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Websites that draw traffic experience one of the following 3:

  1. They drive the traffic away because the site is too slow, too disorganize or too difficult to navigate when it comes time to purchase.
  2. They hold the interest of visitors with interesting content and other attention grabbing gimmicks but they rarely succeed in closing the deal.
  3. They get a strong percentage of visitors to purchase and return for more.

Which of these 3 best describes your website performance?  If you don’t yet have a site how will you ensure you fall into that rare group of sites that are profitable?

How do you get there?  How do you build a site that converts visitors into customers?

Start by thinking about how your favorite brick and mortar stores are designed.  Through decades of experimentation the best real-world stores know exactly what attracts attention.  They know what draws people in.  They know how things need to be organized not just to grab an initial sale but to get folks to spend a bit more with each purchase.  Bottom line and yes, this is a bit crass, they know how to separate shoppers from their money.

As a virtual shop owner (or perspective owner), you need to learn from these best-of-class stores when designing your digital shopping experience.  The following tips are going to help you do exactly that.

Make a great first impression

  1. Even in the virtual world, first impressions count and you have only a few seconds to make the right impression. The question is how you are going to make the right impression.  The answer to that question will depend quite a bit on what you are offering?

For example, if you are offering a luxury product or service the best way to grab attention may be with a spectacular “hero” image that dramatically presents your offer.  Here is an example of how a hero image can be effective:

Butterfly Hotel Hero Image Sample

This hotel site presents a rotating set of images that show their rooms off to great effect and the number of bookings this site gets and the amount of time the average visitor spends exploring the site indicate they are making a great first impression.

A site that is designed to sell clothes, electronics, hardware and similar consumer products will want to take a decidedly different approach in making that all important first impression.  Look at the following site and note the stark difference.

Comsumer Products Site Sample

This site quickly shows visitors exactly what they offer and it has things organized so the first impression is that it will be easy to find what they are looking for.  The slider is used to flash special offers to further grab attention in that critical first few seconds but it isn’t so big that products can’t be seen on the page without having to scroll.

The stats for this site demonstrate how effective their first impression is.  They are achieving strong sales both online and by phone from customers that are browsing the site while on the phone.  The time on site is not as strong as the previous example but for this product category that is expected.  Most people shopping for these products come knowing exactly what they are looking for and want to find and purchase the product(s) quickly.

Here are a few more things to keep in mind.  Color matters.  Choosing the right colors will have a measurable impact on how your visitors react and interact with your website so unless you are a creative artist or designer that is selling style let the following chart be your guide.  Even those selling art and style might take some pointers when it comes to closing the deal.

Color Psychology in Marketing

Finally, animations, videos and whiteboard presentation should be used but use them sparingly.  They will slow your site down and could become a distraction rather than an effective sales tool. Remember, speed counts far more than just about anything else.  Don’t let these gimmicks put you in the slow lane.

Remember that favorite brick and mortar shop and design your site with all of the same attention grabbing and deal closing elements that made such an impression on you.  They will impress others as well.

The best road map is a simple road map

  1. Your site must be easy to navigate and it has to present a consistent layout. There is a tendency to make different sections of a site each look somewhat unique and this is a mistake. It breaks the continuity of a visitor’s journey through your site and that can often be deadly.

Navigation Example - Mr Chesterfield

Think about the best sites or even better, think about the best software you have used.  There is something intuitive about how you get around.  Everything you need is where you expect it to be.  There is little if any searching for the right tool or function.  They are all exactly where you expect them to be.

Now think about that when you are designing your site.  Explore you favorite e-commerce site and find the patterns.  You will quickly see that most of them use common symbols for the shopping cart and that symbol is almost always near the top right of every page.  Look at how the checkout buttons are positioned and colored.  You will find clear patterns here as well that indicate what visitors are intuitively expecting to see on your site.

Keep it simple

  1. When you do get to the checkout process consider the sequence of events required to complete the purchase. The best sites make it dirt simple because they have learned that even the slightest complexity results in goods being left in the cart.

This following site has it just about spot on.  It’s as simple as it can be and notice, there is nowhere at all that requires the buyer to create an account and sign in before they can purchase.

