How Booktopia’s iterative digital strategy spiked online conversion

Australian ecommerce bookstore recently implemented a more ‘disciplined’ digital experimentation model resulting in a significant boost in conversion rate

The online bookseller marketplace is increasingly competitive, but Australia-based Booktopia is showing it’s possible to obtain growth and increased conversion by adopting the right digital strategy.

“About six years ago, we definitely knew we felt the pressure to adopt a more effective digital transformation strategy,” Booktopia’s CTO and deputy CEO, Wayne Baskin, told CMO. “It was then just about finding the right tools and the resource to do it”

In order to better boost conversion and drive engagement to the site, Booktopia partnered with testing and optimisation software provider, Optimizely, which Baskin said helped the online bookseller adopt a more experimental approach.

“Back then we looked at our website we said we know there's a lot that needs to be fixed up before we even test,” he explained. “There's no point testing stuff we know is broken. Then we definitely did start experimenting to see what we could do.”

One of the initial elements Booktopia tested was its trust icons on its site, which Baskin said a graphic designer initially wanted to remove as she thought it made the site too cluttered from an aesthetic point of view.

“We could have said yes, we agree, but I looked at it and said hold on, maybe these trust icons are actually doing something for the site and now we’ve got this tool called Optimizely and we can we can A/B test it,” he said. “And that's where we really found surprising results with the icons being there compared to being removed.

The result showed a 1.9 per cent increase in conversion rate when people saw those two icons at the top of the site. For Baskin, the impact of this experiment is truly realised when you consider that Booktopia’s revenue is $100 million – making those two trust icons worth $2 million in revenue in a year.

“Since then, we’ve entered into a lot more competitions and awards programs, because we know they are an integral part of customers trusting our brand, and these trust icons have since grown on our site. And there’s definitely a business case now for winning those awards.”

Booktopia’s CTO and deputy CEO, Wayne Baskin, says a more disciplined approach to digital transformation has increased conversion and boosted the bottom line
Booktopia’s CTO and deputy CEO, Wayne Baskin, says a more disciplined approach to digital transformation has increased conversion and boosted the bottom line


Another example is experimenting with live chat on the checkout page. It transpired that having the button there increased conversion rate by 1.3 per cent. At the same time, Baskin said Booktopia found a more minimal and tailored approach to checkout worked more effectively than the classic ‘more items you might like’ suggestion strategy.

“You don't go to the till at Woolies and they go and say ‘by the way just go get that from another aisle’ - you know then you might lose them as a customer, so did the same sort of thing on our site giving them just what we feel they would need at that point in their check out journey,” Baskin explained.

"We ran this test across 50,000 customers and saw a 1 per cent increase in checkout compared to if we distracted them and started showing them lots of popular brands s and subjects.”

A more disciplined approach to digital transformation

But Baskin stressed Booktopia doesn’t test every single variation on its site and instead, takes an increasingly disciplined approach to its testing strategy.

“We don't believe in testing blue versus red unless it's going to make a difference to something you know you can get carried away and oversee the bigger things you need to look at,” he said. “But we’re also very objective about our tests, we're very data driven and we always retest things regardless of the results to make sure that it wasn't environmental factors or anything else that was influencing the results.

“We’re also very disciplined in that we will test and major changes before rolling them out. We're very conscious of making sure that every change we think is going to be good has a positive impact on our customers.”

Every year, Booktopia sets out a conversion goal and a strategy on how to achieve the targets by leveraging the right resources.

“A one per cent increase for a multi-million dollar business can actually be quite significant year on year as revenue,” Baskin said. “So we set a business case, goals and targets, and then look at our site and see what we can change to achieve them. And as a result, the company has seen a 40 per cent hike in desktop conversion rate and a 50 percent hike in mobile conversion rate.”

Weathering the Amazon storm

With Amazon’s pending arrival in Australia, Baskin is playing down increased local competition in the book marketplace.

“Amazon coming to Australia is going to be a very slow launch and the focus is on launching the marketplace first,” he said. “Amazon also has the problem of understanding all the logistics and just how widespread Australian population is.

"But we aren’t sticking our head in the sand. We are looking at it objectively. Amazon isn't going to come in here and just take over the whole market as it may have done in America. Instead, we look to markets like Canada, given it's similar to Australia.”

Baskin said Booktopia is focusing on things its business offers that add engagement, such as curating books, reviews, author interviews and driving booklover loyalty and customer satisfaction.

“Which is one of the reasons the company has continued to grow 30 per cent year-on-year even with Amazon operating in the same competitive marketplace,” he added.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu


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