by Cindy Waxer

Bluefly Focuses on the Customer Experience Where It Counts

Nov 23, 2009
Consumer ElectronicsEnterprise ApplicationsIT Leadership

The online clothing retailer uses customer experience monitoring tools to find website bugs and rescue lost sales.

Remember that job interview you thought you nailed, but you never received a call-back? Imagine being able to pinpoint where things went awry by replaying every second of your encounter. That’s the kind of forensics work that online retailer Bluefly performs using customer experience monitoring software from Tealeaf.

The Web-based tool acts as a camera perched over a customer’s shoulder, recording what each one does and sees. By combining this data in a single repository, Bluefly has, during the past three years, discovered bugs that were costing it millions of dollars in lost sales.

To read more on this topic, see: Differentiating Yourself During a Downturn: Virtualizing Customer Data Management and Can Technology Help Retailers Survive 2009 and Thrive in 2010?

The company first tested Tealeaf CX in 2006. For months, the company had no idea that a technical glitch was prompting many of its customers to abandon their shopping carts—or that the majority of them had opted to pay with Bill Me Later, which lets customers defer payment for 90 days. A random replay of customer sessions captured by Tealeaf revealed that error messages weren’t being displayed properly when a customer declined to accept Bill Me Later’s terms and conditions, thereby preventing them from completing their transactions. Armed with this information, Bluefly was able to resolve the issue quickly, halting the loss of hundreds of intended buyers and thousands of dollars in potential revenue per day.

“When we fixed that bug, we saw a 43 percent increase in Bill Me Later purchases within the first month,” says Matt Raines, Bluefly’s vice president of technology.

In today’s highly competitive online marketplace, companies that fail to record customers’ interactions risk losing business, says Susan Aldrich, an analyst with the Patricia Seybold Group. Customer experience monitoring tools from companies such as Tealeaf, Coradiant and Quest Software can help by enabling companies to identify the root causes of everything from aborted transactions to sparse shopping carts.

“When times are really good, you can spill a lot of money over the side,” observes Aldrich. “But in 2009, nobody can afford to let their money leak away.”

In August 2008, Tealeaf’s sleuthing revealed another smoking gun for Bluefly: International customers couldn’t get through guest checkout when entering different billing and shipping information. Within a month of fixing the bug, Raines says revenue from international guest checkouts increased 10 percent, or $1.1 million in annualized sales.

While logging customers’ online experiences can salvage sales, storing all this data is cumbersome. Bluefly opted to archive all of its customer traffic for a maximum of three weeks—all the storage capacity the company can spare without having to invest in additional servers. According to Raines, it’s a small trade-off for taking the mystery out of abandoned shopping carts.

How it Adds Up


New York, NY

Founded in 1998, Bluefly is a $96 million online retailer of clothing, shoes and accessories from top European and American designers.

Tool Used: Tealeaf cxImpact for capturing and replaying customer sessions; Tealeaf cxView for its reporting capabilities. Both modules are supported by the software platform Tealeaf CX.

Time Frame: Following a one-week trial, Bluefly purchased the Tealeaf system in May 2006; it took less than a month to fully deploy. Today, six employees access the system including Web producers and quality assurance analysts.

Avoid Data Glut

Bluefly runs a host of customer behavior and website monitoring tools in addition to Tealeaf, including Business Objects, Core Metrics and Google Analytics. To avoid information overload, each tool is assigned to particular tasks. For example, Business Objects quantifies customer returns while Tealeaf examines user sessions.

Consider Customer Security

Convincing senior management that monitoring confidential customer transactions won’t give way to security breaches can be a tough sell. You can build a financial case for customer experience monitoring tools, but be sure your pitch includes an explanation of your chosen software’s security features (for instance, most packages include filters to strip data of passwords and credit card numbers). Integrating these tools with Windows Active Directory requires the help desk to assign individuals to the proper user group in order to grant them access.

Cindy Waxer is a freelance writer based in Canada.