Conversions and Your Online Storefront

You’re on a mission of self-gratification and as you drive you are thinking of how much you will enjoy the product or service.  You’re psyched about the deal but more importantly you have found that one product or service that will “complete” your life, at least for the moment.  As you near the store your high expectations have turned into a shortening of breath and a more rapid heartbeat.  Momentarily you will be gratified and it is going to feel really good.

You’ll need to park your vehicle and walk a bit to reach the store.  That’s o.k. as you can enjoy a few more minutes of reckless anticipation on the way.  Your pace picks up as the store is now only two blocks away and within one block you are almost sprinting to find the correct address.  Half out of breath and covered in sweat you reach your destination only to find iron bars covering broken windows, trash piled in and near the doorway and a very hungry pit bull standing at the store entrance.

For a moment your heart stops.  The anticipation you were feeling turns to anxiety and fear, and not only because of the pit bull.  You’ve now got a huge decision to make.  “Is my self-gratification worth trying to get into this place and if I do go in what is behind that door?”  You resolve to take a moment to consider your options and after some careful thought and some encouragement from the now drooling pit bull you turn and begin jogging toward your vehicle.  Talk about a “buzz kill”!

Despite the overly dramatic nature of this vignette this scene is all too familiar – online.  Think of it.  Your web site and e-commerce engine is your storefront on the Internet.  It is the digital version of your brick and mortar operation and your potential customers have the same expectation of your site as they do your shop.  It’s really a very simple concept yet many business owners will spend much more money on just the sign for their brick and mortar business than they will on their entire online operation.

The quality of your online storefront is as important to converting shoppers into buyers as it is in your non-digital business.  In fact it is likely more important.  Numerous studies have proved you only have a very few seconds to make a strong enough impression to draw the potential customer into your online store.  If they see the “bars”, a “pit bull” and an overall nasty environment, don’t expect too much traffic coming into your online store.  What works in the “real world” also works in the “virtual world”.

So here’s a few tips…

  1. Your online store should be a visual extension of your brick and mortar operation – that is if your physical plant is not a toilet.
  2. Put your “best foot forward” on your home page.  More than welcoming your home page should be compelling with calls to action.  Make it impossible for site visitors to not “walk in”.
  3. Stop the music!  The only time you need music on your site is if you sell, yes you guessed it – music!  Remember that music consumes throughput and since many site visitors do so from their workplace the music can create problems with co-workers and the boss.
  4. Use the home page real estate wisely.  There are areas of a web page that command the highest attention.  Heat mapping has shown that web page readers naturally focus in on certain page elements.
  5. Don’t link-out from your home page!  Why spend the time and money to design, develop and market a site only to re-direct your traffic elsewhere – before visitors walk into your store.
  6. Once in the store make it easy to shop.  You know why the major department stores all have ceiling signs for each department?  So men don’t have to waste time in the ladies department – unless they really want to!
  7. Three click shopping…  Tantamount to standing in a Wal-Mart check-out line 17 deep is requiring too many clicks for a customer to exact a purchase.  Make it easy and logical.
  8. Merchandise for profitability…  In most well-run stores the more profitable items get the most shelf-space.  While you’ll want some “loss-leaders” online it just makes sense to invest in merchandising items that will give you more bottom-line profits – right?