Running the ecommerce site for a big, famous media and entertainment company is actually a lot harder than you'd think.
Sure, after World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) shows, such as 'Raw' on Monday nights, traffic spikes can be "phenomenal," says Ecommerce Director Nicholas Rozdilsky. "In fact after our Pay-Per-View events, traffic doubles. The spike begins around 7:00 am and peaks between 4:00 and 5:00 pm when kids are home from school."
But, that surge in Web traffic doesn't convert into super-easy sales. The online team suspected three factors were hampering their sales.
#1. Most traffic goes to the main site -- WWE.com -- browsing for more entertainment, not necessarily online shopping.
#2. The shoppers that do wind up at the ecommerce site are in two extremely different "persona" camps -- casual browsers versus what the team call "hard core fans." Creating a store that converts both groups equally well is frustratingly impossible.
#3. Mega-merchants such as Amazon also carry popular WWE merchandise. And Rozdilsky's team can't always compete dollar-for-dollar against Amazon's pricing and free shipping offers.
What's an entertainment brand's ecommerce team to do?CAMPAIGN
At the start of last year, the WWE online team upgraded to a new Web analytics package and began a series of A/B tests, studying which tweaks and changes would move the needle in four areas.
#1. Tests to convert more TV-traffic into shoppers
Naturally the main site of World Wrestling Entertainment, WWE.com, gets a lot more traffic than WWEShop.com. The ecommmerce team focused on three specific efforts to convert more of this entertainment-seeking traffic into shoppers
-> Votes on merchandise
The merchandise team decided to run surfersm polls both as a focus group and product involvement device. The site showed visitors a variety of designs for new products, asking both, "Which one do you like the most?" and "Which one would you purchase?"
Then the merchandise department used the first and second most popular designs (based on the answer from "Which would you purchase?") and added both designs to the store as product tests.
-> Text links
WWE.com has to "service the company needs in regards to sponsors," says Rozdilsky. They also have tons of content to carry, with the result that "We had trouble getting our name out there."
So the ecommerce team collaborated with the main site's team to post text links on content pages that summarize the excitement from the previous night's TV programs. "So on results pages after an event, we'd just say, 'If you like what you saw…' with a little text link." The page real estate used was tiny, but hopefully the impact would be tremendous.
-> Integrated promo for giant one-day sale
When your parent site offers up a rare promotional offering during peak holiday shopping season, you may as well make the most of it by pulling out all the stops.
Last holiday season, the WWE.com and the ecommerce team decided to create their own best shopping day of the year. "We went out with a one-day only promotion. TV mentioned it at the same time an email was sent." And, WWE.com even let WWEShop.com take over the main site for the day. The offer: 20% off plus free shipping on orders over $50.
#2. Tests to turn more browsers into buyers
-> Integrate with TV creative
The team decided to post streaming video of the previous night's show onto the detail pages of the product that matched what the star of the previous evening had been wearing (shirt, jersey, hat, etc.).
They also added stills of the wrestlers whenever they wore merchandise that was sold on the site. Then, wisely, they ran A/B tests, so they could track the exact same merchandise both with and without video streams and stills.
-> Flaunt new releases
Rozdilsky found that when casual browsers entered the site, they went to the New Releases section more than anything. "We realized it was a huge hook, because the talent will come out in new shirts and jerseys during the show, and you can go to the shop to find this stuff."
Because of the interest in new releases, he wanted to make sure the home page pointed them out as clearly as possible. The team created a New Release tag with the word NEW in Day-Glo green letters and tagged every item that was new in the last 60 days.
"They're kind of ugly," Rozdilsky admits, "but we wanted [people] to know we have a whole bunch of new items without waiting for them to [surf] to New Releases."
#3. Tests to compete against mega-stores
If you can't compete on price, compete with merchandise selection. The team began creating exclusive T-shirts to bundle with a DVD, keeping the price relatively low. If a discount retailer was selling a DVD for $14, WWEShop.com would sell the DVD bundled with a T-shirt for $18.
#4. Tests to convert a wider array of shopping personalities
-> Give shoppers more promotional options
Although every customer on this planet loves a special promotion, everybody prefers a different promotion. Typically in the past, WWEShop.com had only offered free shipping promos.
Now, to please more shopper personas, the team tried rolling out multiple promos at the same time. Tests included percentage off, DVD promotions, free gift with purchase, and different price points. The promotions generally lasted two weeks.
During the holidays, the site had about 11 holiday promotions to choose from. However, there was a caveat. Shoppers could choose the promo they preferred but not combine offers.
