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Website Optimization

Interview With McKinley Hancock of Impact Dog Crates

At Retail Innovation Conference and Expo, Tracy Sestili, Chief Marketing Officer of Intellimize, sat down with McKinley Hancock, Web Developer at Impact Dog Crates for a candid conversation about website optimization.

During their chat, they covered everything from effective website tests to golden retrievers! Keep reading to learn how Impact Dog Crates leverages Intellimize to improve their website conversions.

Tracy Sestili: Tell us a little bit about Impact Dog Crates and what you all do.

McKinley Hancock: At Impact Dog Crates we specialize in high-end dog crates. So we build aluminum dog crates that are super safe and secure for your dogs and your homes. Traditionally, when you think of dog crates, you probably think of wire crates from Amazon—super cheap. But for the most part, those crates are not safe for dogs. Dogs tend to get their canines stuck in them, they can break off and in the best-case scenario, they break out and just destroy your house. So we specialize in building these high-end crates that are meant to keep them safe and secure, as well as protect your home and all of your belongings.

TS: Tell us about Impact Dog Crates’ business goals—what are you all trying to do?

MH: Our main goal is to eventually get a crate in every home that has a dog, but, you know, taking baby steps on that goal. Our primary focus is increasing our conversion rate as well as decreasing the time it takes when a customer first lands on our site to the time they check out.

Right now it's about 60 days, and they'll come to our site two to three times before they purchase. So our goal is to cut that in half. So 30 days, I mean, even a week would be amazing. So, conversion rate and decrease in the timeline to buy. 

TS: When you were thinking about buying and testing software, what made you realize you should invest in testing software in the first place?

MH: So I was brought into this company about eight months ago and I completely redesigned the site from the bottom up. We had a previous site before that. But it was not doing too well in terms of conversion rate or anything, so I just kept it as simple as I could. But in that process of rebuilding the site, my boss and I would have all these disputes and discussions of what features we should introduce, of what we should be trying on the site. Rather than gambling with those ideas and opinions and just, I guess going off a gut feeling of what you think would be best, you know, I was like, we've gotta test these ideas because maybe both of our ideas are great or maybe one is better than the other.

TS: When you were looking for conversion rate optimization platforms, how many companies did you look at overall?

MS: About 10.

TS:  And what were some of the things that were key to your decision-making process?

MH: The main thing was that we wanted software that was easy to use. I've never done testing before. My boss has never done testing before. We wanted something that wasn't going to require us to hire someone else to take care of the testing, as well as something super fast and easy to integrate with our site.

TS: Tell us about what you all are testing on your site right now.

MH: We're testing a lot. Every time I have an idea or even an internal debate on what we should do, or what I should be putting on the site,  I'll just create a test. But I mostly do small tests— changing images, changing the text, rearranging sections on a page, hiding elements, showing elements, changing colors, and other stuff like that.

TS: What’s been your most successful test so far?

MH: We've had a lot of successful tests. One of our most successful was one of our first tests that I did in the first week using Intellimize. I changed our hero image on our homepage to a completely different image that I've always liked and changed the wording that was previously on our hero image. Before this, our default image was a picture of a German Shepherd and the text was “25% Off the Color Black.” So I changed it to a picture of a golden retriever who kind of looked like he was smiling. I tested a bunch of different photos and different copy to go along with each photo. But, the one where we saw the best results was a variation with a “Crate Training Made Easy” message. We were also running an ad on Instagram and Facebook about why you should be crate training your dogs and our conversion went through the roof during that month. Not only that, but the number of people that were now interacting with our site also increased. Before, most visitors would spend two minutes on our site, but with this experiment, they were on our site for 10 minutes! They were going through all the pages, they were reading product descriptions, adding to the cart, and checking out pretty fast. 

Original and new homepage hero

TS: So, people like golden retrievers and green crates, but you were running a promo on black crates?

MH:  The thought was maybe we don't have to run something with a black crate. Maybe it doesn't matter. I wanted to have a photo of a dog that looked like a happy family dog that just kind of looks warm and fuzzy. To me, golden retrievers do that for me and apparently for our customers as well. It’s been an amazing test. And now we run all of our tests with that image and even as a default image and to this day, it's still the top image that we use. 

TS: How quickly were you able to determine the winner in that test? 

MH: It took about two weeks, but after a week it was already the leading variation. But you know, every week it can change. However, at the end of the month it was beating the rest by a landslide, nothing else came close to it. 

TS: So I know that you are a developer, but when you're coding these variations, are you using an editor inside the tool or are you hand-coding them yourself? How are you getting them live? 

MH: I use Intellimize’s Visual Editor which is another reason why we chose Intellimize. I didn't want to use a service that required me to code. The other thing is I eventually want to offload this role onto a new employee or hire someone to do this for me. When they take over, I don't want them to ask me to hand-code tests for them while I'm also working on other apps and new features for the site. So I've done all these tests strictly in the Visual Editor. The Visual Editor does it all. The most coding I’ve done is changing an attribute on an HTML tag. 

TS: And that's not coding to you? [laughs]

MH: No, no. If someone needs help with that, I'll absolutely help with that!

TS:  You've moved elements around, you've replaced colors, changed color backgrounds, all that stuff, so like a WYSIWYG editor, right?

MH: Yeah, yeah. Changed elements, changed colors, and I’ve done different images for media queries. And I don't know if anybody here has coded before, but that's when you change the size of the page from desktop to mobile. I've done all that strictly in the Visual Editor. 

TS:  How do you analyze the results of your tests?

