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Internet 303 Magnetic Web Sites, Part 1

January 28, 2012
There is a term used when referring to successful web sites: “sticky.” Good web sites are like fly paper, they attract users who then stick to them for a long time. (Of course, no one dies or, at least, they shouldn’t.)  These web sites are so good, users come back time and again. In this blog, I’d like to think about what makes one e-tail web site “sticky” and another “slippery”

When you think about it, the same features that make our brick and mortar stores work are the same features that make a web site “sticky.” For example, when a customer first comes into your store, do you present them with a list of frame materials and ask them to tell you which they want to see? Do you ask them to choose whether they want to see traditional, modern, or transitional designs? Do you show them a list of all of the collections you carry and ask them to pick which they want to see? If you answer “yes” to any of these, I’m going to bet your store’s close ratio is very low.

Instead, a good sales consultant starts off by determining the needs of the client and then shows them furniture that fits those needs. A “sticky” web site should do the same thing. It should; but, go to almost any vendor’s web sites and look at their navigation buttons. Most do the same things that would cause your close ration to stink. In most cases you see drop down menus headed “Products,” “Styles,” and/or “Materials.” The drop down menus associated with these buttons are then populated with every design in the catalog, lists of styles that may or may not have meaning to a user, or a list of frame materials with no reference as to why one might be superior to the other for the consumer.  In my opinion, web sites like this confuse a customer and make them uncomfortable. A confused user is a reluctant user; one who fails to “stick” around.

I propose all of those navigation buttons be replaced by a button that says something like, “Let us help you with your project.” Clicking on that would lead the consumer through a series of questions including:
    How big is your area?
    Is the area covered or fully exposed?
    How do you dream of using the area?
    Is this near salt water, including a pool?
    What are the existing colors in the area?

Once the consumers answers these questions, the web site should present just a few designs for their consideration. Included with these suggestions would be explanations as to why these designs fit their needs better than others. You don’t have to go far to see sites that successfully use this model; and both have “Recommended for You” sections where they list products you might be interested in based on what you have read or viewed previously. In fact, they spend plenty of bucks trying to refine these algorithms because they lead to so many sales.

Having learned about the customer’s needs and finding product that fits those need, the next step in the sales presentation is to work on colorways.  We don’t just drag out a chain of frames and a swatch book and say “pick.” We do anything we can to give the consumer a good idea of what their combination will look like. Sometimes we hold the frame sample next to the fabric sample. Sometimes we will drape the fabric sample over frames that match or are close to what the customer wants.

Most web sites don’t do this. Instead, the present the consumer with pages of frame colors and separate pages of fabric colors. They don't even give the consumer a chance to see how one frame color looks with one fabric color. Wouldn’t it be nice if the web site showed the product in the frame and fabric colorway the customer is interested in? Unfortunately, only a few few web sites go this extra step. Two that do, Brown Jordan and Homecrest, understand how important this is to making a “sticky” site. This may not be an easy or cheap functionality to add to a site; but, it can keep a user at your web site for hours.

In my next blog, I will tell you a few more ways to turn your web site into a magnet of goodness.

Yours in confused retailing, Bruce