Why Ditching My $5,000 Custom Design Increased Sales

Why Ditching My $5,000 Custom Design Increased Sales

We just finished a complete redesign of one of my stores – TrollingMotors.net – and I want to give you an inside look at the new site. Specifically, I want to share the thought process behind the redesign, some specific before-and-after design changes, and the impact it had from a conversion rate and revenue perspective.

I’m really excited about this post, as it’s a perspective that’s rarely shared publicly – so let’s dive in!

Refining Our Unique Selling Proposition

When we launched in 2010, we really didn’t know our market well. We sold all types of trolling motors, but didn’t know who our most valuable customers were or how we should be targeting them. We quickly realized it was hard to make money selling entry-level motors ($100 to $200 range) because the margins were small, and we couldn’t afford to offer the level of service we felt was important.  This was a case where the $50 to $200 price point I often advocate wasn’t a good fit.

Instead, our best customers were the ones who purchased high-end trolling motors. While the margins were still on the smaller end, the larger purchase price ($800 to $2,000) still made sense from a profitability standpoint. Customers buying these higher-end “bow mount motors” would also be more likely to appreciate the personal, expert service we provided.

So we made the decision to focus primarily on high-end trolling motors. We discontinued most of the entry-level motors and focused exclusively on more expensive bow mount models throughout the new site. We also increased the information available for these higher-end products … but more on that later.

Our New Focus: Bow Mount Motors

BowMountFocus

 

Highlighting Our Other Advantages

Our new selling proposition focused around our expertise on high-end trolling motors, but we also had a few other comparative advantages:

  1. We offered free shipping on ALL trolling motor purchases, and
  2. We didn’t charge sales tax on any purchases.

Motors are fairly heavy and can be expensive, making free shipping and no sales tax highly compelling to prospective customers. We had previously emphasized these benefits on individual pages but made them even more prominent with the new design:

Old “Free Shipping & No Tax” Styling

ProductUSPBefore

 

New “Free Shipping & No Tax” Styling

ProductUSPAfter

 

Re-Thinking the Design

When it come to the site design and layout, we started with a fresh slate and re-did everything. Sometimes it’s easier to build something from scratch than try to fix what’s broken.

Template Issues

When we initially launched the site, I decided it was time to “do it right” and hire a professional designer to create our new website. My previous eCommerce ventures had all been simple websites I’d bootstrapped myself. With a little more capital to work with, I wanted something flashier. Those earlier sites were successful despite fairly basic designs, so I figured a top-notch design would really help the business take off.

Being completely design inept, I invested about $5,000 for a custom-designed store – and it was beautiful! I immediately began envisioning insanely high conversion rates and massive sales. You can see one of the early homepage layouts below:

Original, Super-Sexy Homepage

Homepage0

For a time, everything worked out well. But then I needed to make some basic changes to the homepage and I had no idea how to accomplish it. First, I wasn’t familiar with the store template or layout because I hadn’t built it. And second, there were so many high-tech design elements (backgrounds, textures, etc.) that I wasn’t able to incorporate my changes cleanly.

Every time I needed something done, I was at the mercy of the developer, which quickly grew expensive and inconvenient. After a lot of research and work, I started to get the hang of the template system, but I still wasn’t able to cleanly integrate my changes into the complex design.

So when it came time to relaunch the site, I decided to rebuild it completely from the ground up. We started with a 100% clean installation and opted to use a stock (gasp!) Magento template that was very clean and utilized a lot of white space. We made a few changes, but largely left it “as is.” You can see the new look to the site and homepage below, which doesn’t look nearly as professional as the initial version.

New Homepage Using a Stock Template

Homepage2

Homepage Usability and Simplification

The initial homepage was beautiful but wasn’t very functional from a usability standpoint. It was hard to quickly jump to key motor categories, and too much of the homepage was taken up by the large fishing picture. In our second iteration (before the full-on relaunch), we made all categories accessible from the homepage as seen below:

An Experimental Homepage Navigation

HPNavigationBefore

This was a big improvement in terms of functionality, but we ultimately decided there was simply too much going on. With the relaunch, we instead decided to give shoppers just 4 or 5 options for top-level categories. Then, when they clicked through to a subpage, they could make another decision at that point if need be. Generally, people are much better at making a series of smaller decisions than trying to pick one option out of 30 right away. The new homepage navigation looks like this:

Final, More Simplistic Navigation

HPNavigationAfter

Category Pages

Our category-level pages were an area that we knew needed a lot of improvement. The legacy site offered several options for filtering products but next to no high-level information on which products were best. The text was also very small and hard to read, and it was hard to make a decision from the dozens and dozens of options listed on each page.

