Mark Dirks

IRWD 2012 Takeaways

Est. Reading Time: 6 minutes

First trip to IRWD.  Quick recap.  A lot of focus on usability and what I call “mindwork”.  We are at a point now where everyone is finally starting to look at conversion optimization onsite via improving usability and calls to action; offsite via personalization and segmentation.  When I say “mindwork”, I’m referring to the marketing and technical minds formulating actionable insights behind the tools and data.  Certainly, as I’ve said for years, the right tools and technology are essential, but successful websites have one or more creative, analytical minds guiding the operation.  More of these types of people were at IRWD, so it was fantastic seeing how various companies brought business and technology together.  Most of the sessions that I attended focused on unique ideas, usability and decisions being made to improve conversion rates based on data, testing, more data and more testing.

The exhibit hall had more Usability companies that I expected and of course there were a variety of companies promoting web design/development services, ecommerce software, site search software and digital marketing services, along with some firms that offered some interesting tools and services.

Chris Bannister - Nextopia - IRWD
Our Nextopia Buddy, Chris Bannister


Here’s a random set of notes that and thoughts that I jotted down during the various presentation.  I didn’t attend every presentation.

  • 13% growth in online retail in 2011.  (Corrected, originally stated 19%)
  • 13% of web traffic mobile now.
  • Asking visitors to register before checkout is still poor practice.
  • Amazon & LL Bean continue to be what everyone compares to (but it is important to remember that each business has its own unique needs and very different budgets)
  • Grainger
    • gets 9M monthly visits, produces $2.1B in eCommerce sales, receives 2M daily product searches.
    • was originally B2B and only dealt with business owners – but now it has opened a B2C channel to go directly to end users.
    • uses GPS w/ mobile to help customers find their store and provide directions from wherever they are.
  • It’s all about knowing your customers – and designing accordingly.
  • Important features: I LIKE ALL OF THESE when financially feasible for our clients.
    • Order History (reduces inbound calls, customer-focused service, helps with re-orders).
    • Custom Catalog in left nav (for clients based on what they normally purchase).
    • Previously Purchased Items in left nav (or as part of site search results).
  • Need to spend more time analyzing onsite search logs
  • Setup “Click to Call” or “Click to Chat” when a customer has been on a page a long time or if possible, when they move their mouse to the top right (looking for help/support links).  This feature typically increases conversions and decreases cart abandonment.
  • Belk – believes in “light and simple” home page, minimizing the number of things that are promoted to limit distractions.  Max of two levels in left nav and 4 horizontal thumbnail images on listing pages.
  • Tools:  Clicktail (Video/User Monitoring feature), VisiStat, Adobe SiteCatalyst
  • I liked Daryl Logullo’s concept of the “Principle of Continual Gradual Improvement”
  • David Goldsholle pointed out that it is critical to get detailed SLAs from vendors (hearing that they have done this for many years isn’t sufficient).  He also mentioned Google Commerce Search for its extended attributes.
  • Mike Sidders pointed out that the old school continuum of “Attention, Interest, Desire, Action” still works – just needs to be mechanized via internet technology now.
  • Lots of Usability firms in attendance as companies move from worrying about traffic to improving conversion rates via usability improvements, personalization and segmentation.
  • The top two things that mobile users do while shopping are search on price and search for reviews.
  • Check out and to see responsive web design (re-size the screen and watch what happens)
  • Confirmation about the need for SEO specialist involved in Design/Development process.
  • One speaker mentioned that when you have a good web development company, recognize it and take care of the relationship because there are a lot of poor web dev companies out there.  (Gotta agree!)
  • Checkout Steve Krug’s book, “Rocket Surgery Made Easy”
  • Mention of 4Q as a great survey tool.
  • Online reviews build trust and help improve conversion rates.  Nathan Decker (Evogear) stated that 4-7 reviews is enough to influence the purchase of an item.
  • Check out,, PivotLink.
  • 1-2 optimization tests per month is not enough.  One company, I believe it was ran 50-100/month to expedite overall site improvement.  Expedite continual improvement w/ significantly more tests.
  • Checkout Book:  “Start With Why”
  • Very, very impressed with Halley Silver’s presentation about King Arthur Flour.  Checkout the website,  Concept of “Responsive Mobile First” is the way to go.  Takes more time, but the design becomes device agnostic.  She estimated 2 months to develop 5 templates.  Build mobile site first; tablet, second; website, third.
  • Search “320andup” in Google and read through some of the links.
  • Check out  Very cool concept… have artists submit artwork for t-shirts.  Have the site’s community select a winner each week, print the winning design on t-shirts and sell them online.
  • Great presentation/discussion between Seth Freiden (US Toy Co) and Shaun Ryan (SLI Systems) about the value and importance of Site Search (esp. tuning and cross-site searches)
  • Exhibit Hall – Chatted with
    • Chris Bannister (Nextopia).  They have a great product that is priced right – plus (and this is important) their customer service is incredible – probably the best of any of our partner vendors.
    • the folks at Bridgeline Digital (IAPPS Suite).  Beacon is a development partner of theirs.  The IAPPS integrated platform (CMS, eCommerce, Marketing, Analytics) eliminates a lot of the chaos of integrating multiple 3rd party software solutions.
    • Lee Alison Rable at MyBuys.  Really like their product/services.
    • Lindsay Rice at Tobii.  They seem to have a great list of products/services with respect to Usability research and testing, particularly eye-tracking (which I saw offered by several other exhibitors).
    • Ortery – Cool to see their 360 image product in action.  Seemed to be priced right to expedite the creation of product images for ecommerce websites.


Bridgeline Digital - IRWD
Our Friends from Bridgeline Digital

That’s It.