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Turn Web visitors into paying customers

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So you have a Web site. Now what? In these economic times, don’t underutilize an existing channel that can generate sales and build customer loyalty.

An important key to an effective Web site is its usability, defined as the ease with which customers are able to use a Web site. Not only should your Web site be good-looking, it should be easy for your customers to navigate and quickly find information they need to place an order. Web site usability is important because it helps turn visitors into customers.

The formula for Web site success is: $ = (V – B) x C x L

Where: $ = Amount of business done by your site

V = Unique visitors or volume of unique visitors

B = Bounces – Visitors leaving your site in less than four seconds

C = Conversion rate – The percent of visitors who become customers

L = Loyalty rate – The degree to which your customers return to your site to purchase

There are several ways to improve your Web site’s ROI. While you can try to get more unique visitors by advertising, you should also search for ways to reduce your bounce rate, improve conversions and increase loyalty.

To improve the usability of your Web site, focus on four key areas:

  1. Navigation – Make your site easy to understand and use with clear and consistent design on every page. Remember people search for items in different ways. Use your horizontal and vertical navigation to accommodate these differences. For example, the horizontal navigation on your site might sort by product type (such as chairs, lamps or tables), but the vertical navigation might sort by style (contemporary, traditional, country, etc.). The fewer clicks the user must take to find the information he/she wants, the better.

  2. Content – Your content should be relevant to your target audience, up-to-date, error-free, credible and include calls to actions. Keep text short and to-the-point. Online readers typically scan copy. In fact, users on average only read the first 20% of a page’s content. Visuals are a great way to cut a long story short.

  3. Forms – These should be easy to use and require only the minimum amount of necessary information. For example, to register for e-mail special offers and sales, consider asking just for an e-mail address. Once you’ve captured a prospect’s e-mail address, you can always follow up at a later date with special incentives for demographic information and preferences. If you require more information, be sure to provide feedback on why these fields are required. Also be sure to post a link to your privacy policy next to the registered field. By providing immediate access to your privacy policy, visitors are more likely to register.

  4. Search – Include this function on every page; keep it in the same place, and in contrast to surroundings. Check to be sure it returns relevant results. Be sure to accommodate for misspelled words. If a search gets “0 results,” expand the query and just say what you did to get the results. Also be sure to include a site map which serves not only as a quick table of contents for the pages of your site, but also helps improve search engine optimization.

A great tool to improve conversion is to create landing pages specific to your campaign. For example, if you want visitors to register so you can capture their information for future marketing efforts, be sure to take them to the registration page first. If your goal is to promote a new product line, take them directly to the page on your site or to a landing page that focuses on that product.

Landing pages are the new direct marketing. They are not general information pages. Landing pages should have specific, measurable objectives such as to buy, give information or learn something. Most visitors are not entering Web sites via the home page. Search engines enable users to enter your Web site on almost any page. Structure each page of your Web site as if it were a landing page.

If your site is optimized, you may be getting a lot of traffic, but is it the right traffic? Check your bounce rate using your Web site analytics tool. (This tool should come standard on your Web site. There are even free tools such as Google Analytics available here: http://www.google.com/analytics/

To lower the bounce rate on your site, be sure there is congruity between search engine results and your keywords. The keywords used in your metatags or AdWords search marketing program, also should appear in the descriptive copy on the page. Color, words and visuals on the page should have a look and theme consistent with the e-mail or Web site advertising that drove the visitor to your Web site.

Remember, you designed your Web site and know your store better than anyone. So of course, you understand how to use your site and find the appropriate information. However, don’t assume your current customers or prospects understand or will search the site the same way.

Create six to eight primary “personas” of your typical users including likes, dislikes, habits and patterns of behavior. Refer to these personas to help guide Web site design and online marketing approaches to ensure that user needs are met.

To help evaluate the usability of your site consider the following tactics:

  • Focus groups – Use early in the development of your site and use a cross-section of target customers to evaluate your site’s value proposition;

  • Surveys – Use at any time in the process to collect data;

  • Prototype testing – Use early in the development of your site before you’ve invested in the “wrong” approach;

  • Expert evaluation – Use professionals who know the latest and best practices for gaining attention and conversion;

  • Usability metrics – Regularly check traffic, bounce rates and conversions, then make modifications and re-test.



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