There’s good news and not-always-good news about your foray into online retailing.
The good news is that exposure to an almost endless array of customers is enthralling, and so much more lucrative than the conventional form of selling from brick-and-mortar business locations.
The rest? You’re swimming in a crowded ocean, so you need to find a way to be every bit as accessible and user-friendly as you can be.
Did you put a ton of effort into creating the website of your dreams? Congratulations. That’s the first important step. But here’s a suggestion you may or may not want to hear: It may not serve you well.
You’re wed to the design of your site because, well—it’s yours. And because you know it reflects your brand. But you could be too personally invested; it might not present to customers the way you think it will. Ask yourself some questions.
First, is your site visually attractive? Does it have a user interface that makes the shopping (or browsing) experience easy and pleasant? Is the experience intuitive for first-time shoppers who are gathering information, making comparisons, and preparing to buy?
E-tail mega-platform Shopify makes this point succinctly with this piece. It spells out the marketing psychology aspect of selling online. And it shouldn’t be surprising—likely you experience this yourself when you peruse the web for any purpose.
Think of your own first-time visits to websites of any nature. Does your visual activity line up with the experience you’re seeking? “Eye-tracking” is a commonly used element of marketing science that dates back a decade or so. It suggests that viewers devote their initial gaze at a website to its upper left corner (not unlike the way we were taught to read books). They may linger there for a bit, and then glance down the left side. In the interim, their eyes dart to the right in order to take in everything you’ve published. But this order is important to remember.
If you’re willing to consider a redesign, you’re halfway to an improved outcome. Here’s a way to test what you’ve got: have a second and/or third set of eyes give it a look. Ask your subject or subjects if they realized a successful experience of getting to know your brand, searching for what they need, and finding it.
This experiment doesn’t require that you relinquish control of your site design. It doesn’t obligate you to make changes. It does, however, offer a real-world perspective on why you may not see the traffic you’re looking for.
Tales from the Hip
An emerging perspective on the key to online sales holds that offering services and products through e-tailing is like telling a story by restricting your focus to three basic areas— psychology, content, and design. It sounds simple enough, but there is a bit more to it. This primer offers more detail and great suggestions as to how to tailor your site in a manner that’s appropriate for your product, your target market, and your realistic abilities to deliver.
Remember that potential customers will vary greatly in their sophistication levels, their depth of experience in online shopping, and their willingness to navigate through a complicated interface. What they don’t vary on are basic expectations, such as the following:
Follow by example
You can’t go wrong by employing imitation. Mining the web for the most successful (and talked about!) sites is enormously helpful. Here’s a fabulous gathering of websites that have a demonstrable success rate. Study them, and see if you agree that their layout, tone, interface, and overall accessibility is something you’d like to shoot for.
We’re not suggesting that your original plan is insufficient. It’s possible you succeeded in meeting some of the markers that make sites more likely to take off. But as with every other aspect of your business, you shouldn’t cling to site design elements just because you spent a lot of time and money on them, or because you think they look smashing. You wouldn’t do that with merchandise that doesn’t sell, so why would you resist the temptation to revamp the graphical presence you present to the world of consumers?
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