E-commerce Testing of Retailer Category Pages: Insights for a Leading Toothpaste Brand

 

This case study will explain the benefits brand owners get from enriching their traditional e-commerce testing with eye tracking and navigation tests. This solves the problem with evaluating how products perform at online stores by providing brand owners with an accurate way to estimate online sales and quantify their drivers.

Using real data from the e-commerce test of a leading toothpaste brand, three situations are examined:
1) when the brand is the category leader at an online retailer,
2) when the brand is second in category but competitive at an online retailer,
3) and when the brand is underperforming at an online retailer.

We show that insights drawn from e-commerce testing not only identify what can be improved, but also how to improve it.

toothpaste table eyesee research

Toothpaste Category Page Case Summary

 

LEADER is a leading multinational FMCG company focused on the production and distribution of household, healthcare and personal products. One of the firm’s flagship brands is an umbrella brand used to sell oral hygiene products, and is one of the world’s most recognized brands: we’ll call it ACME. The most famous ACME product is toothpaste, sold for many years and with a history of innovation. Despite this heritage of innovation, as of the date of the study, analysts reported that LEADER company was relatively underdeveloped in e-commerce compared to other channels.

EyeSee performed an independent e-commerce test of toothpaste category pages at Amazon.com, Walmart.com, and Target.com. The study estimated the online performance of ACME toothpaste to see what to make of analysts’ claims. Results showed that ACME’s e-commerce performance strongly depended on the online retailer at which the toothpaste was being sold:

  • at Target.com, ACME was the category leader
  • at Amazon.com, ACME was second-in-category to the brand’s biggest competitor “STANDARD”
  • at Walmart.com, ACME was significantly underperforming

Additional insights from the study offered guidelines for growing the ACME brand at each retailer. These are presented below.

I. Improve sales and market share where ACME is already the category leader: 

What can be improved? The product pages at Target.com.

Table 1 shows that ACME is outcompeting STANDARD in the toothpaste category at Target.com, selling above its total North American toothpaste market share of 35.5% even though Target’s product pages result in lower purchase intent. Improving performance of ACME products on Target’s product pages would likely extend ACME’s lead.

How to improve it? Move the key areas up.

Eye tracking data of the Target.com product page is not included here, but generally resembles Table 1. It shows that the part of Target’s product page that draws the longest gaze after the product image (1.8s) is the “from the manufacturer” section (1.7s), a section only seen by 10% of online shoppers compared to the 93% that see the product image. Gaze duration is highly correlated with purchase intent, so moving the “from the manufacturer” section higher, will get more shoppers to see it, which will increase the number of purchases.

Impact? ACME product page sales at Target.com increase by an estimated 10%.

Data from this sample shows that for every 1 second increase in average gaze, purchase intent increases by about 25% to 38%. Moving the “from the manufacturer” section of the product page up to where 80% to 90% of visiting shoppers will see it, increases average gaze by about 0.3 seconds, resulting in the increase of average purchase intent by about 10% (from 41% to between 44% to 46%).

As of the writing up of this case study, ACME’s highest selling product is no longer in the top row of Target.com’s toothpaste category page. It is now in the second row, where purchase intent for toothpaste at Target.com drops by 87%, as shown by purchase intent data shown in Figure 2.

II. Take category leadership where ACME almost has it:

What can be improved? The category page planogram at Amazon.com.

Table 1 shows that ACME sells less than STANDARD brand in the toothpaste category at Amazon.com (0.43 ACME products compared to 0.54 STANDARD products). However, Table 1 also shows that ACME sells above its reported toothpaste market share for the concurrent quarter (37% vs. 35.5%). STANDARD held 3 of the 4 spots on the category page’s top row, including the two spots with the highest visibility (shown in Figure 1) and purchase intent (shown in Figure 2). ACME held the first spot on the first row, and 3 of the 4 spots on the second row, including two spots with the highest visibility and purchase intent on that row. On the toothpaste category page at Amazon.com average purchase intent drops by 80% from the first row to the second. To take the lead from STANDARD at Amazon, the online planogram should be negotiated.

How to improve it? By showing Amazon that moving ACME products up will increase overall category sales.

To convince Amazon to move ACME products into better locations in the online planogram, ACME must show Amazon that doing so will result in higher overall toothpaste category sales. The data suggests several ways to improve the online planogram in ACME’s favor, all while increasing Amazon’s overall category sales. As seen in Figure 2, an ACME product on the second row with 6% purchase intent, if moved to the first, would likely see a 300% increase in purchase intent (if purchase intent drops 80% from the first row to the second, moving a product from the second row to the first has the opposite effect). The higher purchase intent garnered from moving this product would make it the third highest-selling product in the category list with a purchase intent of 18%. It would thus easily outperform the 4th toothpaste on the top row which only shows purchase intent of 10%. The new planogram would increase category sales for Amazon, and would increase ACME product sales.

