Posted June 15, 2007 12:07 am by with 9 comments

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As I wrote last week, interactive tools that enhance the customer buying experience are the current hot trend in internet retail. These tools use client side technology to allow customers to quickly find the best product for them based on criteria they specify.

Blue Nile’s “Build Your Own Ring” is a good example of this kind of tool, and is probably a big reason for their incredible growth. Home Depot’s Grill Finder is another impressive tool.

At Vitabase, we have been experimenting for the last few months with our Health Guru, a tool that allows customers to answer a few questions and recommends the best health supplement based on their answers. You can see how it helps a customer choose a multi-vitamin here.

There is good news and bad news about these kinds of tools. The good news is that they dramatically increase conversion rates when customers use them. Home Depot claims a 50% increase in conversion rate for customers using its Grill Finder. At Vitabase, we have seen an even more dramatic increase in the conversion rate when customers use our Health Guru.

So what is the bad news? The bad news is that not enough customers use these tools. We are astounded how few of our customers use the Health Guru, and I am hearing the same report from other companies. For some reason, the average online shopper is not ready for this technology.

There are people in the industry that do not believe that the current online shopping experience is ever going to change that much. They are wrong–in a few years, the shopping cart as we know it will be dead. However, if you want to lead the innovation, don’t be surprised if your customers are not as excited about new technology as you are.

  • Love the conversion posts Greg. Keep them coming 🙂

  • joe

    This is a very interesting post that I’d like to share with our retailer clients, but don’t forget that to be slick, it has to be usable: the vitabase health guru doesn’t render properly in Firefox!

  • Yeah – I’d agree with Joe, doesn’t render properly in firefox and doesn’t seem to load at all in IE7..

    Still, don’t want to be negative as I’m sure these are relatively minor issues. The interface sure is slick! V interesting as well that users aren’t really using it yet – I agree that I’d expect that to change over the coming months.

  • Just thought I’d drop by and say that someone contacted me from Vitabase and the Firefox issue is now fixed! They’re now working on the IE7 issue. Nice work guys.

  • Edit – it’s not quite fixed yet but they are working on it. My point still stands though – good work on picking up on this and even emailing me to tell me.

  • When I worked for SiteLab we worked with Hot Spring Spas to create a “make your own deck” for customers’ backyards… it was a huge lead gen tool for the co.!

    Here’s the thing… right, customers may not be using it, but I would throw this out there – HD is not even advertising for it in Google ppc! when I searched for “grill finder” I got this ad:

    Grill- Home Depot
    A Gift for Every Dad at Home Depot.
    Proud Sponsor of Father’s Day.

    Ack… more examples of companies not leveraging search to its full potential. Hrmmmm…

  • @erica – why worry about PPC when you rank #1-#2 organically for that exact page.

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  • I wrote up a little critique myself, you gotta think, what did this thing cost? 250k? Easily, maybe more, yet it is hidden for every search known to man except “Home Depot Grill Finder”.