For the new category page design, we wanted to provide at-a-glance information for different product lines so customers could quickly make decisions. We increased the font and picture sizes, and highlighted the key strengths of each product in large bullets.

 

Old Category Pages

CategoryBefore

New Category Pages

CategoryPagesAfter2

Our old boat-specific pages were also very drab and didn’t contain much helpful content for picking the right motor. With the new category design, we incorporated high-level buying decisions, compatibility charts and specific model recommendations into each boat-specific page so that boat owners could quickly understand the key considerations for their specific boat models:

New Boat-Specific Pages

Category-After-3

 

Improving the Content

Our initial product pages weren’t too bad – but they weren’t phenomenal, either. If we were going to fulfill our claim of being experts in high-end trolling motors, we needed to provide as much information as possible to help customers make an informed buying decision.

The old pages had basic product specs and a short description for each of the product features. While the writing was unique, the format was very similar to that found on the manufacturer site and many other stores online:

Old Product Pages

SpecsBefore1

When we set out to design the new product pages, I made a list of all the common questions customers had asked us in the past. Things like:

  • Will this be compatible with my boat?
  • How much thrust (power) do I need?
  • How do I install and wire this?
  • How is this motor different from others?

… and many more. For each common question that arose, we made sure to include an answer on each product page. We also tried to provide every possible spec, dimension and weight. (The manufacturer must have grown weary of our questions and requests for additional information!) All told, we likely increased the amount of product information by tenfold:

New Product Pages

ProductPageAfter2

Technical Library

We’d written a few buying guides and technical articles for the old site, but it could by no means be considered an extensive technical library on the subject of trolling motors. We set about to fix that with the relaunch.

We once again looked through our list of customers’ questions and created a technical article to answer each specific issue. When we finished, we had more than 20 technical resources compiled in our newly dubbed “Technical Resources and Guides” Library. This knowledge base helped us:

  • Further increase the value of product pages by linking to articles for in-depth explanations
  • Build authority and bolster our claims as being “experts” in the area
  • Create a valuable resource to attract links
  • Better educate our customers, increasing the chance they’ll make a purchase

 

Personalizing the “About Us” Page

I’ve never paid much attention to the “About Us” page on my websites, and they’ve always been fairly generic. So I was surprised when Andrew Bleakley shared that the “About Us” page is incredibly powerful at building trust and improving sales. I knew we needed to revamp ours for the redesign.

Instead of pretending to be a big company, our new “About  Us” page proudly proclaimed that we were a small business dedicated to fishermen. Instead of using a generic company signature, we posted our pictures and personal signatures on the page. Both myself and Pat (my right-hand man) are outdoorsman, so it was easy to craft a page that genuinely connects with our customers.

The Old “About Us” Page

AboutUsBefore

From the New “About Us” Page

AboutUsAfter

So What Happened?

The site relaunch went live in late January, so we’ve had a month to measure the results. The trolling motor niche is VERY seasonal, and search volumes and conversion rates can change drastically month to month in the early spring. So for the sake of accuracy, the figures below are year-over-year comparisons from February 2012 to 2013. (We are excluding the 28th, as that’s when we started testing some new pricing.) Here are the results:

Conversion Rate: Increased 48.0%
Avg. Order Value: Increased 32.3%

Avg. Time on Site: Increased 29.1%
Bounce Rate: Decreased by 10.7%

Not too shabby, eh? I’m thrilled with the conversion rate increasing nearly 50%, but equally as happy that the average order revenue is up by nearly a third! This indicates that our strategy of specializing in high-end trolling motors is working to drive sales of the more expensive items. And between the increase in conversion and order size, the relaunch close to doubled the amount of revenue earned per visitor.

