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A site I have worked with for over ten years has been running an overstock sale. In the beginning the page template showed the stock number for each item - both to facilitate phone ordering and to help print catalog customers. But after a few weeks, we decided to reclaim that screen real estate and not publish the stock number on the overstock list.
Knock me over with a feather - sales jumped by a factor of four the minute we made the change! The increase in sales came from two directions. First, the conversions per page visitor almost doubled. But more than that, the average sale more than doubled.
I'm guessing the page was less cluttered so people were more comfortable shopping. Either that, or people really hate seeing those geeky stock numbers that only a computer can love.
If we are talking about an sku, I find if it is on the page:
a) customers can search for them
b) If they phone up we can easily identify the product they are looking at.
I show them in a "details" tab, so they are not clear on the first page, but are there if people want it. Perhaps that is an alternative?
What increased was two things:
1. The conversions percentage popped - from a very healthy 11 percent to an almost obscenely good (for this site) 21 percent of all page visits.
2. The average sale - which also nearly doubled. The page's usability was always optimized to make multi-item purchases easy, but taking away the SKU seemed to make that even easier.
These numbers are staying steady. Seems clear to me that the product names are now just jumping off the page for visitors (it's a long list of sale items). The first thing you see as you scan the list is an English word - the product name - rather than a record-keeping, geeky, alphanumeric character string.
There was some concern when we made this change, because phone sales are almost as high website sales, and the missing SKUs might lead to confusion about what exactly the persona on the phone is trying to order. That turned out not to be a problem at all.