Important Characteristics of Good Ecommerce Home Pages and Product Pages
For ecommerce websites to better their conversion they need to begin to pay careful attention to the customer experience. This often means streamlining and designing your site from the customer’s point of view. The three most important sections on an ecommerce site are the home page, the product page, and the checkout process. In this article I’ll detail the elements that should be found on the home page and the product page if you are to help the customer do their job and buy your product.
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. Its job is to grab attention, provide them with direction and get them deeper into the site.
Here are 4 important characteristics good home pages have.
1. Displays a clear offer. It can have multiple offers but works best when the “featured promotion” (that which you are looking to push hardest) is given prominence. If this is a monthly sale you run, give that sale front and center attention then support it with additional creative.
Build in an element of urgency to really drive home the message. Using words like “today” or “limited time” persuades the visitor to act now or potentially lose the opportunity to take advantage of your offer.
2. Contain 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!’
3. A clear and precise navigational path for accessing site content. This may seem logical, but many sites neglect the “clear and precise” portion. They provide navigation not thinking of how it is presented or how it will impact their visitors.
Don’t try to get cute here. 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.
4. Multiple presentations of accessing the same information within the site. As I’ve said, most home pages receive a variety of visitor demographics. Each visitor is seeking 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 frame work of the site while another may prefer to read a little more before committing themselves.
To illustrate this point let me present this conceptual example. Let’s say you sell beach clothing.
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 “Vacation Outfits” (with a subset of links pointing toward things like beach wear, swim suits, sundresses, etc…) while the second visitor may respond better to categorical navigation that simply says “swimming suits.”
To get your home page driving visitors deeper into your site you must know your visitor demographics and speak each in a language they understand. If you’ve planned out your business correctly you should already have a good idea of the answer to the demographic makeup.
If you don’t know the answer you better go back and find it out. You can’t expect to grow business by randomly targeting any person that comes to your site.
The Product Page
We’ve gone over the home page; now let’s dig into some of what makes up a good product page.
All internet consumers want to know “how much does shipping cost” and “how soon can I get it”?
Naturally, many begin to 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.
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
Ok, the customer has decided that the product they are viewing is one they want. The next question many ask is “what payment options do I have for buying this”? Indicating the types of payments accepted will answer this question.
You can do this in a variety of unobtrusive ways. A good test is to 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.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. On the internet the product’s picture is just about the only element that can show clearly what an item really looks like. Make sure your photos are clear, crisp, show detail 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 very nice professional touch.
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, guarantees etc… you should make sure these are in plain site 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.
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 stating “add the item to your cart to see the price”. I personally see no reason for this and in fact can point out two reasons I feel this would hurt your conversion.
- You are adding another step to the customer’s buying process and the more steps you add the greater your chance of losing them.
- You are taking away the customers choice by forcing them to add an item to the cart in order to get information which should be in plain view from the start.
Both hinder the customer experience and will likely cause a decrease in conversion. If you are selling products on the internet do your customers a favor by including the full price of the product on the product page.
With the recent growth of social media use, it should be no surprise customers are indicating in surveys that the presence of peer reviews is playing a bigger role in their decision to buy products.
Store issued product reviews can appear biased at times 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 site.
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.