I’m going to go out on a limb and call the site redesign a success! It also nice that we were able to relaunch the site without any issues.

Takeaways

So what crucial lessons should you take away from the relaunch?

Launch Quickly and Simply – Trying to build the world’s best website from the get-go is a terrible idea. You’ll end up investing boatloads of time (excuse the pun) into a site you’ll almost certainly have to re-do in the future to address the real needs of your customers.

Launch quickly and simply, and start interacting with customers as quickly as possible. Then, once you know more about the market, you can create a world-class website that you know will be applicable to your best customers.

You Don’t Need a Fancy Design – If you’re a smaller merchant in a niche market, you don’t need to spend big bucks on a super-fancy design. In fact, it could likely end up hampering your efforts to iterate and improve your site like it did for us! Especially when starting out, keep it simple. Usability and quality information is FAR more important than a flashy, custom design.

Niche Down Your Niche – The more precisely you can target your customers, the easier it is to create a powerful unique selling proposition. You don’t want to sell just trolling motors; you want to sell high-end bow mount trolling motors! It allows you to focus on your most valuable customers and create an information-rich site specifically for them.

Interested in More Posts Like This?

If you found this case study valuable, would you please Like it on Facebook (button below) or share it on Twitter right now? The level of social support I see helps me determine whether or not to write similar posts in the future.

I’m also happy to answer any questions you have about the relaunch – just leave them in the comments section below.

Andrew Youderian
Post by Andrew Youderian
Andrew is the founder of eCommerceFuel and has been building eCommerce businesses ever since gleefully leaving the corporate world in 2008.  Join him and 1,000+ vetted 7- and 8-figure store owners inside the eCommerceFuel Community.

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120 Comments

ChingMay 6, 2013

Hi Andrew!

I am so glad to come across your website today & have subscribed to your website!
Actually, I have many questions on building an e-commerce website. Though I am still a student, I feel very empowered to start my own business. It would be of in the area of fashion. I have not signed up for any website package as I am more cautious before throwing my savings into the unknown pool.
I will read your ebook before asking any further questions (:

Thank you!

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Andrew YouderianMay 6, 2013

Ha! “Throwing my savings into the unknown pool” – love it! 🙂

Hope you enjoy the eBook Ching and best of luck….

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ElleMay 9, 2013

Hi Andrew,

Just want to thank you for the information you shared on eCommercefuel, especially this post! I didn’t have enough budget to hire a web designer, and I have no coding knowledge. What I have is a strong will to learn. I used free template from Bigcommerce and tried to work around my store (using your tips) to make it look nice and presentable. Your website, Google, and YouTube video tutorials are my best friends.

After reading this post, I decided to give my store a new look and I made some sales! I could see that people stay longer in my store and my bounce rate decreased!

I can’t thank you enough and PLS KEEP WRITING! I will be reading every post as they are so helpful for newbie like myself.

Thanks!!

Elle

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Andrew YouderianMay 10, 2013

Elle – The store looks great! Well done, especially doing it yourself. 🙂 You’re in a very interesting niche, and being a new father I can attest firsthand to how people get soft in their wallet when it comes to their children.

Best of luck with your store and thanks for reading.

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Joey StatonMay 13, 2013

Andrew,

I’m Jumpy Joey, and I subscribe to your emails. I appreciate how informative that they truly are. You don’t come off as trying to sale something either, which I can really appreciate. My niche is trampolines (sales and assembly), and I’m soon to launch a new ecommerce site in place of my current one. Many dollars have been spent behind the scenes to develop a site like no other in my industry, and we’re at about 95% getting ready to launch. I will check back with you often to read the current topics you discuss! Thank you so much for the assistance!

