ri­ence is cold, dig­i­tal and undif­fer­en­ti­ated, but the in-store expe­ri­ence is full and immer­sive, that’s out of synch. Online is what dri­ves that imper­a­tive of how to make cus­tomers relate to a brand and how the brand can be effec­tive in selling.

CP: What are some of the most impor­tant rec­om­men­da­tions you’re mak­ing to deci­sion mak­ers look­ing to embark on an RIA strategy?

GG: You have to know where you are. Assess your busi­ness from a met­rics per­spec­tive on add-to-bag, num­bers of items viewed and con­ver­sion. Where are you in terms of an hon­est assess­ment of what your brand means and how much your online pres­ence reflects that brand? This will help you pri­or­i­tize where you can get the biggest wins. I would not rec­om­mend a com­plete do-over on your site; that’s right for some folks, but for most, imple­ment­ing an RIA strat­egy is about how to make improve­ments, how to make them pay for them­selves and how to define a strat­egy of long-term incre­men­tal improvements.

Then, think about an application’s future. This is where a lot of peo­ple fall down. They say, “Let’s cre­ate some­thing cool for Valentine’s Day,” and they spend a lot of money to cre­ate a unique appli­ca­tion that’s on the site for four weeks and then it’s gone. I’m not say­ing you need to keep it for­ever, but think about how you could lever­age that tech­nol­ogy again. If you are going to com­pete by offer­ing a bet­ter way to shop and an enhanced expe­ri­ence, you can’t just do it once and turn it off. How do you do it on an ongo­ing basis? You need tools allow you to be in con­trol — to man­age, change and adjust these RIAs over time.

Ref­er­enc­ing Bor­ders again, that’s a very media-driven envi­ron­ment. As things change in the news, sud­denly new titles get hot. For exam­ple, when actor Paul New­man died, there was a run on Paul New­man titles. So they have an RIA, the Magic Shelf, and they need the abil­ity to cre­ate a Paul New­man shelf. Allurent tech­nol­ogy includes tools that allow the Bor­ders video mer­chan­diser to cre­ate a Paul New­man shelf and have it live on Bor​ders​.com in five min­utes. That is respon­sive­ness. In a custom-built sce­nario, the project could take weeks to put together and the mar­ket oppor­tu­nity is gone. You need a way that you can remer­chan­dise con­stantly and most RIAs are not built that way.

CP: So, you should be mak­ing the tech­nol­ogy deci­sion based on the “shelf-life” of the value of the tech­nol­ogy. That idea mar­ries back to best prac­tices that Omni­ture advo­cates to retail­ers. It’s iden­ti­fy­ing where you are, fig­ur­ing out what you want to achieve, then imple­ment­ing the tech­nol­ogy to achieve that, mea­sur­ing the out­come and mak­ing iter­a­tive enhancements.

GG: The par­al­lels in ana­lyt­ics are very present. In mean­ing­ful ana­lyt­ics you mea­sure, adjust, change and mea­sure again. It becomes a part of how you’re going to mar­ket in your core capa­bil­ity. And it’s the same with an RIA; if you’re going to mar­ket around an enhanced shop­ping expe­ri­ence to beat Wal-Mart or Ama­zon, you know you’re going to mea­sure and you bet­ter be able to change. If you don’t, you’re stuck. That’s just no way to run a site.

CP: How do you see the rela­tion­ship between Allurent and Omni­ture ben­e­fit­ing our mutual customers?

GG: It’s really impor­tant, because brand is all well and good, but finan­cial results mat­ter most and finan­cial results mea­sured via Omni­ture are incred­i­bly valu­able. The tool is con­cise, it gives you instant feed­back, it helps build a busi­ness case and helps you under­stand where to improve. Also, Omni­ture Action­Source is a very flex­i­ble tool; we’ve found it very easy to incor­po­rate into our tech­nol­ogy so that the retailer can effec­tively mea­sure every action of the user that they think could be inter­est­ing. You’re really get­ting a pre­cise under­stand­ing of what cus­tomers are doing, how they’re doing it and how you may want to improve.

CP: What cool enhance­ments might we expect to see from Allurent in the upcom­ing quarters?

GG: Our focus is on the shop­ping path, and enhanc­ing that expe­ri­ence. We’ve been build­ing out more and more capa­bil­i­ties — we started with check­out, which is the nat­ural ROI spot, and we have really broad­ened the approach to address all of the three areas we talked about ear­lier. Retail­ers have par­tic­u­lar needs and one of these we’ve seen more and more is a desire for a sig­na­ture shop­ping expe­ri­ence. It’s a sig­na­ture shop­ping expe­ri­ence that draws peo­ple in, gets them com­fort­able with the tech­nol­ogy and gets them com­fort­able with the pur­chase deci­sions they make. We’ll con­tinue to see the bar rise around online shop­ping expe­ri­ences from some­thing that’s cool to the crit­i­cal area that online retail­ers compete.

For more infor­ma­tion about Allurent, please visit www​.allurent​.com.