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Success Begins at Home: Advice for Your Home & Product Pages

Sep 1, 2009
by Eric Leuenberger

In a previous article I mentioned the three most important pages on an ecommerce site.

I want to go into a bit more detail on two of those pages in particular: the home page and the individual product page.

The Home Page

The home page plays an important role in the overall picture of a successful ecommerce site. It can set the tone for the rest of the visitor experience, and is a page visitors will return to in order to reacquaint themselves with your business. The job of the home page is to grab attention, provide direction and get deeper into the site.

Here are some important characteristics of good home pages:

- A clear, definitive offer. There may be multiple offers, but it works best when the featured promotion (that which you are looking to push hardest) has the prominent position. If this is a monthly sale, give this sale front and center attention, then support it with additional creative wording. Build in an element of urgency to really drive home the message. Using words like "today," or "limited time," persuade the visitor to act now, or potentially lose the opportunity to take advantage of your offer.

- A clear call to action. A call to action persuades the visitor to act upon something. This can be clicking a banner to see the monthly sale items, signing up for a newsletter mailing, adding an item to their cart, etc. Each of these micro actions should contain a call to action that supports the end result. Common calls to action on a home page might be in support of sales, new products, daily features, and more. An example call to action would be a banner with details on the sale of the month, and the text, "Click here to shop now!"

- A clear and precise navigational path to access site content. This may seem logical, but many sites neglect the "clear and precise" portion. They provide navigation, paying little mind to how it is presented, or how it will impact their visitors. Simply provide the user with traditional categorical navigation elements, as well as inline text links within the copy of your site, leading to those same end points.

- Multiple presentations of the same information within the site. Most home pages receive a variety of visitor demographics. Each visitor seeks products to fit their needs, yet each searches in a different manner to get to those results. One visitor may use the main navigational elements within the framework of the site, while another may prefer to read a little more before committing themselves.

To illustrate this point, here is a conceptual example. Let's say you sell beach apparel. Two different visitors arrive at your site, both looking for the same product. The first visitor is going on vacation in the coming weeks and is looking for an outfit to wear on the beach. The second visitor lives on a beach and is looking for the same outfit. Navigation that might speak better to the first visitor would be a heading that says, "Outfits for Vacation" (with a subset of links pointing toward things like beach outfits, bathing suits, sundresses, etc), while the second visitor may respond better to categorical navigation that simply says, "Bathing Suits." A good example of how to deliver links to similar content from different angles can be seen in the home page screenshot below. Take note of the lines connecting links to similar products. Notice how they appear in not only different context at times, but also under different headings, each targeting a different search habit based on visitor demographic.

To get the home page driving visitors deeper into your site, you must know your visitor demographics and speak to each in a language they understand. If planned your business correctly, you should already have a good idea of the answer to the demographic makeup. You cannot expect to grow business by randomly targeting any person that comes to your site.

The Product Page

Now let's dig into some of what makes up a successful product page.

Shipping Information

All Internet consumers want to know, "How much does shipping cost," and, "How soon can I get it?" Naturally, many first ask this question at the product page. Providing them with the answer to that question at the precise point during their buying cycle is critical toward moving them closer to conversion. Giving them easy access to the shipping rates and shipping options will improve the customer experience and set you up for success.

Product Availability

Even if a product is in stock, don't assume the customer knows that. Don't make them think. A customer who sees a product listed as, "In stock ready to ship," is more likely to put that item in their cart and proceed forward.

Add to Cart Button

No matter how good a product page may seem, it's certainly no good if the customer can't figure out how to add the item to their cart. Developing an Add to Cart button that is larger and more visible is an essential element toward increasing conversion.

Presence of Payment Methods Accepted

The customer decides that the product they are viewing is one they want. The next question many ask is, "What payment options do I have?" Prominently indicating the types of payments accepted will answer this question. There are a variety of unobtrusive ways to do this. As a test, try adding small icons of the payment methods you accept, just under the add to cart button. Again, it's at the moment that a customer is ready to add an item to their cart that they ask what methods of payment are accepted. Reinforcing it here is a good idea.

Product Photo

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. On the Internet, the product's picture is just about the only element that shows clearly how an item really looks. Make sure your photos are clear, crisp, detailed and are large enough to provide plenty of visual appeal, yet are optimized for fast internet download times. Using tools such as lightbox effects for showing larger photos and even zoom type effects (often with jQuery / Ajax) can provide a professional touch.

Customer Assurances

Building trust and confidence with customers is at the forefront of any strong ecommerce site. Although customer assurance elements should be present site wide, they need to be obvious on the product page. You often need to gain customer trust and confidence before they will add an item to their cart. If you offer warranties and guarantees, you should make sure these are in plain sight on the product page. Letting the customer know that you have a 90 day guarantee (as an example) will help move them toward placing the item in their cart.

Product Price

It's pretty obvious to most that customers want to know the price of a product before they commit to moving forward, yet I've seen sites that state, "Add the item to cart to see price." I personally see no reason for this, and in fact, can point out two reasons I feel this would hurt your conversion.

1) Adding another step to the customer's buying process, increases the probability of losing the sale.

2) Taking away the customer's choice by forcing them to add an item to the cart to get information, decreases satisfaction with the shopping experience.

Both hinder the customer experience and will likely cause a decrease in conversion. If you are selling products on the Internet, do your site a favor by including the full price of the product on the product page.

Customer Reviews

With the recent growth of social media use, it should be no surprise that customers are indicating in surveys that the presence of peer reviews is playing an increased role in their decision to buy products. Store issued product reviews can often appear biased. However, consumers feel that peer ratings provide a true picture of the worthiness of a given product. These should be included on every product page, and the ability for a customer to write a review should be in plain sight. Go back and review your site for the inclusion of these elements. If you have them in place, congratulations. If you don't, you are hurting your chances of winning more sales.

Eric Leuenberger is an ecommerce conversion marketing expert and author of a leading Ecommerce Optimization blog (www.zencartoptimization.com). He coaches ecommerce store owners on how to increase their website sales through skillfully crafted online paid search advertising, targeted marketing strategies and website sales strategies. Contact him at 1-866-602-2673.

Topic: Business Strategies

Related Articles: ecommerce 

Article ID: 1179

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