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Andrew YouderianMay 17, 2013

Hey Joey! Sounds like an interesting niche – nice! Best of luck with your new site design, I hope it goes well and your sales go through the roof. 🙂

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Jason DavisMay 20, 2013

Hello, I read your ebook, it is very good, thanks for sharing. My main issue has always been finding a reliable supplier, it seems all the “Drop shipping” wholesalers are from China that I find, so I wanted to ask…Have you used any Suppliers from China? Or should I keep searching for one in the US? I am a software and web developer for 13 years. So building an advanced site and doing all the SEO and Marketing…is just stuff I do daily anyways, this issue of not finding a good Supplier has been holding me back for years so I would really love to hear from someone who has experience in this space and that seems to be you, if you are willing to share some more insight, would appreciate your thoughts on this? Thanks

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Andrew YouderianMay 24, 2013

I’ve never used a drop shipping in China, no. I can’t imagine that would work well as shipping individual products from China to individual customers in the U.S. would be prohibitively expensive. There are lots of suppliers and drop shippers in the U.S. (some good, some not so good), so you shouldn’t let that one issue prevent you from starting your own business. For more details on finding suppliers, check out my eBook which has an entire chapter dedicated to finding and evaluating suppliers:

https://www.ecommercefuel.com/profitable-ecommerce-ebook/

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Paul LemleyJune 20, 2013

This post is EXTREMELY helpful! I recently chose to redesign my site and go with a bare bones, streamlined design. In the middle of the process now, but should have it up and running by July. Every once and a while I need a good reminder to niche down and keep the site relevant for the higher end customer instead of expanding into other demographics.

Just found your website and this is the first post I read too! Looking forward to reading more.

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Andrew YouderianJune 21, 2013

Thanks Paul! Glad it’s helpful and good luck with the redesign.

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Hany MesbahJuly 2, 2013

Hi,

I receive your newsletter regularly and I love them. The problem is that I have many distinct categories on my website (like amazon), while you write about about “niche” ecommerce. Currently I struggle to find a marketing service (or app) so I can focus on business development. I would really appreciate if you create a newsletter about that.

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Frank @How To Use WordPressJuly 27, 2013

Hi Andrew, Thanks for sharing this behind-the-scenes look at your website redesign. In my experience, the simpler the design the better ex.: look at Google’s design, super simple.
Really got a lot out of this post and your podcast with Shane. Talk soon, Frank

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Andrew YouderianAugust 15, 2013

Thanks Frank – appreciated!

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EricDAugust 13, 2013

Hi Andren

Great Redesign!!

Looks Clean Nice Job!!

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Andrew YouderianAugust 15, 2013

Thanks!

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Skip FosterAugust 13, 2013

Wow… nice difference. I liked the old one, but I really like the changes. Very encouraging stats too.

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Andrew YouderianAugust 15, 2013

Thanks Skip!

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Harold StewartAugust 19, 2013

Hey. Great Great great insights from this post.

By far this is the best ecommerce blog I’ve come across. Read this post a couple months ago when it was first written but had to re-read it today as I am starting my first ecommerce store and needed useful info on website layout. At first I was so into creating an expensive and complicated website but, thanks to this post I will be keeping it SIMPLE AND TO THE POINT!!!

I have a question for you however. I am in a niche where I knwo nothing about the product (its a technical product used by hobbyist). Ive managed to find a few great dropshippers and the website is in the making. For this, niche how do I handle phone calls from customers who require technical assistance/ info that only an experienced person in the field can answer. I have no problems answering sales calls but what happens when they start asking for the expert info??? Is this the type of thing that is outsourced?

Thanks in advance !!!

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BrianAugust 29, 2013

Andrew, am I mistaken here? I looked at semrush results for trollingmotors.net. It appears your visits dropped 80%+ from Feb May 2013. That’s a huge plummet. What happened? I’m really confused. Please explain. I see the great improvements but are the results there? Did you sell it to someone or some other reason?

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Andrew YouderianSeptember 1, 2013

Not sure, but that data is definitely off. If you’re talking about 2012 data, that would make sense as that’s the period we got hit by the Penguin penalty.

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TaylorOctober 13, 2013

There’s a few awesome things you did with this Andrew that I’m finally starting to realize.

1. Using Design to Showcase Benefits and Features your customers value NOT just to look good – I felt the same way I imagine you did when I saw that first design with the big bass picture on it, it looks awesome!

But from the point of view of someone looking for a trolling motor, it doesn’t offer any value to them. They’re looking for a trolling motor and show the most valuable thing you can do is to make that easy for them, which you’ve obviously done a much better job of with the new organization and educational content.

