Building an ecommerce site capable of increasing revenue by 35 percent

When The Spice House came to us back in 2003, their big ambition for building an ecommerce site was getting better analytics than a paper catalog. We beat that modest goal, and in three years, we helped The Spice House realize a 14-fold increase in their ecommerce business, pushing it well past the million dollar mark.

In the 14 years since, we’ve continued to advise The Spice House and equip them with the tech they need to sell and ship their spices, transitioning from a brick-and-mortar operation to a thriving digital business where the majority of sales are ecommerce.

When we set out to build an ecommerce site last year, we aimed to push those numbers even higher. Drawing on more than a decade of user data and business knowledge, we were able to create an ecommerce website that’s mobile-friendly, content-rich and search-optimized to serve The Spice House’s retail and wholesale clients. The results have been incredible: Revenue is up 35 percent, and still going strong. Here’s how we did it.

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Building an ecommerce site based on what we know about users

Users wanted to browse for products from their phones. In 2016 we knew that, but in 2006, when we first built The Spice House’s website, the idea of mobile-first didn’t exist. Over the years we’d been able to make code improvements, SEO tweaks and design changes, but we hadn’t been able to give it the responsive overhaul it needed. That created particular pain for wholesale customers, since chefs were often ordering the next day’s spices from their phones at the end of a long night in the kitchen.

The Spice House originally came to us planning to create an ecommerce website just for wholesale customers. It quickly became clear, though, that the retail site needed a mobile-first overhaul as well. We realized a new retail site would do more for The Spice House’s business, and it could be used by wholesale customers as well.

“The website is beautiful, and it’s returning on its investment. Sales are up about 42 percent, and they’re sustaining. It’s a big chunk of money to us.”

Tom Erd, co-owner of the The Spice House

Combining the sites allowed us to mine all those years of retail data to find out what other improvements we could make. We saw, for instance, that users who came in from search weren’t converting at the rates we wanted to see. So we redesigned the SEO-rich pages, like products, to include more calls to action. That way when new visitors happen onto the site, they immediately understand how to buy.

We also knew that The Spice House would see a spike in sales any time they sent out a coupon for free shipping. Using the data, we made a business case for offering free shipping on any order over $45. Now the average basket is up 19 percent, as shoppers buy that one extra spice to get free shipping.

Developing an ecommerce site to take advantage of what the client has

The Spice House has incredible content. Part of that is because food is fun, and part of that is because they prioritize making engaging videos and recipes. For the redesign, The Spice House team cared enough to reshoot 100 percent of their product photography and rewrite their product descriptions to be longer, more detailed and more up-to-day. All that useful content had attracted substantial search traffic. Google switching its algorithm to ding ecommerce sites that aren’t mobile-optimized threatened that traffic.

Pepper pages for every need — and search term

To win the most search traffic, we treated the whole site like content. Products like pepper got an SEO-rich landing page for generic searches and targeted pages for each specific term — whole peppercorns, cracked black pepper — that all had the ability to rank in search. Then we linked it all together by building a lightweight ecommerce CMS that allows The Spice House to easily build collections of recipes and spices and associate those collections with product pages. Now, if you’re shopping for Cooking Spices, you can see collections of the best vegetable spices and barbecue spices on the same page. And if you’re shopping for Za’atar you can check out recipes that use it from the product page.

 

Learn more about how we increased ecommerce conversions by treating products like content

 

Creating connections between content and products has not just retained, but improved, The Spice House’s search traffic. Building links between pages and by creating new search-optimized landing pages also made the site more useful by giving those visitors more places. Since the new ecommerce site design, average session duration is up 27 percent and pages per session are up 32 percent year-over-year.

Building an ecommerce website where it’s impossibly easy to find and buy products

Merging the wholesale and retail sites was the right way to go, but we did have to do some UX work to make sure both audiences could find what they needed. Search became the solution. A sizeable chunk of The Spice House shoppers come directly to the site knowing exactly what they want to buy. So we created an autocompleting search functionality that would allow users to buy the spices they want in the quantities they want without ever having to click through to a product page. If you type “Cin” into the search bar, you now see every available type of cinnamon with pictures, and can add the one you want directly to your cart. Today, 10 percent of users who search on the site add products directly to their cart.

Search results autocomplete, so people can go straight to what they need.

For the people who don’t already know what they need, we streamlined the navigation into four dead-simple categories: baking spices, cooking spices, salt and peppers, and gifts and accessories. Now users can browse with intent, making them more likely to ultimately find something they want to purchase.

Streamlining checkout to take the hassle out of ecommerce conversion

Once we had users finding what they wanted to buy, we needed to make the act of buying it better. We created an entirely new, single-page checkout process to keep users moving through the desired flow. And it works. Cart abandonment is down by 10 percent over the old process.

“Table XI understands our business. They always know what needs to happen.”

Tom Erd, co-owner of the The Spice House

The first thing we did was flip The Spice House’s old checkout, so we now ask for users’ emails at the beginning. It gives The Spice House the ability to reach out to customers if they abandon their cart. It also lets us log repeat users in, so they can check out without reentering all their saved information. After that, we made the entire cart dynamic. It recommends related products, suggests increasing the cart size for free shipping and generally prompts people to buy from The Spice House.

On the backend, we redid the way each checkout step loads. By using API calls instead of page refreshes, we can make the process seem to happen instantaneously. We also added validation, so users would know that they’d entered a working email and credit card number, preventing error messages. At the end, we add buyers to The Spice House’s mailing list, so the team can market to people they’ve already converted.

The results of creating an ecommerce site focused on content

By using The Spice House’s real user data, we’ve been able to build an ecommerce website that’s perfectly optimized for its customers. The results are almost hard to believe. Since the redesign, The Spice House has seen its conversion rate go up 66 percent and its sales increase 42 percent. The best part is those numbers have held over time, through the holidays and into summer. And that means a large and lasting increase in revenue for The Spice House.

“Truthfully, you get emails everyday from people who claim they can get you more traffic. There’s just no reason for us to even open those up. Table XI has kept us steadily satisfied for 15 years.”

Tom Erd, co-owner of the The Spice House

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