Impact? ACME sales increase by 28% and ACME becomes the category leader at Amazon.com

By switching the 3rd product from the left on the second row with the 4th product from left on the first row, ACME’s sales would increase by an estimated 28% (from 0.43 to 0.55 products sold). As a result of ACME’s additional sales, Amazon’s overall toothpaste sales would increase by an estimated 3.4% (from 1.16 to 1.20 products sold). As a result, STANDARD’s online market share at Amazon would decrease by 4% (from 47% to 45%), and ACME’s share would increase by 7% (from 43% to 46%). ACME would thus become the category leader by 1 percentage point.

Figure 2 shows four other ACME products were in similar situations as the one used in the above example. This makes for plenty of “wiggle room” in potential discussions between Amazon and ACME about changing the online planogram.

III. Fix ACME underperformance where there should be no reason to underperform:

What can be improved? ACME’s strategy vis-à-vis Walmart.com’s category page.

Walmart.com was ACME’s least successful battleground – even if Walmart sells less toothpaste online overall, no obvious reason exists why ACME should not be selling at least close to its reported quarterly market share of 35.5%. Instead, ACME’s share of Walmart.com purchases is only 13% (Table 1). How can ACME fix this situation that results in millions of dollars in lost revenue? (which would obviously benefit ACME… but Walmart as well!)

Less than 50% of ACME’s products are even seen on the Walmart.com toothpaste category page (Table 1). In addition, Figure 2 shows the page suffers a 100% drop in purchase intent from the first row to the second… which is important because ACME only has one spot on the first row, and three on the second. STANDARD brand has the other spots on the first row. This means that there is only one ACME product that registers a greater-than-zero purchase intent (Figure 2). There are no opportunities for planogram discussions with Walmart.com because no products below the first row have positive purchase intent. So, what else can be done to help ACME sell more at Walmart.com?

Walmart.com’s toothpaste category page sets itself apart from those of Amazon and Target because of its advertisements, brand menu (at the top) and carousel (at the bottom). As seen in Figure 1, these features draw attention away from the rest of the category page: one ad is viewed by more shoppers (96.1%) longer (1.6 seconds) than any of the products (the most viewed of which was by 88% of shoppers for 1.4 seconds). In addition, the brand menu, located below the ad is seen by 100% of shoppers for an average 3.4 seconds –funneling shoppers to a longer (and thus less effective) path-to purchase. The ad, brand menu and carousel interrupt the online shoppers path-to-purchase on the category page, resulting in the lower overall sales of Walmart.com.

How to improve it? Help improve Walmart.com category page, or place sponsored content.

How can ACME sell more on Walmart’s category page? The advertisements and sponsored product links register the highest purchase intent of the toothpaste category page, so their effect on sales is likely to be high. The cost of placing the products and advertising would then remain the determining factor in ACME’s decision to advertise or place its products on the carousel. Alternatively, showing Walmart.com that their current e-commerce practices cause them to sell only about half as much toothpaste as Amazon or Target do online (Table 1) can allow ACME to become an advocate and advisor for Walmart.com’s online renewal.

Impact? ACME sales at Walmart.com increase by at least 50%.

Given the information from Amazon and Target, it is reasonable to expect that ACME sales at Walmart should be around their reported market share of 35.5%. In addition, Table 1 shows that overall Walmart sells less than its competitors, which supports the idea that the actual category page needs a redesign. If the page is changed, a conservative estimate of the resulting increase in toothpaste category sales would be of 45% (from 0.69 products sold to 1.00, which as seen in Table 1, is still less than Amazon or Target). A similarly conservative estimate would gauge the increase in ACME sales to be of at least 50% (0.09 to 0.135 products) . It would have to be a little more than the 45% increase in category sales because it is safe to assume that visibility (and thus purchase intent) in the second row (where ACME has 2 products) would also increase from 0% to something positive.

As of the writing of this case, Walmart had acquired several online retail companies and changed leadership twice in the previous 6 months with an eye on improving their online results.

 

Table 1: Selected Data from the EyeSee Category Page Study (2016) as its relates to ACME’s Toothpaste Business

Table shows data collected from the study, as well as publicly available market share numbers for the quarter during which the study was performed. Green cells indicate numbers that align with ACME’s expected performance or better. Red cells indicate numbers that indicate ACME’s worse than expected performance.

table  toothpaste eyesee research

Retailers’ pages have changed since the collection of the data, please contact Us ([email protected]) to perform an up-to-date study. The contents of this case study are for discussion purposes only.

Figure 1: Product Visibility Measurements from Amazon, Walmart, and Target Toothpaste Category Pages

Boxes designate products. Boxes with red frames indicate ACME products. The percentages at the center of the boxes show the proportion of respondents who gazed at the product for at least 0.1 seconds. The black boxes in the upper left corner of each product box show the average number of seconds’ respondents gazed at the product. Amazon, Walmart, and Target exhibit product visibility totals (average proportion of viewers x total number of products) of 12.8, 8.56, 10.45, respectively. Along with the data presented in Table 2, the findings support that fitting more products on a page contributes to higher sales so long as they also have higher total visibility.

table visibility eyesee research amazon target walmart