This design could have had one more element that would have made it just a bit closer to perfect though.  Add an incentive for those that are happy to create an account.  It could be something as simple as a 1-step checkout process or maybe a bit of a discount or special freebie.

Checkout Example - Nabru

So, don’t be afraid to allow guest checkouts.  Yes, you would always like to get e-mail details so you can do follow up marketing but remember this.  If you lose the initial sale because you were too focused on building your mailing list you can’t possibly get a follow up sale.  Plus, you didn’t get the details you were so focused on collecting.  No matter what you are selling you can try to get those details and do your up sells and cross sells as part of the fulfillment process so don’t press too hard.

Greed (in the right dose) is good

  1. Don’t forget to include add-ons to the offer but do not overdo it. Make a strong offer but also make it very easy to say no or to simply ignore.  And, do not make too many offers even when the buyer seems to be excited by all of them.

Checkout Example - AddOn

Unlike the famous movie line, greed is not good. Well actually, it is good but don’t get too greedy all at once.  Spread it out over time and you will build a stronger and far more profitable relationship with your clients.

Also remember, you can always offer additional products and offer special discounts in your fulfillment package.  It’s a great way to keep the entire selling process uncomplicated while pitching a new sale at what is arguably the very best time in the process.  Make that offer when they are excited about what they’ve just unpacked and watch the return visits and orders roll in.

Images inspire positive action

  1. Use the right images and descriptions in concert. By that I mean, find or create images that do a great job of presenting your product or that effectively portray your service.  Choose carefully and especially when it comes to consumer products, use multiple images.  Include close ups as well.  Remember, we are sensory creatures and that is the one thing that is constricted in the virtual world.  Your customers can’t touch, smell or taste what you’re offering so you have to give them enough in imagery to overcome that handicap.

3D Product images - Nest
This is one time where gimmicks can be exceptionally helpful.  Consider using 3D product images that your customers can play with.  If it’s something that should be seen in action then make a video available.  Services can often be better presented with slideshows or whiteboard animations.  Use them here as options and you’ll find they can be extraordinarily effective without being intrusive. Plus, because they are user selected option you don’t have to worry about the impact on page load times.  They only load when requested.

The right words sell

  1. You also need to do an exceptionally good job of describing the products you offer. Again, you are making up for the fact that they can’t touch that dress or smell the perfume you’re offering so it’s up to you to tell them how it feels and smells.  How does that hammer feel in the hand?  How smoothly does that saw cut through hard wood?  How brilliantly sharp is the picture on that LED TV?  Language is going to be the best way to convey these answers so spend a lavish amount of time and energy building an impactful story for each product.

Consider this example for a line of women’s and children’s shoes and don’t be surprised by how much is written.  Remember, you are trying to match the sensory experience of holding the shoe.

THE 4 C’S OF SHOES! CLASSY. COMFORTABLE. COLORFUL. CASUAL

These unique shoes are designed with the fashionable, busy woman in mind. Made from a hand-woven and durable material the 4C’s shoe offers a comfy fit with a stretchy elasticity. These remarkable shoes conform to the shape of your foot to enable a comfortable and airy feel with every step.

This versatile shoe can complement any look from classic feminine to casual, and they come in a variety of cuts, heights and colors to suit every need.

Our patent-pending 4C’s shoes claim proprietary design for the Casual Classic look, Comfort, and choice of Colors. Our 4C shoes are 100% hand-crafted with a uniquely designed insole and outsole, to create a hidden wedge effect, adding height like with heels but at the same time concealing the fact that height is being added.

All our insoles are replaceable and are made from extra cushy and airy foam, which means easy wearing and no need for socks in the Summer! These soles come in a customized height of1cm to provide extra shock absorption, and are carefully made with a silky smooth fabric on both sides for maximum comfort.

For the best possible fit, each pair of the 4C’s shoes comes with an extra pair of 3mm memory foam insoles, which can be optionally inserted on top of the existing insole for snugger fit if needed or when not wearing socks. The extra insole can also be used to strengthen the existing insole if it should become worn in after extended use.