MH: Strictly through the Intellimize dashboard because I'm not a data analyst by any means, but Intellimize will tell you the number of views, and the strength that this test has against the default, or the no change. And that's strictly how I do all my comparisons. It’s pretty cut and dry. There are the tests I ran where, you know, I've had five or six different variations and it was not as easy to determine a winner, because some might be better for customers coming from an email campaign, from social media, paid ad on Google or organic search— you name it. There are tests where each variation will do better with different customers, but, the nice thing too about Intellimize is AI Optimize—it will show the right variations to the right target audience coming to your site. And so when that happens, I typically just leave that test up and I don't take it down because the way I look at it is every customer will kind of get their own tailored experience and I don't want to change that.

TS:  Tell me about how you leverage UTMs to show people different versions of your site based on the ad campaign they came from.

MH: I have no background in testing whatsoever. I'm just a web developer and there's so much that can be done with testing in terms of showing the right image to someone coming from the right UTM parameter from an ad campaign. All of the tests I've run have been with AI Optimize. The software will automatically show those variations to the right campaigns that these customers are coming from, and it's been an amazing tool. It's taken a load off my back, in having to learn how to target the right audience in terms of testing.

TS: So you don't have to worry about, say, setting up the targets and stuff, but you can if you want to?  You can be really, really specific.

MH: Yes, you can absolutely do that yourself. I don't have the skillset for that, nor do I want to learn that on top of everything else. So I'll just let the AI take care of it for me!

TS:  So let's just talk about that for a second—a lot of people have anxiety about AI. How do you feel about it professionally speaking?  Do you feel like your job's going to get replaced or do you feel like it saves you time?

MH:  I hope it doesn't code! I'm sure it will eventually, but right now it's sort of like an assistant to all of us. A lot of our product descriptions are AI-generated through Intellimize’s copy suggest feature. We use a bunch of different AI services but it depends on what you're using AI for. With AI Optimize, I'll let it do its thing, but in terms of creating a headline for me, I use the AI copy suggestion in Visual Editor to help me get ideas and then I kind of take what they're saying and then throw my own words into it to add a little more personality to it. 

TS:  Switching gears, do you feel like with AI Optimize you're reaching statistical significance more quickly than you would with a typical tool? 

MH: Yes, with an A/B test you don't get the results super quick. They can take anywhere from like, I mean, depending on the size of the test, anywhere from like two to three months to a year. And, you know, with AI Optimize I can get the results I'm looking for within a week, two weeks! I typically will let 'em run for a month or two, just to make sure I'm getting accurate results. But yeah, I'm getting the results a lot faster than if I was doing the standard A/B testing.

TS: Aside from using Intellimize, how do you stay competitive in the market?

MH: We stay competitive in a lot of different ways. I would say first and foremost, we offer free shipping and free exchanges. We have an amazing customer support team— they are truly experts on crate training and dogs in general. But mostly I think it is about making sure the website is modern, simple, and up-to-date and not letting it get stale with old features. We're always looking for new ways to keep it modern and on top of it too, we have a niche at Impact Dog Crates—  our High Anxiety Crate. For the most part, our competitors will market like a very similar crate, but we find the customers that ended up going with our competitors end up choosing us in the very end because five days after getting one of our competitors’ crates, their dog will break out, chew up the baseboards, the carpet, shoes—you name it! Then they'll come back and choose our crate. And they have nothing but amazing things to say and they say it in our reviews. So it's pretty cool. 

TS:  So what have been some of the results that you've seen? I know that you did just talk about free shipping. You did a test on that right?

MH: Yeah, we took away free shipping for a week and we turned it right back on because people like free shipping, Amazon has ruined us all.

TS:  So when you're looking at results how have they been? 

MH:  We've seen a drastic change in our conversion rate. It completely doubled in 60 days. Now it's, I don't want to say double but it is right below the double mark. I’d say it’s about maybe 80% more than what it was last year. I truly believe it's because we've been able to test these ideas now and give customers different experiences, and have different journeys on their way to checking out, showing different images that resonate with customers. It's been amazing. We've been killing it this year. 

TS:  Because you all use Shopify you have all of those metrics too that you can bring into the dashboard to see how things are going, like with the revenue and conversion rates and all that, right? 

MH: Yeah. We have all of our conversion rates, our daily sales, our monthly, and yearly, all of that is in Intellimize. So we can keep track of that in both spots and yeah, for the most part, it is like lining up perfectly and it is super convenient. 

TS:  Can you see what messages are resonating from which platform? For example, if you test out the same message, say on Facebook and Instagram, and then you also test that same message in email, can you see in Audience Insights which one is performing better? 

MH:  Yeah. That's kinda like what I was getting into with the six different variations, like where sometimes you can have so many and they're all kind of winners in their own way, where depending on the messaging of these variations that resonate with people on mobile, people on desktop, better people on that are coming through email ads or you know, social media. It's quite amazing to see this. Target the right audience and show the right variation to customers coming from those different channels. 

TS: And so you had a one to two percent conversion rate in your first 90 days right? Was that all on that homepage test that you did? 

MH: Yeah, pretty much. In the first 60 days, I was only using Intellimize— less than I am now. And that was the first test that we ran and we saw the sales double. Before our conversion was 1%, sometimes even a little less than 1%. But for 60, 70 days our conversion rate was up 2% at times, like 2.1% and, now we're at about like 1.6% conversion rate. So we're, we're still up from where we were. But again, we've only been using this for five months and I still have a lot of tests I want to try.

TS:  So what are you looking to test next? Currently, you have 10 experiments running with 30 different variations inside of them so what are you testing now?

MH: The main thing I want to test now is new colors. I've been testing this new color on our CTAs to catch your eye and pass that squint test a little better and so far that test has been amazing. I have tests that play with pricing that I'm working on. I have tests for different journeys. Honestly, I have a bunch of different tests that I'm trying.

TS:  Thank you, McKinley, for chatting with me today, it was a pleasure to learn more about how you are improving conversion rates at Impact Dog Crates with Intellimize.