To be successful, ecommerce businesses need to build sites that are able to sell products. Sounds simple enough, yet, too often sites are designed based on improper knowledge of customers' wants and needs. In some cases, companies even let technology drive design efforts, and that is one of the worst things that can happen. Following are six tips to keep in mind designing sites that generate sales.
1) Talk about how products benefit customers, not just the products themselves.
A good product description showcases the benefits of that product to the customer. Yes, it is important to also cover product specifications, but a customer will buy a product first based on the benefit it provides and how it fulfills a need. Specifications like size, color, weight, etc., are secondary in the buying decision. Therefore, when writing product descriptions, make sure they are written from the customer's perspective. For example, do not describe a toothbrush as "the best in the world," describe it as "the best at cleaning teeth." Best in the world is secondary to the function and benefit the toothbrush provides to the customer, which is cleaning teeth.
2) Mark the visitors path to the end goal clearly and consistently.
Do not make visitors jump hurdles to reach a goal, especially when selling something. Keep it simple. Putting together a well-thought-out site with consistent navigation is one of the biggest keys to visitor satisfaction. Keep linking to a minimum and make sure it takes no more than three clicks total for visitors to get at the information they seek. Usability is critical. Constantly remind visitors where they are on the site using clearly identified breadcrumb trails to assist in navigating from point to point.
3) Do not become too attached to a particular website design.
Realize that all
good sites grow, adapt, and change in relation to their market.
Many website owners like the design of their site so much that they overlook what their visitors think. If a website is to satisfy its visitors, store owners must listen to them and test new methods repeatedly. Start with an initial design in mind, rooted in what the store's customers want, and once launched, test as many sections of the site as possible using a tool like Google's Content Experiments, found within Google Analytics. Oftentimes, stores find that what works for visitors and increases sales is not what initially was settled upon at launch.
4) If a site looks good on one browser do not assume it looks good on all.
Test on as many browsers as possible to ensure a widely accepted layout. With the wide variety of browser platforms and versions, including mobile browser technologies emerging each year, not testing a site design for cross-browser compatibility is a sure way to alienate potential customers. Services like BrowserCam can render examples of how a site performs under selected browsers and versions.
5) Clearly display contact information including phone numbers, email and live
Do not hide customer service information at the bottom of a site. Providing contact information is not just a credibility issue, it has more far reaching effects than that. It is frustrating for potential customers with questions to not be able to get answers. In a brick and mortar store they walk around looking for someone to ask. On the Internet they simply leave.
To increase sales, provide multiple ways to contact customer service, including phone numbers, live chat and email, and display that information in highly visible locations. Give customers the flexibility to choose which contact method suits their needs at any moment. For businesses that may not have a dedicated customer service phone number, or do not want to display a number, for example, drop shippers operating out of a home office, services like Google Voice and OneBox provide options. These services offer dedicated and unique phone numbers which can forward calls to multiple lines at various locations, including cell phones.
6) Website design efforts should be driven by customer needs and marketing.
When technology is allowed to drive design, the result often includes too many bells and whistles that lower usability and decrease customer friendliness. There is a place and time for everything, and just because a technology is new or "cool" does not mean it needs to be adopted. When incorporating technology into a site, be sure it enhances the customer experience and makes it easier for the customer to explore the website and make a purchase. No matter how cool the technology is, if it does not improve website usability, it should not be adopted.
When ecommerce stores want to generate more sales, they must not overlook the fact that design plays a vital role in that effort. A systematic approach is best, and ongoing testing of each design element is critical to achieve higher conversion rates. Good design satisfies a customer's wants and needs, adheres to best practice standards, and at the same time, is flexible enough to adapt to an ever-changing environment.
Eric Leuenberger is an ecommerce expert, founder of Ecommerce Amplifier and owner of Voom Ventures, LLC, whose products and services help store owners and operators increase traffic, maximize ROI, decrease expenses and increase revenue. He can be contacted online at www.voomventures.com or by phone at 1-866-602-2673.