Then, Rozdilsky realized that shoppers flocked in the last few days of a promotion. "It got annoying, especially for inventory issues." The team decided to test something radical: they removed offer end-dates on promotions and added the phrase, "We reserve the right to end the promotion at any time."
-> Give shoppers more merchandise options
On the theory that if you have more SKUs, you'll have more sales, the merchandise department began personalizing replica belts (with a price point of between $200-$400) and also added personalized holiday stockings and personalized jerseys.
Then, they doubled category offerings. For example, during the holidays they offered snow globes, dog beds, and Christmas ornaments, as well as more licensed products.
-> Give your biggest fans preferential treatment
As for the hard core fans, "We keep an eye on them and listen constantly," says Rozdilsky. (Note: the big fan's average order value is $15-$20 more than the casual shopper's.)
The inbound call center includes 40-50 reps, "and they get to know certain groups of fans. They'll tell us what to do and we'll take 20% of what they say and it works every time."
In particular, fan input has helped the merchandise team focus on high standards in product quality to boost lifetime loyalty. "At WrestleMania, they were going up to the merchandising booth and they knew that the quality of the material had gotten better."
Plus, hard core fans get special offers. Rozdilsky explains, "We're always giving out complimentary merchandise" to that segment. Sometimes the team also offers special offer codes to wrestling fan sites, such as a 20% discount with orders of $100 or more.
And, the team has revamped fan club efforts to serve fans better. "Over four years ago there was a general WWE fan club offering that was managed by a third-party. This fan club did not meet the fan's needs and since they are a very vocal group we immediately terminated this club," says Rozdilsky.
"We now offer up a fan club specifically around one of our top superstars, John Cena. This fan club is going well and doing a much better job of meeting the needs of our fans."
In 2005, WWEShop.com's shopper to buyer conversions rose a dramatic 200% while revenue grew 120%. (To put this in perspective, the average ecommerce site grew revenues by 24% during the same time period.)
Here are more details on specific test and tactical results.
-- The merchandise options that site surfers voted as the ones they'd be most likely to purchase invariably turned out to be the ones that sold best. (Note: This may seem obvious on the surface, but marketers in other industries report this is not always the case at all. There's often a huge gap between what consumers say and what they actually do.)
-- Those small text links on the WWE.com main site helped boost store traffic from each page they appeared on by almost 25%.
-- The holiday TV-plus-Web-plus-estore-plus-email one day campaign rocked. "We saw 200-400% increases everywhere. Average order amount doubled. It was insane, we stepped back and watched orders per second."
-- Store product photos accompanied by video streams and/or stills matching TV footage showed a 17% lift in sales.
-- Ugly can work. The Day-Glo green "New" tags increased overall conversions so well that the team added them to the left-navigation bar as well. Then, they added an entire new section underneath the best-sellers, called New Releases.
The new left-hand navigation was used 300% more often and boosted conversions by between 15-20%. "We got a better distribution of clicks coming deeper into the site, and it was getting them to product faster and increasing overall conversion rate," Rozdilsky says. "We thought our Top 10 sellers list wasn't used. We were going to get rid of it." Not anymore.
-- The special t-shirt plus DVD offers boosted sales like crazy. Immediately, the site saw 20% more first-time customers buying DVDs. WWEShop.com ended up selling three times the amount of DVDs as the previous year while offering the same number of DVDs onsite.
Plus more than half of these shoppers added one to two more items to their carts while they were at it. Average order value increased 23% in 2005 compared with 2004, and during the holidays it was as much as 30% higher than the previous year.
-- When the store sends a special promotion to biggest wrestling fans "You'll always see the average order value is 50% higher than the AOV you see every day."
-- Shoppers adored the ability to choose from a variety of promotional offers. "When we started doing that, average order value increased 20%, overall revenue by 30%."
-- When the team dumped official end dates for promotions (a move most direct marketers would consider incredibly risky), shoppers began taking advantage of the promotions immediately, and they still came in at the end.
In fact, the average number of orders per customer was boosted by 27%-30%. Now, the only time the team includes an end date on promotions is "when we do a one-day or one-week promotion in order to freak out the procrastinating public."Useful links related to this story
Creative samples from World Wrestling Entertainment:
Note: WWEShop.com is a member of Shop.org, a forum for retailing online executives to share information, lessons-learned, new perspectives, insights and intelligence. More info at http://www.shop.org
Omniture, the analytics package WWEShop.com uses:
World Wrestling Entertainment: