A usability study gives Shopko a long to-do-list for its e-commerce site

November 22, 2011 10:13 AM

Regional retail chain Shopko Stores Operating Co. received a rude awakening when it performed a usability study on its e-commerce site through the University of Minnesota.

“We were shocked at how our customers were engaging with our product detail page,” says Shopko’s vice president of e-commerce Mike Sidders. “We thought we had an okay product page, maybe a B or B-. But the amount of our customers that had problems with finding basic elements or seeing our call to action was very surprising to us.”

Sidders will speak at the Internet Retailer Web Design & Usability Conference 2012 in Orlando, FL, in February in a session entitled "Design 101: 10 best practices to pick from the pack.”

Shopko, No. 550 in Internet Retailer’s Second 500 Guide, paid less than $10,000 for a study that tested how customers moved around and interacted with the retailer’s site, Sidders says. Shopko gave participants a dummy credit card and a made-up task, such as finding and purchasing a birthday gift for a 13-year-old niece.

Retailer executives sat behind a two-way mirror and used eye-scanning technology that enabled them to monitor each step of a participant’s search, navigation and check-out process. “We were able to see where her eyes were looking on the screen,” Sidders says. “Based on what she was looking at and the frown on her face, it was not working.”

Results from the study gave Shopko a to-do list that the retailer has been steadily checking off in the last several months, including some seemingly minor changes that have had a major impact on the usability of the site. The retailer learned, for example, that some shoppers had a hard time finding its Add to Cart button. Or they were confused about the processes of searching for the address of their local store and checking local inventory

“These are things you see on a day-to-day basis,” he adds. “You get so used to your own site and how it works that some of these basic things you miss.

Internet Retailer’s editors selected Sidders to speak because of his experience in launching e-commerce initiatives for brands, including,, the re-launch of and over a half dozen sites for Taylor Corp.  He is also responsible for launching and bringing to maturity Shopko’s web initiative.




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