The extra pair of memory foam insoles is made with layers of memory foam and special airy foam which are carefully sewn and covered with a silky smooth fabric on both sides in order to ensure the maximum comfort. Should you need to order extra insoles or memory foam insoles, please check out our “shop for insoles”.

Note: Our insoles should be washed only by hand with cold, soapy water. Hang to dry at room temperature. Do not bleach.

For every day wear, Heal USA offers 3 different 4C’s styles: Mary Jane, Traditional and 2-diamond style. All available in size 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.

Height:

Each style comes in 2 heights: the Classic (2” height) and the Wedge (3.5” height).

Colors and Fun

For its 4C’s shoes, Heal USA has boldly chosen a wide range of vibrant, solid colors. Bright Orange, Blue, Reds, Pinks, Purples, Greens, Black and Gray and White…etc. We offer more than 15 different color patterns in trendy styles to bring fun to your wardrobe (see our matching scarves as well!). Our products are distinct in that they are health beneficial (see ‘Our Medical Claims’).

Please refer to “Mommy and Me” look book for our children’s 4C’s shoe designs to pair with your own!

In fairness, this may be more information than anyone wants or needs to make a buying decision but having too much is never a sin.  It’s having too little that will get you punished.

Go Mobile

  1. Make your site accessible on mobile devices. With the exponential growth of mobile computing, designing great sites got decidedly more complicated.  You can’t escape the fact that at least 40% of your audience is going to come to you while on their mobile phone or tablet.

Consider the following statistics reported by Google:

Mobile Commerce Device Statistics

Also consider these findings:

  1. 80% of those surveyed report using their smartphones to shop.
  2. Shopping decisions are made much faster on mobile devices with most decisions being made within the hour.
  3. Google reports that search traffic from mobile devices exceeded the traffic coming from desktops beginning in 2014 and that shift is gaining speed.
  4. 37% of all online sales are initiated on mobile devices.

These widely accepted stats tell a stunning story about how the online world has evolved in just the last few years and all indications are that this trend will continued.  By 2016 mobile sales are expected to surpass those made on desktop and laptop devices.

In addition, and as a percentage of total sales, online shopping has grown steadily over the past dozen years.

Online Sales Growth

This chart shows the growth of online sales as a percentage of all sales and as you can see, the online world is eating up an increasing chunk of market share, at a steady pace, for more than a decade now.  With many of the big box retailers embracing online selling strategies, this trend line is going to continue its unabated climb.  In fact, we are starting to see a hybridization selling process that may drive this line far higher in a much faster.

Take the case of Macy’s.  They invite shoppers to purchase online and then visit their local Macy’s to pick up the item.  This gives the client all the benefits of shopping at home while still allowing them the tactile experience of traditional shopping, Plus, it gives Macy’s a much stronger opportunity to upsell, cross-sell and to deepen its relationship with their customers.  As big retailers embrace and expand how online shopping is applied the percentage of online sales and the overall acceptance of online shopping can only gain in strength.

So, you need to design early on to serve this audience or you will be targeting a dwindling universe of buyers.

Here is a great example of a mobile friendly design.

Responsive Design Example

It delivers a consistent look and feel across all platforms while accommodating the different size factors and how they impact navigation.  This site proves to be just as easy to use and shop on no matter what the form factor or which browser is being used and that is a key to building a great mobile accessible site experience.

To Summarize

Consider real world shopping when designing your virtual world shopping experience.  Use color to effectively tap emotions that lead to sales.  Make sure your site is exceptionally easy to navigate and keep the buying process as simple as possible.  Use up-sells and cross sells carefully so you don’t wind up overdoing it.  Use images and other media to effectively present your products and services and don’t spare on the copy you use to describe them.  Finally, make sure your shopping experience will be just as pleasant on a cell phone as on a desktop or you will be ignoring a growing segment of your target audience.

Glen Giuffre is a marketer with 30+ years building businesses both in the real and virtual worlds.  He founded World Touch Marketing and provides a leading e-commerce solution through www.e-storebuilder.com.  Visit to learn more about him and what the group can do for you.

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