Usability research from Nielsen Norman Group (E-Commerce User Experience, pg. 26) suggests that there are two primary reasons why website visitors decide not to purchase from a website: (1) they cannot find the products they want and (2) they do not have enough product information to make a purchase decision.
In the past two issues of WebWholesaler Magazine, I have discussed topics related to helping your website visitors find the products they want. For this issue I want to focus on how to create product pages that help your website visitors make a buying decision.
Foremost, the overall layout of your product page is instrumental in setting the stage for increased product sales. The process of how to layout your product pages starts with understanding your customers' needs. I recommend developing a hierarchy of your customers' informational needs, prioritized from most important to least associated, based on what they require to make a confident buying decision.
Depending on your product type, these informational needs may vary. But in all cases, informational needs center on product utility characteristics (how to use, when to use, where to use, why to use), maintenance/care, availability, price, promotion and quality assurance both related to the service of delivering the product by your company and of the product itself.
Once you assess, identify and list the specific hierarchy of informational needs for your customers, separate each need into a module. Separating each need into an individual module allows you to place each one on a product page and to re-arrange it as necessary through future testing. Following this process enables you to make placement decisions on your product page based on what your website visitors need to see first among their informational needs for a buying decision. Not all website visitors will read every detail on a web page. Most commonly, visitors tend to scan a page and only read details when something catches their attention. Therefore, through strategic placement and using design elements (colors, font styles), you can draw visitor attention to certain, high priority informational modules.
Depending on the shopping cart technology you employ, arranging your informational modules may either be easy or complex. Some shopping cart technologies provide a standard layout and restrict any alterations unless done through customized programming. Others allow minor alterations of content but only in specified areas on the product page. Finally, a few (typically more expensive versions) enable greater flexibility. When building your ecommerce site, or if you are planning on redesigning your ecommerce site, take the time to assess the flexibility and scalability of your shopping cart technology. An early good decision may help avoid dead-ends as you seek to improve sales conversions by testing new product page layouts and content.
It is important to deliver your product information using both words and pictures. In some cases, visitors need to "see" the detail of a decorative piece, while they can "read" other information, and clearly grasp the concept, without a picture. At the same time, pictures have a way of naturalizing the online buying process. Balancing content with pictures is a key element to many product pages.
It may help to watch your customers use your product and talk about its benefits. Armed with this real world experience, you can better define what future customers want to see and read on your product pages to help them effectively visualize how they will use the product after it is purchased.
In order to help you get started optimizing your product pages, here is a list of questions centered on best practices. By answering these questions, you will know if your product pages are currently optimized or learn what to implement moving forward to improve your product page conversions:
- Does each product page have a descriptive name?
- Do your product descriptions focus on "customer benefits"? Consider how the product is used, cared for, safety requirements, storage, placement, size and other characteristics a visitor may be concerned with when buying.
- Do your product pages show the TOTAL cost including price, shipping (& handling) and applicable tax? Potential buyers want to know the TOTAL cost of the purchase, not just the product cost. If you show visitors all associated costs upfront you may reduce the number of checkout abandons from visitors adding products to their cart just to view shipping costs.
- Do your product pages present product availability and shipping time? Potential buyers want instructions about what is available now and what to expect after purchasing. Speed of delivery is a concern in today's impatient environment.
- Do your product pages provide links to warranty, guarantee, customer service and return policies?
- Do your product pages show items already added to the shopping cart?
- Do your product pages present customer feedback like testimonials or reviews?
- Do your product pages display a detailed and clear product image? Depending on your product, multiple images may be required including usage photos, views from different angles and zoom/close-up features.
- Do your product pages clearly and conveniently list all product options like color, sizes, finishes and other attributes? Pay careful attention to how these options are selected by potential buyers. Certain functionality like radio buttons can impede progress and confuse buyers.
- Do your product pages present ALL contact information and ordering options? Help make it easy for your visitors to buy once they decide to purchase. If a visitor gets stuck on a product page, provide a phone number or live chat to help them through the checkout process.
If you implement these best practices and continually watch your website analytics, to spot any potential speed-bumps on your product pages, you will be on the road to increasing your website sales.
Kevin Gold is managing partner of Enhanced Concepts, a leading conversion marketing firm specializing in increasing website sales for small and mid-size companies. Kevin is a contributor to multiple national publications and an internationally recognized expert on converting visitors to buyers. For assistance with increasing your website sales, call 1-877-481-2323 or learn more at www.EnhancedConcepts.com.
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