2. Being honest and helpful in the copy

The headline on the $5k design – “Catch more Fish with the Right Trolling Motor” is also hyperbolic and not true (something I catch myself doing ALL the time when writing copy and something I know because despite having fished on a lot of boats with nice trolling motors, I’m still not a very good fisherman…).

I think a lot of times, the passion entrepreneurs feel about their businesses gets the best of them and they start making claims that aren’t verifiable. It’s like you REALLY want them to actually catch more fish by using one of your trolling motors even though that’s not really true.

The best thing you can do for them of course is educate them about your products and let them make an informed decision.

3. The About Us Page

We ran on our two main sites a month ago and realized that WAY more people were actually looking at this page than we thought. Both of ours were I imagine similar to your original one, corporate gobbledy-gook that didn’t do a very good job of telling people about us. The new versions came out a bit more corporate than I would have liked, but are definitely a big improvement.

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[…] EcommerceFuel.com – How we increased conversion 48% on our online store: A Relaunch Case Study […]

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[…] running online stores at eCommerceFuel.com. If you enjoyed this piece, you’ll love this rare behind-the-scenes look at his store’s redesign  that increased sales by nearly […]

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Johan SchwemmerNovember 14, 2013

Hi Andrew

I find your post very helpfull. I also stumbled across dropshipping by accident when I was trying to earn more money online. I decided right there and then that I want to this. I am just starting off on this and I am busy getting my website together and this afternoon before reading this I spoke to the guy designing my site about the same more personal approach to the customer by showing them who I am and what I am about…seems like I am heading in the right direction. I have also given the new site a lot of though and realised that providing a more value added approach to the customer will go a long way. Thanks for your post, I find it helpful.

Regards
Johan.

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[…] this experiment by Andrew Youderian, where he made a few simple copywriting improvements and increased conversion […]

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JurgyFebruary 22, 2014

Andrew,
I am not an expert in any of the niches I work in with my drop shipping biz. I find it difficult to write an About Us page that is personal and honestly puts me in congruence with my target demographic. What do you suggest?

Jurgy

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BryanApril 13, 2014

Thanks for sharing your results. I also have a sexy and hip website that isn’t doing so well. Thinking of down grading to a very basic site, similar to what you did.

The images on what you did also were a great help.

Thanks
Bryan

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[…] can lead to improved conversions for online stores.  One awesome example, from eCommerceFuel (https://www.ecommercefuel.com/inside-relaunch-online-store/) details how a trolling motor (those small fishing boat motors) site increased conversions by over […]

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ChrisJune 5, 2014

Love this post,

Can you link to the exact template you used? I’m copying it exactly. (Don’t worry COMPLETELY different niche. Stun guns and pepper spray haha.)

-Chris

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LakshJune 29, 2014

Hi Andrew,

Really really useful article

We have just launch our store bulkeffect.com for corporate gifts/ merchandising and reading through the article gave me really good ideas on how we can do something better.

One of the biggest tradeoff we had to make was between fancy design and load speed. We choose to keep the design really simple to load faster. Before reading this article i ised to constantly ask myself if that was tue right thing to do. Thanks once again for such a great article.

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Rashmi Patel DentisJuly 10, 2014

Rashmi Patel Dentis

How We Raised Conversion 48% by Relaunching Our Online Store

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[…] As I’ve written about in the past, I’ve made some terrible decisions when it came to investing money into high-end eCommerce design.  Specifically, I spent $5,000 on a professional design when launching TrollingMotors.net only to have to tear it all down and replace it with a basic, free stock theme. […]

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[…] Andrew Youderian si è reso conto, ad esempio, che la maggior parte dei clienti del suo vecchio negozio di motori per la pesca alla traina cercava in realtà motori per la pesca alla traina montati in arco, così si è specializzato ulteriormente passando dai motori per la pesca alla traina ai motori per la pesca alla traina montati in arco. […]

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[…] Andrew Youderian fand beispielsweise heraus, dass die meisten Kunden seines Shops für Angelmotoren auf der Suche nach Angelmotoren mit Bugmontage waren, also straffte er sein Sortiment und bot fortan nur noch Angelmotoren mit Bugmontage an. […]

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