Images Over Copy – A B2B eCommerce Store Redesign Case Study

We recently did a redesign at The Portable Bar Company. The Portable Bar Company is a B2B eCommerce Business that’s still in the relatively early stages of the business (not quite 2 years old).

We felt there were a lot of qualitative insights we had gained since last redesign and wanted to incorporate so we opted to remake the whole site instead of doing it piece by piece.

Goals of the Redesign

Our Main goals of the redesign were to:

  1. Create better visibility of our product line for visitors arriving on the site for the first time.
  2. Capture more emails to use email marketing to build a relationship for customers still in consideration phase
  3. Use the site to better educate customers in the buying cycle

The Major Changes

The Old Home Page

Old Home Page (click to Enlarge and see annotations)

Old Home Page (click to Enlarge and see annotations)


The New Home Page


New Home Page Above the Fold (Click to Enlarge and See Annotations)

New Home Page Above the Fold (Click to Enlarge and See Annotations)

New PBC Home Page Below the Fold

New Home Page Below the Fold (Click to Enlarge and See Annotations)

Major Home Page Changes

Better Featured Products – Most people arriving to our website were arriving via organic search for terms like “portable bar” and “portable bars” so we wanted to make the product line very obvious and easy for them to browse our products.

More Prominent Email Opt-in – We discovered from running a banner ad on an industry site back in January and February that our buying cycle was often times 6 months or longer. Many customers that arrive to the website first through the banner ad in January and February were calling us in Q3. Because of the long buying cycle, we wanted to focus on capturing customers emails so we could continue the conversation with them through our email autoresponder and newsletter.

Emphasize Images with Key Features and benefits – We realized that a lot of the appeal of our products was visual. While there’s a lot to be said for good copy, we frequently have customers ask over the phone if there’s anywhere they can go see the products in person. The New homepage emphasized the key features of the bar in a more visual way.

More Prominent Phone Number in the Header – Since over 90% of the orders we get are over the phone, we made the phone number and “Call Us Today” CTA the primary feature of the header.

Old Product Page

Old Product Page (Click to Enlarge and See Annotations)

Old Product Page (Click to Enlarge and See Annotations)

New Product page

Screen Shot 2013-10-07 at 1.48.31 PM

Major Product Page Changes

Emphasize Product Photography – There’s hardly a word of copy above the fold on our product pages. We feel customers learn more about the products by seeing images of it than reading copy.

 Feature Product Videos – Using a custom call tracking we set up in a call tracking service (Call Rail), we realized that about ⅓ of new call-ins we were getting were coming directly after a customer watched one of our product videos. We put a product tour button in the upper left hand corner of the page which gets the most attention and embedded a video at the bottom of the page for anyone that was interested enough to scroll all the way down.

The Impact


77.4% Increase in Email Opt-ins – Mainly because we put it above the fold on the home page. The offer (our product catalog) didn’t change.

11% Increase in Phone Calls – The more prominent phone number may have had something to do with this, but it’s not significant enough for me to say that with any confidence.


Revenue – Online revenue is down 48.59% since the redesign, however it’s a really small sample size with only 2 total transactions since.

We had our highest grossing month ever in September which I would attribute in part to the improved site, but probably more to some of the other initiatives we were working on earlier in 2013. One of the big challenges with B2B eCommerce stores is determining what specifically is driving sales. Because the B2B sales process is much lengthier than B2C, it’s often changes made months prior that are driving changes and that are difficult to fully account for.

Better Engagement – The site wide bounce rate decreased 20.52% (from 67.18% to 53.39%). Average visit duration increased 23.59% from 2:00 to 2:28.

On product pages in particular, the effect was dramatic, bounce rates dropped from 65% before the redesign to 25% after the redesign. Better design in general, more white space, better typography, and particularly better images I suspect account for the dramatic drop in bounce rate on product pages.

On the home page, having the product line clearly displayed across the front instead of a series of less relevant banners made it clear to users what the site was about right away. It also made it easier for people to get to the product pages and all of our product pages experienced an increase in traffic of 25-50% (depending on the product).

Insight – What did we learn about our customers?

We’ve had a number of customers comment on the phone about how good our website looks. It seems like the better looking website is one way to showcase our design chops that are also reflected in the design of the product.

More significantly, we’re having a lot more customers call up, credit card in hand, ready to buy. They have fewer questions about the products and how they work which tells us that the website

In general, the biggest insight to be gleamed from this in my opinion is that written copy is not always the best solution. Better product images and particularly product videos can be a much better way to persuade.

While not coming from this particular test, we’ve also learned that despite getting more traffic and email opt-ins than a site we run in another B2B industry, we make fewer sales. This is in part because we’re still relatively new in the industry and it takes time to build a track record and establish trust.

Another likely aspect is that for most of our customers a portable bar is a “vitamin, not an aspirin” to borrow from Rob Walling. It’s a potentially nice thing to have but is not really essential for many of them to run their businesses. In many cases, a fold out table and table cloth will get the job done.

Intent – What Are We Doing Going Forward?

Segmenting by Industry

Since we’re realized that we’re serving a lot of different industries (5-10 depending on how we categorize them), we’re narrowing our focus and attacking individual industries one at a time instead of trying to appeal to the broader market of “people interested in buying portable bars.”

 We’ve chosen the two industries that seem to represent our best customers so far (larger average sales and more repeat purchases) and are working on figuring out the right channels for getting our products in front of them and the right way to position our products so we can make it clear exactly what value we bring to their businesses.

Areas for Improvement

In evaluating the effects of the redesign and after a really insightful conversation with a Francis Teo of Conversions Guaranteed. I realized we need to be a lot more strategic about how we’re running these kinds of tests. Our main objectives going into the redesign were to create better visibility for our products and structure the website content so it better educated visitors about what we do.

While we feel we did a pretty good job that based on qualitative feedback, that’s a slippery slope since it can be easy to feel like you did a good job even when the data might say differently. At the same time, there’s the problem that for smaller businesses in general and especially B2B eCommerce stores, the smaller traffic numbers and length of the sales cycle can make it difficult to figure out which changes lead to which improvements.

This can end up in in a situation where you’re using irrelevant correlations to explain things in retrospect when those aren’t really causative factors. So I think there has to be some combination of trusting your gut instinct based on customer interaction, but also keeping yourself honest with the data.